The Good Old Days

“Being a modern parent is terrible. I’d give my left kneecap to have parented in the 70s and 80s when all you had to do to be considered a good mom is to remember to wind down the windows when you smoke in the car.” Bunmi Laditan 

How often have you heard an older person saying, “In my day, we had to walk a whole kilometre to school on our own and it cost 22 pence to buy a packet of chips.”?

The world changes at such a rapid rate that what was relevant and acceptable in generations gone by, is often either not appropriate or even possible anymore. There are many factors at play in this dynamic, most significant is that human beings and the society they construct are constantly transforming and modifying.

A lot of older generations of parents believe in the adage “children should be seen and not heard” and a lot of middle-aged generations of parents feel newer generations of parents are overthinking everything. And, in some ways, they may very well be right.

While we often lament the passing of the ‘good old days’ where kids rode their bikes all day unsupervised, where kids were more polite and respectful and nobody batted an eyelash at a parent spanking their kid, some of the aspects of “the good old days” are debatable. We need to adapt as we learn, we cannot simply apply past learnings without trying to improve upon them.

There are certain things we should be trying to repurpose into today’s parenting strategies.

One aspect of the ‘good old days’ that I believe deserves repurposing is chores and giving kids from all ages a certain amount of responsibility. New generation parents need to learn from the past and make our kids do stuff for themselves. Because when they realise all that their parent’s do for them, they will realise a level of appreciation not just for those parents but for what hard work looks like and that will definitely stand them in good stead for the real world one day. Instead of making their lives so cushy that when they do venture out into the big wide scary world, they receive such a mean bitch slap, that they come running home with their tales between their legs and an irreparably wounded sense of self.

Chores are not just about helping to alleviate the load on parents, but also about self-worth. Responsibilities have shown to increase a child’s self-worth. It also teaches them perspective and that they are a part of something bigger than themselves.

Multiple studies have shown that children who had chores fared better later in life. One reason is that kids who do chores, feel more competent and capable. Another reason is that children who do chores feel like they are part of the team and are more able to understand the importance of helping others out and acting for the better of the whole team, not just themselves.

In the ‘good old days,’ there were far fewer screens, and the screens that were available were not mobile. Children’s lives were not as structured, they had more free time, time to explore and dream. The had more time to just play and be kids, they had less pressure and fewer expectations. Their time was not all tied up in school, homework, extra murals, extra lessons and Next Presidents Club meetings.

In the ‘good old days’, before the internet, smartphones, Facebook or SnapChat, children built stuff, experimented, wandered and wondered, stared at the sky, poked mud with sticks and organised treasure hunts or breath holding competitions. They were not passively consuming, they were actively creating.

This lack of structure and abundance of free time resulted in one of the most powerful forefathers of creativity – boredom. Children in the ‘good old days’ were free to be bored and with this freedom, they were responsible for finding a way out of that boredom. And the antithesis or antidote for boredom is imagination. When you are bored, all of a sudden a stick resembles a pirate’s sword and a bush becomes a castle under siege.

According to Paediatrics Magazine, January 2007 (vol. 119, issue 1), “A hurried overly pressured education that is focused on academic preparation and an overly scheduled lifestyle are interfering and interrupting the ability of children to have “child-driven” play.”.

Writer Thomas Kersting, in his book Disconnected, wrote, “Boredom is to your brain what weightlifting is to your muscle.”. He calls boredom “mental fertilizer” and urges parents not to fill up every minute of their child’s life with external stimulation, especially electronic stimulation.

Parents today, need to stop trying to make everything fun and stop helping them to have fun. Do what parents of the “good old days” did – let them get bored so they go outside and find their own fun. Let them actually interact with other little human beings in person, not in Fortnite, WhatsApp or Google Hangouts.

Again I quote Bunmi Laditan to sum it up succinctly as to where the new age parents need to take a page out of the ‘good old day’ parents’ book, “I think this generation of parents is the first one to believe they need to create good memories for their kids via structured activities forgetting that childhood, when safe and watered, is intrinsically fun.”

In principle, I agree with everything she has to say about parenting in present-day. Parents today overthink everything and try to control everything.

But in the same breathe, I think that sometimes this desire to control is a very real and legitimate response to having to raise children in a very different world to that of our predecessors. And the reality of this world cannot be overlooked in choosing what, when, where and how to overthink and overreact. It is at this point that the ‘good old days’ loses much of its appeal.

