Late Summer 2006
My childhood friend Babs is the kind of woman who can clear an acre of land, build a house on it, and then invite all the neighbors over for a gourmet dinner. It's not as if Babs was born with a ''super woman'' gene -- nor was she born into a wealthy family. What she was born into was a family who loved her dearly, yet didn't shield her from her own consequences; i.e., they refused to coddle her. Watching her life has helped me keep the role of parenting in perspective. And if you're a parent like me (Mother Softy Incarnate), maintaining perspective cannot be underestimated!
Chances are we all agree that our most important task as parents is to prepare our children to become independent, kind, and capable adults. I don't know any parents who would consciously set their children up to be incapable of living independently. Yet every day I see more and more parents raising whining, demanding children who will become whining, demanding adults with an overblown sense of entitlement, incapable of performing the most basic life skills such as doing laundry, cooking, or managing a checkbook. Despite statistics indicating that teens who describe themselves as ''spoiled'' are twice as likely to use drugs and are at higher risk for underachieving in school, we seem to be overindulging our kids in record numbers.
I recently read an article in the Edmonton Sun about what psychologist Dr. Maggie Mamen has termed ''Pampered Child Syndrome.'' It made me think of a mother I just heard about who spent over $10,000 on her kindergartner's birthday party. What kind of investment is that in her daughter's future? Will it make her daughter feel special and loved or will it just set her up for a life of hyper-materialism and a feeling of emptiness when things don't go her way? Materialism aside, how are we helping our children when we fail to set limits, don't require them to do chores, and when we shield them from all disappointments? We find ourselves with unmotivated and irresponsible teenagers. Fast forward a few years, and we've got adult ''children'' still living off the dole, and we never stop to think of how our ''well-meaning'' indulgences have contributed to having virtually helpless children.
But back to Babs. She wasn't always thrilled with those parents of hers who chose not to jump when she said jump. And, no, she and her mom weren't ''best buds.'' That was never her mother's mission anyway. But now that Babs has two teenagers herself, she appreciates her parents' sacrifices more than ever. They sacrificed being popular in order to instill skills, talents, and capabilities that would help Babs to live her days as a fulfilled, capable, and independent woman who is contributing a lot to this world. No matter what peer pressure we may come up against as parents (''But Mom, nobody has curfews any more!), my hope is that we can always keep the big picture in mind -- the people we are growing. We hope you find in these pages some truly inspirational ways to enrich you on your own parenting journey. And you won't have to drop 10 grand to do so!