Something seems to have gone haywire between the way my generation was raised, and the way parents are raising their teenagers today.
I know it’s been a while, but as much as I rack my brains I definitely do not remember all this mollycoddling and pampering when I was 15. I admit my Dad was on the strict side, but the older I get the more I can appreciate the reasoning behind his parenting style. There were rules and curfews to protect us from getting into trouble, but these were balanced by the fact that both my parents encouraged us to be independent when necessary.
First of all, we were on very familiar terms with the word ‘bus’. We bussed it everywhere: whether it was to go to Sliema for a night out at Il-Fortizza (which required us to take two buses each way) or when we needed to go somewhere after school.
And I distinctly remember that I always took the bus to get to my ‘O’ level and ‘A’ level exams…what’s the big deal? But judging from comments I’m reading online, the snarling traffic this weekend was caused by long queues of parents ferrying their children to and from their exams. May I ask why? After all, it won’t hurt teenagers to learn that they need to plan ahead to make sure they are on time (it would not hurt many adults either who are notorious for always “running late”). In any case, being driven by your parents is no guarantee you will be on time with all the traffic. And even if a parent insists on driving their kid to the exam because it makes everyone less anxious, there is no real reason why he/she cannot come home by bus afterwards. Yes, teenagers, it can be done – people have been known to use the bus and have lived to tell the tale.
Apart from the traffic, the pollution and the stress of being your teenager’s taxi driver, there is yet another reason why I think it’s a bad idea to be so over-protective and smothering with kids – it’s because frankly, most of the time, they won’t appreciate it.
This is a truism, whether we like it or not, and holds true for the parent-child relationship as much as it holds true for couples. Let’s face it, if someone is always doing everything for you, why would you even bother to do it yourself, let alone tell them thank you? Eventually, you will not even notice they are doing it, because it becomes something you take for granted. That’s why women who slave away in the home and then complain endlessly that their husbands and children never lift a finger, have only themselves to blame. Do they seriously expect their husband to suddenly start ironing his own shirts after a lifetime of him finding crisp shirts, freshly washed and wrinkle-free all lined up in a row in his wardrobe? And do they think their teenager will suddenly clear the table and offer to wash the dishes when Mama has always done them?
I see rather too many parents who wrap their children in cotton wool, fussing over every minutiae of their lives, rather than just letting them be.
For example, I can never, ever remember my parents religiously helping us with homework even when we were young – it was taken as a given that homework was our department and our ‘job’ so to speak. Of course, they checked to make sure it was done, (“Can I watch TV”? “Have you finished your homework?” was the inevitable refrain of my growing up years) but that was about it. Surprisingly, even without an adult riveted to our side as we did our sums and wrote our compositions, what do you know, we survived.
These days all I hear are mothers who are frazzled beyond repair because of homework time. And I assure teachers that there are a lot of Mummies out there who are the proud owners of the ‘A’ grade which was supposedly given to their child for his/her latest project.
The latest example of what in Maltese we call fsied (spoiling) is the news that students were upset because they were not allowed to take drinks in with them during their Matsec exams. Apparently the poor darlings had to suffer excruciating thirst until they finished. There was such a panic and outcry by parents that the authorities reversed their decision and have decided that beverages are OK after all. Oh come on. These kind of stories always make want me to swear like a sailor at the absurdity of this situation. This is an exam not a cafe – and if a teenager is so fragile and delicate that he will pass out without anything to drink for a few hours, then he should take to his bed until his constitution improves.
What’s next, an attack of the vapours when their exam results come out? My memory may be playing tricks on me, but I definitely do not remember us taking drinks in with us during exams – so what has changed? I will tell you – we are encouraging the type of society where everything is simply too much effort and when it involves the tiny bit of “suffering”, teenagers expect and even demand their parents to step in and come to the rescue.
Growing up is hard, and sometimes the people it hits the hardest are the parents who find it very difficult to let go and let their offspring get bruised a little by life’s hard knocks. But let go they must, otherwise they will be lumped with 40-year-old children who have never matured.
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