In the ‘good old days’ children didn’t wear seatbelts, never mind sitting in a car seat. In the ‘good old days’ women drank and smoked for the duration of their pregnancies.

In the ‘good old days’ dads were not really involved in child rearing and mothers were not really involved in the career-making.

In the ‘good old days’ if you didn’t fit into the box of the perfect feminine form, then you were not considered beautiful. There was a very narrow definition of beautiful and it excluded more women than it included.

In the ‘good old days’ bias was just the way things were, if people wanted to be different, or more accurately wanted to just be tolerated or accepted for their differences, then they must deal with the fallout. It’s not the problem of normal people to make the few weirdos feel better about themselves.

In the ‘good old days’ parents were always right, even when they weren’t. A parent would never admit fault and an apology to a child was not even an option. Parents in the ‘good old days’ would never take the time get down on their child’s level and say sorry for losing their temper unfairly or for any other of the million mistakes parents make on a daily basis.

In the ‘good old days’ consent was not something you spoke to your kids about, but that didn’t mean that abuse wasn’t happening, we just weren’t really talking about.

In the ‘good old days’ children were taught to be obedient and compliant. They were taught that when an adult speaks, they must listen and when an adult asks, they must comply. How many of us growing up felt uncomfortable with our parent’s telling us to kiss Auntie So-And-So on the lips hello and goodbye? But more importantly, how many of us were taught by this interaction that we as children have no sovereignty over our own bodies and personal boundaries?

In the ‘good old days’ children were taught that they were not the boss of anything, not even their own bodies.

And in the ‘good old days’ girls were taught to be submissive and sweet, while boys were taught to be assertive and bold. Girls needed to be nice and boys were expected to be naughty.

But thankfully, the ‘good old days’ saving grace was that it was insular. All the bad stuff was still there lurking in the shadows, but it was more confined, geographically, physically. And the saying “ignorance is bliss” was a hallmark of these older generations, as a parent, you were unaware of the danger, how could you fear it, never mind try to outsmart it.

Today, parents know better. Ignorance is no longer an option and threats to our children are not physically confined. Because the bad stuff has gone viral, it is free to travel around the world in a virtual network that knows no bounds and moves at the speed of light. And because we are a part of this global network, we are exposed to the bad stuff daily, if not hourly.

For want of a better, less gimmicky word, our generation of parents woke up and for the first time were confronted by the overwhelming nature of the world in which we live, the world in which we are raising our children, the world in which the light is struggling to fight back the darkness. And this awakening made us over-correct and we became overly protective and overly controlling.

But now we are conscious, and this consciousness may just be what saves the world from itself, we as a generation – millennials, generation y or whatever label they have given us – are determined to not let sleeping dogs lie. We are going to use the power of connectivity and global citizenship for good and not bad. We are going to use our newly found consciousness to change the things that were bad about the ‘good old days’.

My consciousness has awoken with a headache with regards to certain issues. One such issue is gender equality, I awoke from being a woman with minor feminist tendencies that would rather let things go than cause a stir or be impolite to a full-blown bra burning, pussy hat knitting, Trump hating, Serena loving, angry face emoji-ing and searing rant delivering nasty and bossy mominator. A person that would have been labelled as a ‘dike’ or a ‘ball-buster’ in the ‘good old days’.

Because when Izzy was born, suddenly I had a dog in the fight, my daughter would not live in a world that didn’t give her every opportunity, respect and choice offered to her male counterparts. If I fully intend to raise a fearless girl, I need to help fight for a world that will not break her.

This shift in consciousness and desire to help change the world for my daughter leached into adjacent areas of concern, like body positivity or bias or intolerance against all who are different or previously marginalised.

But one adjacent arena has stirred me up the most, I am sure this topic has many mothers around the world wringing their hands in anxious discomfit, an area that goes beyond gender equality into gender security. This is the concept of consent and bodily autonomy.

Because this is one aspect of parenting in the ‘good old days’ that was just plain wrong. In present-day we know better, now we understand the importance of kids knowing that they have full power over their body and that if anything makes them uncomfortable they have the authority to refuse to engage.

That is why I won’t ever tell Izzy to give anyone a kiss or a hug, why I won’t ever carry on tickling her after she says stop or enough, why I won’t ever pretend to cry when she doesn’t feel like cuddling me, why I ask often “who is the boss of Izzy’s body?” and wait till she says, “Me”. And why I ask her “Who is the bossy of mommy’s body?”, when I want her to stop doing something to me that I don’t like. Because consent goes both ways. And so does consciousness.

