Awhile ago on the Tonight Show, Jerry Seinfield veered off topic – whatever it was – to issue a criticism of modern day parenting that is both hilarious and makes our head hurt it’s so true. http://bit.ly/1eHdtF
About one minute and ten seconds into the interview with Jimmy Fallon, he launches into what happened into his life while trying to be the “best” parent. You can see the video on the above link, but let me quote some highlights: “The bedtime routine for my kids is like this royal coronation jubilee centennial of rinsing and plaque and dental appliances and the stuffed animal semi-circle of emotional support and I gotta read eight different moron books. You know what my bedtime story was as a kid? Darkness!”
He announces that he is not a great believer in his style of parenting, “that we’re all way to into it.” He stated that “when we were kids our parents didn’t give a damn about us. They didn’t even know our names!”
So as usual with Seinfield, there are some thorny truths into what he said. We can’t imagine our parents storming up to school to argue with a teacher if we made a zero on a test. My wife – the teacher – deals with these parents every day who feel like they are doing the right thing. We never got a graduation party from kindergarten or first grade or heck, even from high school for that matter. Our parents just expected you go to school, you do your work, you graduate.
And come bedtime, it was very simple: go to bed. Say your prayers. Good night.
So while parenting has come a long, long way, have we come the best way? If our kids expect a kumbaya campfire hug-a-thon every night, what we do when they are teens? If they expect their parents to never take a trip without them, how can that possibly give us a strong marriage and make us better parents? If they never know struggle, how will they taste success?
We are all fighting everyday to give our kids virtually every leg-up, every advantage, we tutor them to get in the right pre-k program hoping this leads to Harvard, we structure their lives so they never know boredom, we yank them off teams if they’re not the starter – we have let their lives consume our lives and unfortunately, our kids are not any better off for it.
They turn into adults incapable of sustaining relationships, unable to face challenges and unwilling to do the work a starting job offers because they feel they should start out at VP making $50,000 a year.
Meanwhile after years of pouring our hearts and souls into raising our children, if we’re lucky they’ll leave. And then we look at our partner and wonder what happened to our relationship. What’s there to do if we we’re not fretting about the kids.
So let us reiterate Seinfield’s message: chill out. Let the kids be kids. Send them to bed with a prayer and a kiss. Don’t live their life. Of course you want to raise them, to instill your morals and values into them, to teach them how to live life, how to make decisions, the difference between right and wrong. And yes, to brush. You want to say grace as a family so they know there’s someone more powerful that mom in their life that will stay with them forever. You want to enjoy them and play with them. Those are normal parent activities. But you don’t want to go into hyper drive as a parent from the moment you wake up till you collapse next to this stranger in bed at night.
Everyday, practice carving out time for your spouse and yourself. Within reason, let your kids fend for themselves.
You survived childhood.
Your kids will too.