Your Kid Doesn’t Need A Damn Cellphone
I almost always laugh at the response I get when I tell people I am an only child. Folks usually just give me one top-to-bottom glance and suggest in a nonchalant voice, “Huh, I should have figured.” What is it that marks me so obviously as the byproduct of only child syndrome? Is it the self-centered need for attention and adoration? The haughty self-confidence that borders on arrogance? The perpetual planning of an individualized future? The playful imagination? Or is it simply that I don’t play well with others? Whatever it is, I am clearly an only child.
That is not how I wanted it. As a child, I can remember begging my already divorced parents, who must have scoffed at the proposition, for a sibling. Despite my protestations, they never relented, and I was left to pine away for a sibling I could play with. This is why I cannot understand when I watch, or even worse listen, to my own two children argue with each other over seemingly nothing. This is just one of the elements of modern parenting that drives me absolutely head-shaking bonkers.
“Tobias, stop touching my part of the car.”
“I was just leaning over to get my pencil that you took.”
“That’s my pencil.”
“No, that’s my pencil. Dad gave it to me when we went to the People’s Fair last year.”
Then, finally, in a unison of hair-raising screeches, “DAAAAADDDDD!!!!”
Oh for crying out loud! Really? Really- these two are going to argue over a fucking pencil? Seriously, what the hell is wrong with these human beings? All I ever wanted as a kid was a playmate, someone with whom I could play games with and watch tv. Is this what I was actually missing? Maybe my 70’s childhood where parents chain-smoked in cars with the windows rolled up and told us to go out and play and not come home until it was dark- maybe that childhood doesn’t look so bad after all.
Consider, if you will, what parenting has come to look like in the modern era. For example, we lived outside when I was kid. Perhaps this was because I was even more obnoxious as a child than I remember myself being, but my mom told me not to come home until dark, and I was given free reign to roam the wild streets of my suburban apartment complex neighborhood. Meanwhile, a parent in Florida was recently arrested for child neglect when her nine-year old was caught riding his bike through a park less than half a mile from their home. Shit, my nine-year old won’t even go get the mail at the end of our road without parental accompaniment. I’m pretty sure my mom would have let me move in with a family of wolves in the next town over.
Likewise, when I was a kid, no one thought twice about spanking their child. I was a pretty good kid growing up, but my mom had no issue giving me a good licking whenever she felt I needed it. This went on until I was fifteen years old. The last time I remember her spanking me, I turned around and laughed. I must admit that did not end well. My mom didn’t even flinch when I was a 10th grader and was struck by a substitute teacher after making fun of his homemade belt buckle (come on- he had it coming, right? who the hell wears a homemade belt buckle?). Her response, without so much as missing a puff off of her lit cigarette, “I’m sure you deserved it.”
I’ve written about this before, but I’m glad that I have never found it healthy or productive to use physical consequences with my children. Still, tell that to Adrian Peterson. He got the “switch” regularly as a child, but when he went to use one on his child, he was brought up on felony child abuse charges and suspended for a season from the NFL. I may not approve of his parenting methodologies, but the poor guy must have been left wondering what the hell had changed in the twenty years that had passed since his mama spanked him senseless without consequence.
But of course the most substantial change in modern parenting centers around technology. Just the other day, my girlfriend’s sixth grader was pleading his case for his own cell phone when he heads off to middle school next year, “But mom, only five other kids in my grade don’t have a phone even now!” Sure, he may have been exaggerating slightly, but we all know it’s not by much. What kid these days doesn’t have some sort of device? Shoot, I know toddlers that have their own iPad’s, for crying out loud.
And with this access to the internet anywhere, anytime comes the advent and proliferation of social media. I mean, thank god Facebook was not around when I was in college because, though I hate to admit it, my friends, the rodent and I would all have some serious explaining to do. Somehow we have to convince a bunch of headstrong, self-obsessed, weak-willed, in-the-moment teenagers to instead make the sagacious choice and not post anything that might impact their future vocational options. Yeah, because you know the primary thing teenagers think about is their employment prospects twenty years from now.
And so I shall do what every other modern parent should do: roll up my sleeves and pour myself a tall, stiff drink before sitting down to write the rest of this. You have my condolences: I am sorry for the loss of your sanity.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: in 1000 Words or Less every TUESDAY and FRIDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com