Consciousness is a two-way street. While we are battling the dragons of old – abuse, bias, hatred, persecution, inequality, harmful stereotypes, ignorance – we need to use our consciousness to apply balance to the lives of our children and to develop a level of consciousness within them.

We need to consciously parent, we need to step in when needed and step back too. Let your child fail sometimes, let your child get bored, let your child help you and themselves, let your kids just be and just be kids. I have labelled this ‘lazy parenting’ in a previous post, but actually, I don’t think it is lazy at all, it is a conscious choice. I think it is better described as ‘lean back parenting’, where you remove yourself a little and give your child space and opportunity to test the boundaries of their potential. Give them the gift of space and set the example for them to develop their own self-awareness.

Because these controlled experiments of conscious parenting or leaning back are going to equip them far more to succeed when faced with the real dangers of the world. It will give them a strong foundation and base from which to have the courage of conviction to stand by their beliefs, their desires and their sense of self.

We need to learn from, the good and the bad, of the ‘good old days’ and look to the new days where we are raising children to be tolerant, socially conscious and kind adults with integrity and compassion, because if the world is going to stop being such a shit show in the future, that seems obvious as to what we should all be striving for.

And remember, we are never going to get it one hundred per cent perfect all of the time, but consciousness is not perfection, consciousness is about trying and learning to be open and aware of yourself and the world. As Jodi Picoult said, “The very fact that you worry about being a good mom means that you are already one.”

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Time’s Up on Everything

I am feeling scared at the moment. The world is on fire and we as a human race seem quite happy to sit by the wayside and enjoy the flames. No matter where I turn the flames are raging, it seems no-one and no place is safe.

I am feeling desperate at the moment. The world is on fire and the air is thick with smoke and we as the human race seem quite content to choke on our own inhumanity. I am struggling to breathe. My eyes are burning with the hot tears of rage and frustration. I am anxiously scouring the horizons for some light, some sign of change, some kind of shift in our trajectory.

I am feeling exhausted at the moment. The world is on fire and the flames are licking at the sides of the pot, the water is heating up and we as the human race, like the frog in the pot, are ignorantly, or obstinately, sitting and waiting to be boiled alive. I am ready to give up, to succumb. My heart is heavy, my brain is overwhelmed and my soul is weary. I don’t know how to make a difference and even if I did know how, I don’t know if it would – make a difference.

From Donald Trump mocking a victim of sexual assault, to the man accused of the sexual assault winning his seat in the Supreme Court, to immigrant children separated from their parents and held in internment camps, to a video of two women along with their children, one of which is just an infant strapped to her back, being marched to their death, to countless rhinos being brutally murdered over the equivalent of finger nail, to Jacob Zuma and his sly laughter at the expense of every South African citizen, to governments and politicians that loot their country’s riches and exploiting those who trusted them, the dictators that are fearlessly thriving and the even scarier ones that lurk in the shadows of shaky democracies, to climatologists warning that we have until 2040 (which is like two minutes away) to sort our shit out, to a seven-year-old girl being raped in a bathroom of a restaurant, to canned lion hunting, to the body of woman found in a park down the road from my home, to the plastic in the ocean, to the rampant racism that like a hydra arises from decapitation with even more heads spewing hatred and anger, to crucial natural forests being decimated in the name of money, to the Sudanese teenager sentenced to death after killing her rapist because he also happened to be her husband, to the mass extinction of countless species of animals and plants that is happening right under our noses, to #metoo and #himtoo and #webelieveher, to the to the Anita Hills, the Kwezis, the Matthew Shepards, the Philando Castiles, the Allison Bothas, the Baby Daniels to the Harvey Weinsteins, the Bill Cosbys, the Mduduzi Mananas, the Brock Turners, the Oscar Pistoriuses, the Shrien Dewanis, the Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the Larry Nassars, the Qedani Mahlangus. Really, I could go on like this forever, the list of human-on-human, human-on-nature, adult-on-child, man-on-woman, rich-on-poor, powerful-on-vulnerable atrocities are endless.

The lack of empathy and compassion for our fellow beings is soul destroying. We have become so wrapped up in our own hurt, legitimate or illegitimate, that we cannot see anyone or anything else.

The human race is waiting for a saviour, a single entity with all the answers who will wave a hand and all our problems will disappear and everything will be made right in the world. Depending on your beliefs that person may be a God, a scientist, a politician, an activist, a philanthropist or a visionary.

