I've been ruminating (another word I love -- and which always reminds me of Gary Larson's Far Side Cows) for a few weeks on two separate, unrelated conversations I had with parents of teens and 'tweens that tie in (at least in my mind!) to recent posts by Jeff and Catherine and at least one of my own old posts.
Since I'm still in the middle of processing, this is more random, stream-of-consciousness thought but I wanted to throw this out there and hear your own experiences and observations on this subject.
In the first conversation, a parent was telling me that she thinks it's more crucial than ever to be in constant communication with her children, to know their friends (and their friends' parents), to know where they are and who they are with (and to sometimes tell them they can't go certain places with certain people) and to be vigilant in teaching them -- through words and actions -- morals, values, character, respect and responsibility. Her response to another parent who called her a slave driver for making her boys mow the lawn, clean their room and do other chores around the house: "My job as a parent is to teach them how to grow into men and to become responsible adults." But, she said, in a world where kids have, expect, and demand instant -- and total -- access to almost anything and anyone at anytime, it's made her job more difficult. Before I had a chance to ask her what that meant, exactly, the conversation shifted to another topic.
In a second conversation later that day with this person and two other parents, I commented on how different kids today are from us when it comes to manners, etiquette, and the idea of "what's yours is mine." When we were kids, it would never enter our head that we could just open up someone else's refrigerator or pantry, help ourselves to whatever and however much we wanted whenever we wanted without so much as asking and without a thank-you. We would have waited until we were offered something by a parent or at least by the kid who lived there. This was true not just at our friends' homes, but even at our grandparents' or other relatives' -- any house other than our own. You didn't treat others' possessions, or food, as your own and didn't take, use, or ingest what wasn't yours without permission.
I asked them why parents don't teach kids today not to do that. Their answer? "You have to understand, kids today are used to having whatever, and whoever, they want, whenever they want. They really think that what's yours is mine and what's mine is yours, and they mean everything and everyone. In today's world, you have to pick your battles even more so than our parents did. So, if it's a choice between taking what is in my refrigerator without asking and, how shall I say this politely, taking my child, I'll spend my time fighting the bigger battles."
There it was again -- the more subtle implications of what the concepts of instant gratification, instant access, total access, and "what's yours is mine" can mean. So subtle, that I didn't quite get their drift.