COVID and the Comeback of 80's Style Parenting
Updated: Aug 19
We all know helicopter parents. You know, the ones who track their kids every movement. Hover over them to make sure they are safe when they are small, and step in for them once they get older. Smooth out friend relationships, call the teacher when they get a bad mark. Carefully monitor their progress in extra-curricular activities, (especially relative to their peers) to validate themselves through their kids. In fact, we might not just KNOW them. WE MIGHT BE them. I know you don’t want to admit it, but if you’re really being honest with yourself, it’s probably at least partially true.
When I was growing up my parents had little involvement in my friend relationships, or how I was progressing in school beyond report card day. And its not because they didn’t care. Rather, they trusted in the system and the realities (both beautiful and ugly) of childhood to work their magic and sort things out. As time has marched on, access to both information and opportunity has increased, and the relentless pressures of social media has challenged us as parents to live up to false standards, idealized by cropped, photoshopped images of perfect families. “Wow, Bobby plays rep hockey and baseball, coached by his dad, and he’s achieving straight A’s while mastering his violin and chess skills, fuelled by strictly organic meals prepared by his mother, an Environmental Activist and Human Rights Lawyer”. Its time to pay attention and step up your game Mrs Jones.
We’ve all been on this hamster wheel that is getting faster and crazier with every Pinterest birthday party and YouTube montage of our precious unicorn’s milestones. It’s exhausting, and the brave among us may throw in the towel, but most of us keep at it, lest we lose any ground.
Enter COVID. Heli-moms and dads be damned. School, cancelled. Play dates, cancelled. Birthday parties, cancelled. Rep hockey and competitive dance, cancelled. Now it’s just you, the kids, some puzzles, Netflix and if you’re lucky, an ample supply of wine. As life became simpler, it seems somehow our parenting style has become more relaxed as well. From my experience, the follow on effect of the pandemic has been a greater sense of balance and harmony as I’ve let go of the need to do all of the things, all of the time. The changes hark back to the 80’s style of parenting I enjoyed as a child. Here’s a few examples of my new found 80’s style parenting and the benefits it has afforded me:
Family dinners. Before COVID we were often eating on the fly. I was feeding the kids quickly, sometimes in the car to make it to dance or music lessons in time. My husband wasn’t usually home from work by this time so eating together was a weekend treat. Now, with everyone home, we are eating together as a family on a daily basis. We don’t need to catch up on each other’s days since we are literally together all day every day, so we are talking about plans for the future and other fun topics that we would have missed out on otherwise.
Free range parenting. Before COVID, I admittedly had a hard time letting my kids out of my sight for too long. I do worry about what harm could come of them. Fast forward to a slowed-down world and days and weeks of doing nothing at home. I’ve loosened the apron strings a bit and let my kids have a little more independence, riding their bike around the neighbourhood and playing outside with less supervision, along with the kids we are ‘bubbling’ with. “Come in when the street lights come on” is back and quite frankly, I hope it’s here to stay! Not only are the kids fine, they are flourishing under their new found independence.
Screen-free time. Life before COVID was pretty hectic. Notes from school and extra-curricular activities, birthday party invites to RSVP to, appointments to make, play dates to coordinate. I was in constant communication, on my phone with someone over something. As life slowed down, there is frankly, less to communicate about. With no where to go, and no one to see, the “perfect lives” I’m intrigued by on social media are less interesting, and so even that kind of screen time has lost its appeal. I’ve found myself walking away from my phone more regularly and for longer periods of time - and I don’t miss it at all.
Family Fun. Before COVID, there was very little time for good old family fun. Between school, extra curricular activities, competitions, birthday parties and play dates there really wasn’t very much time left in the week. Any found moments were used for the basics of grocery shopping, laundry and cleaning. With more time on our hands and less people to see, we’ve gone back to basics and found some good old family fun. Bike rides, walks, board games and family movie night. The kids love this, and the opportunity to get out and be active has rejuvenated all of us!
Village style parenting. Over the last few months we’ve been spending a lot of time around our neighbours. We are super fortunate to have neighbours who are also great friends. As the kids first practiced social distancing, and then became part of one “bubble” we’ve all gotten pretty comfortable with each other. At any time, any parent can freely educate, reprimand or discipline any of the kids - or offer them a popsicle or ice cream. Our kids have each come to respect a team of adults who are collectively looking out for their best interests, and calling them on their bad behaviour. The benefits of this are amazing. Not only does it give me a break from being the only one on my kids case all the time, it also teaches them about the boundaries of different parenting styles and has given them new respect for other adults.
Me time. Less busy schedules has created some space for me. I’ve taken up evening walks with my “bubble moms” and its made the world of difference for me. I’m regularly getting in my 10,000+ steps a day, hanging with my chicks and getting 60 minutes away from my house/kids which is a novelty these days!
I think our parents may have had it right in the 80’s. All of the above has minimized my stress, brought me more balance and enabled me to give more of myself to everything I do, including my work. I know many people are reflecting on what they want to carry forward from this time, and the changes above are certainly ones that I want to try to maintain, when life returns to “normal”.
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