(in 3 very short Acts)
*In 2014 the article by Hanna Rosin entitled “The Overprotected Kid” was the most frequently read magazine story for the whole year on Atlantic.com. (The Atlantic, March 2015, 15) It really struck a chord. Why does this generation of parents worry that many of their youth are “overprotected”?
- The term “Helicopter Parents” is now used to describe those who hover around their children closely watching and often over-programming their lives.
- TIME magazine wrote about today’s generation of children whose parents and adult teachers and guides are so involved that the kids “are desperate to carve out a space of their own” and “teens need a place to make mistakes.”
Exit the child and youth.
Enter the parents.
- Brigid Schulte wrote in her book Overwhelmed: “This is how it feels to live my life: scattered, fragmented, and exhausting. I am always doing more than one thing at a time and I feel I never do any one particularly well. I am always behind…with one more thing and one more thing and one more thing…” (cited in Lev Grossman, TIME, March 24, 2014, 58)
- Why is feeling “scattered, fragmented and exhausted” the “quintessentially modern and increasingly universal experience” for most parents nowadays? (Ibid.)
- As one article put it, “…you’re too busy to do things like read books” and your days too often “consist of…multitasking snippets.” (Ibid.)
But why? Is this just the way things are today? Or do we have a choice?
Exit the parents.
Enter the chorus.
“A generation of kids with helicoptering parents.
“A generation of mothers and fathers frazzled,
pulled in many directions, always hurrying to the next thing.
“Always hurrying. Always tired…”
“I just returned from living for a year in the south Pacific for my husband’s work,” she said. “It was really fun. For the whole family.”
“How so?” I asked.
“Well,” she grasped for the right words… “For one thing, we only ate fresh fruit and organic-style meats and vegetables. No processed food at all.”
She paused. “I’m not sure how to explain why this made such a difference. I’ve never been very concerned with health, so at first I didn’t realize it was even happening. But after a few months all our normal aches and pains went away. The fog in my head just suddenly cleared up. We all stopped moping. Everyone in the family walked around smiling, happy. We had so much energy. We played and ran every chance we got. And we hugged every time we saw each other. It was…amazing.”
I could tell there was more to the story, so I waited.
“We also walked a lot. I mean, a lot. I felt in such good shape, the best shape of my life actually.”
I nodded with interest.
“But that was just the beginning.
The Meaning of Real
“The really important thing is that we spent pretty much every evening together. All of us—my husband after work, myself, the little kids, and our two teenagers. Every night we sat around together and read books aloud and talked about them…”
Tears began running down her cheeks and she fought for composure. “It was…”
This time she really couldn’t find the words.
“Real life?” I asked.
“What else?” I finally asked.
“Nothing. That’s it,” she gulped. “That’s the whole thing. It was so simple. And it changed everything. I got my teens back. And the littler kids…well, we all bonded. It was just so incredible…”
Her voice drifted off.
“How long since you got back to the States?”
“It must be nice to be home, even though you loved your time there.”
Her face took on a confused expression. “Maybe.”
“What does that mean?” I chuckled.
What Makes the Difference
She pondered, then replied, “Well, the aches and pains have come back. And the foggy brain. I didn’t realize how much background stress my body used to feel. And I hardly ever walk anywhere now.”
“Ah…” I sighed. “That makes sense. What about reading together every night?”
Her shoulders slumped a bit, and she shook her head sadly.
“A little.” She paused. Then she said, “Too much.”
I smiled slowly. “You know, they have books here in the States. And evenings too.”
She was surprised at my words, and her head snapped up. She looked me right in the eyes. I could see the battle taking place behind them.
Then she grinned.
“We also have fruits and vegetables here,” she added, pensively. “Lots of them.”
Her shoulders squared again, and she set her jaw. “You’re right, of course. I’m not going to just let the old bad habits control us. We can still eat right, walk a lot, smile more, and read together every evening. It might be more challenging, given our complex work and activity schedules, but we can carve out time to read most nights.”
“It’s the little things,” I said. “Always the little things that really make the difference.”
Whatever your life and your family’s life
is like right now,
there are 2 or 3 little things that would make it
drastically, incredibly better—immediately.
What are they?
Brainstorm. Ponder. Pray. Find out.
And do them.
This very small thing will make ALL the difference
for your whole family.