When I look back on my childhood, I have to believe my parents did a pretty good job. After all, my sister and I both turned out to be pretty decent grownups. Now that I'm a parent of my own, however, I'm starting to see some of the ways that they might have done better, some of the ways that they let me down a little bit.
As Mother's Day approaches, and I think about the things I appreciate about my mom (and my dad), I can't help but think of the following things that I wish my parents had done for me when I was growing up.
1) Let me watch television as much as I wanted. When I was growing up, we weren't allowed to turn on the television during the week until 4:00 pm. And that was only if we had all our homework done. After supper, we had to clear the table and wash the dishes, finish homework and practice piano before we could watch one show before bedtime. Saturday morning cartoons were always cut short because the television had to be turned off at 10:00 am. I'm sure I learned some "valuable life lessons" about following through with responsibilities and working hard for a worthy reward, but I sure missed a lot of really good TV shows.
2) Signed me up for a whole bunch of classes after school and on weekends. We lived on 2 acres and had a huge cornfield beyond that. Much of our free time was spent making up games that involved us being spies entering enemy territory. Every winter we had snow people and snow forts all over the yard. In the summer, I learned how to play most sports in the neighbor's yard with all the neighborhood kids. If my parents had only signed me up for more after school classes, I might have discovered a latent talent for ballet dancing or competitive chess. Now I find myself curious just how many undiscovered talents have been lying dormant all these years.
3) Let me eat what I wanted, when I wanted. My mom had a reputation in the neighborhood for being a mom who made her kids eat vegetables, and not just the ones that everyone likes. We had a vegetable garden in the back yard. Not only did that require hours and hours of my blood, sweat and tears to keep weed-free (see item #5), it contained some of the worst-tasting vegetables imaginable. We had to eat everything on our plates so that we could have one little cookie or candy after supper. Now, of course, I find that I have a palate for all kind of dishes and even those once-despised vegetables. But variety is not necessarily the spice of life, and surely my life would be easier and much more simple if there were only a few dishes and vegetables I was willing to eat.
4) Bought me the latest trends and fashions. I have to admit that I grew up thinking we were pretty poor. We never bought anything that wasn't on clearance. I think that I could have told you the price of everything in my closet, since finding a good bargain was greatly to be praised. I was always advised not to buy things that were sure to go out of style after a single season. Everything I owned was something that would serve me well for years to come. Now that I am more aware of economic theory, I'm aware that we are a capitalist society built on consumerism. My parents would have done well for the economy if only they had bought us more things that were on trend and at full price. Now I find myself even as an adult unable to purchase something that isn't a bargain and that won't last for more than a single season. With this mentality, how can I do my part to contribute to our country's economic growth?
5) Given me a bigger allowance and fewer chores. By now, you have probably picked up on the fact that my parents gave us plenty to do. Weeding and harvesting the vegetable garden, cleaning two rooms plus our bedrooms every week, washing the dinner dishes and clearing the table were our contribution to the household. Our reward for all this work was $1.50 a week allowance (in today's economy that would equal $2 a week). Shouldn't I have been taught money management by being given a higher allowance? And wasn't my childhood robbed from me by the slave labor to which I was subjected? Yes, I have reaped the benefits by learning the value of a job well done and by turning into a domestic goddess. But, I ask you, at what cost?
You would think that looking back with so much regret that I would be raising my own children in a way that is diametrically opposed to the way I my own parents raised me. Instead, I have come to see the benefits of a life of "deprivation," "limitation" and "restraint."
Now I am doomed to follow in my parents' footsteps, in the hopes that my children will some day follow in mine.
Melanie is a Shine Parenting Guru. You can find more of her ramblings about the highs and lows of life with her four kids at her personal blog, tales from the crib.