From where I sit right now, I find myself seriously questioning whether we even deserve to be saved. What qualities of our species redeems us? Why should we be saved, when the human race is most infamous for our ability to hurt and oppress, our arrogant belief that we are the superior beings and our relentless march towards self-destruction all in the name of progress?

Diana Prince once said, “I used to want to save the world. This beautiful place. But I knew so little then. It is a land of beauty and wonder, worth cherishing in every way. But the closer you get, the more you see the great darkness simmering within. I used to want to save the world. To end all war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both.”

And even if we are adamant in our belief that someone is coming to save us, can we afford to wait? If we wait, if we do not start working to save ourselves and start right now. If we don’t start changing our ways today will there be anything left to save when that figure finally arrives? Time is up, there is no more trying, no more planning, the time for that is over, there is only time left for doing, for being. We have to save ourselves, we cannot wait. The only people that are here and now, are us, there is no one else. There is no more time to waste.

We have but one saving grace, one quality that makes us worthy of survival, worthy of deliverance. That redemptive aspects of the human condition, almost equal in measure to the parts filled with hatred and a propensity for violence, are love and a propensity for growth and progress. We need to harness our desire for progress and forge ahead towards peace, we need to grow towards kindness, we need to rebuild our humanity. We need to see the value and necessity of tolerance, acceptance, compassion, selflessness, generosity and inclusivity.

We need to stop being so driven by money and power, power and fame, fame and ego, ego and ideology. The term, “money makes the world go round”, shouldn’t be the truth and before human beings, it wasn’t. What will it take for us to recognize that we are mere specks in a scheme that is far greater than our small-mindedness can comprehend? And instead of fighting each other, stepping on each other, pulling each other down in the race for these false idols, we should be reflecting on our place in the world and using our tremendous creativity to build a world based on love.

This is a choice that each of us needs to make, and we need to make it fast because time is well and truly up. Do we choose to be better, do we choose the light? Do we choose to love unconditionally? Do we choose a species united? Or do we choose to remain divided by our differences and our self-imposed borders? If we choose foolishly, we are doomed by our own stupidity and hubris. Doomed to let the darkness blanket our existence and swallow us and everything near us whole.

This is how I feel as a human being and as a woman, but as a mother, these feelings are even bigger, even scarier, even more desperate, and even more exhausting. They have become almost oppressive in their inescapable-ness. I cannot un-see the fire, I cannot ignore the flames, I cannot pretend I do not feel the heat, I cannot pretend the world is not burning. I cannot turn my back on humanity. I have to fight. Because I am not just fighting for me but for her as well. I brought her into this world and I will be damned if I give up trying to make it better for her.

Moms, we have a responsibility, we have the power and we have the love to change the world, not just for my kid or your kid but for all of our kids. We cannot let them inherit a carcass of a world writhing with hate, discord and violence. No mother would want that. We have a choice to make – embrace the light or succumb to the dark.

“The choice each must make for themselves – something no hero will ever defeat. I’ve touched the darkness that lives in between the light. Seen the worst of this world, and the best. Seen the terrible things men do to each other in the name of hatred, and the lengths they’ll go to for love. Now I know. Only love can save this world. So I stay. I fight, and I give… for the world I know can be. This is my mission, now. Forever.”, Diana Prince.

Mothers don’t have capes, or armour, or superpowers, but we are still Wonder Women. And armed with our infinite capacity for love and our lioness-like ability to protect our loved ones, we are frightfully capable of changing the world. But we cannot wait for a sign, for the bat signal, we need to act now, we cannot waste another moment. If we do not act now, the world is doomed and our children’s inheritance will not only be worthless, not only a burden, it will be a wasteland.

Time is up not only for sexual abuse, but for all the horrors and hurt we inflict on each other and the world. Time’s up, moms, we need to act.

Starting today, I, Leigh Tayler, Mother, Woman, Human Being, Animal, pledge to live in love, kindness, compassion, tolerance, gentleness, consciousness and harmony. To see through our differences and find our commonalities. To treat others as I would like my daughter to be treated. To tread lightly on this Earth as it is not mine to squander, the planet belongs to no-one and to everyone and everything at the same time. To not stand silently and passively by when witnessing injustice or hatred but to counter this with the steel of my protective instinct and the soft touch of a mother’s hand. To hold everyone, including my friends and family, accountable to a new standard, one that is shaped from love, open-mindedness, humility and peacefulness. To be my own saviour and the saviour of the human race one person at a time. I pledge this in the name of my daughter, Isabelle Hazel Tayler whom I cannot, will not fail.