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Parenting | Walking the Tightrope of Generational Differences

“Are you <insert inappropriate expletive here> kidding me?!” 

This was my reaction when my 16-year-old came downstairs for her first day of school this year. What was the reason for this ‘inappropriate’ reaction, you ask? Her choice of school attire. I won’t go into specific details, but for argument’s sake, I think she might have been confused on whether she was attending school, a Britney Spears concert, a gypsy convention, or a burlesque tryout. 

One more than one occasion, I have been accused, rightfully or wrongfully, depending on which side of the tracks you live on, of over-reacting to situations and being “too old-fashioned.”  For this, I take full responsibility and accountability.  But it seems to be happening more frequently in the past few years. My question to myself (and you, the listening audience) is this: Where is the line between being a strict parent with old school values versus a ‘cool’ parent letting kids do as they please?

Growing up in a small, rural community, ‘down home’ values were a part of daily life. We ate dinner as a family and had to ask “may I be excused?” when we were done eating.  My Dad would make my sister and I wait till he acknowledged us with eye contact before we could continue our conversation with him. Attempting to wear my favorite Ozzy Osbourne concert t-shirt to family reunion would have gotten me banned from all family functions for a month of Sundays. And getting my ear pierced? Ha! I would have fared better waltzing into the living room carrying a sign that said “____ you and the horse you rode in on!”  My parents were ‘cool’, but you knew what the boundaries were and you knew there would be consequences if you crossed that line. And my sister and I knew one thing for certain, RESPECT YOUR PARENTS and RESPECT YOURSELF. 

I am not so naïve to know that today’s youth and society’s views to do not parallel that of Half Pint & Nellie Olson. But I also realize it’s not 1978 either. One thing I have learned in my relatively short parenting career is that being a ‘good’ parent requires we must have an open mind. As well, we need to understand that not all kids are created equal.  My two daughters are polar opposites of each other. One takes correction with a grain of salt and goes about her business. The other is not so accommodating. One likes structure and rules. The other, ummm, not so much. So why the difference? This difference in approaches to life (by the girls) makes me scratch my head even more. One likes ‘old school parenting’ and other assumes I call Ward and June for advice. 

So who is right and who is wrong here? My answer is ALL OF US–parents and kids alike. Although I feel my parents did a fine job of raising my sister and me, it is not, in fact, 1975. And I need to accept that. The down home values they established in us still hold merit today; they just maybe need a little tweaking. I firmly believe there is nothing wrong with establishing rules, responsibilities and expectations for kids growing up today. In fact, as responsible parents, we should provide these for our children. But by the same token, as 40-something parents, we need to accept that society’s norms are a little different from when we were 16. Kids do want to express themselves in different ways. They not only want to be ‘seen’, but also HEARD. This might be a hard pill to swallow for some of us (…put me at the top of that list!). But it seems to be the way that it is. And really, there is nothing wrong with being seen and heard as long as one thing is a constant. RESPECT. Which, should go both ways. 

I know I will continue to struggle to find the right balance between being an old school dad versus being the dad that is cooler than the other side of the pillow. But being the overachiever I am, I will work to walk that tightrope of parenting with grace and dignity to find the right combination.  And if you hear a profanity-laden tirade stemming from central Indiana, it’s probably safe to assume one of two things: there is a drunken sailor convention in Indianapolis, or I tried my luck in walking into mom and dad’s house carrying that sign.

Ya know, some old school habits are hard to break…


NOTE: Big props to my sister Amy, for helping contribute to this blog. Thanks sis!

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[author_info]About the Author

Robb J. is one of our regular Parenting and Man Cave contributors who is stuck somewhere in the middle of a paradigm shift and the status quo. He is a  41-year-old single dad who likes swimming in the deep end without the use of floaties. He raises two daughters–a teen and a preteen. He would appreciate a moment of silence for that. [/author_info][/author]

Stuck somewhere in the middle of a paradigm shift and the status quo, Robb J. is a 41-year-old, single dad who likes swimming in the deep end without the use of floaties. Born and raised in small community in central Indiana (and living in the fame and popularity shadow of brunette cheerleaders who were a year older), he lives his life with small town values, while never taking himself or life’s daily dilemmas too serious.

1 Comment

  1. Living the Balanced Life

    September 14, 2011 at 10:44 am

    You brought up some great points here. It is more difficult and we do have to be open minded. I have 4 adult kids, ages 18-29. I have had to learn to be more accepting and pick my battles. Hair is one thing I decided was not worth fighting over. It grows back, for goodness sake! Tattoos were something I had to learn to accept, because it was obvious my kids were going to have them! However, when my 18 year old wanted a tattoo for her birthday, we had some very heated discussions. I tried to make her understand that even though I was accepting of it, I did not feel right paying for it. If it was something she wanted to do, as an adult, then SHE would need to pay for it and not try to pressure me to go against my standards, if you will. She recently moved away to go to school, and I cringed when she came home with her belly button pierced. But what’s a mom to do? It is not worth putting a damper on our relationship.
    Thanks for sharing!
    10 first steps for a simpler life

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