Lately I have been seeing all over the interwebs articles addressing what’s wrong with American parenting today.
Now I am not a parent of the human baby variety (at the moment, I just have the fur baby), but having been the youngest of six kids, I have been blessed with a horde of nieces and nephews (17 and counting). I have watched them all grow up and some even have kids of their own (Just so you know….my oldest niece is just 13 months younger than me and we went to high school together. Wrap your head around that).
Essentially, I do know a thing or two about kids (but only a thing or two). I have had the great fortune of watching my siblings raise their kids. I think they have all been lucky: my nieces and nephews are a great bunch of kids (and adults). I love every single one of them.
Like I have stated before, I am not a parent, but I do make observations of how people in America raise their children vs Germans (or at least this region of Germany).
While I was at Muswiese, I ran into Lina’s mother. After exchanging pleasantries I asked her where Lina was. She merely shrugged and said that Lina was somewhere at the festival and that they would meet up sometime later when they would take the bus home. Then she added,
“You know how 13-year-olds are.”
I simply smiled and nodded but in reality all I could think about was this: there is no way an American would let their child run around a fair without supervision.
But this is because Germans get the old adage: it takes a village to raise a child. Lina was perfectly safe to run around with her group of friends. If anything were to happen, there were plenty of good people at the fair who would step in without hesitation and help. Not that this was the case, but you know what I mean. I think that most Americans have forgotten that. (Not my family though….we are big enough that we are practically a village).
(Most) Americans have fallen victim to helicopter parenting (literally hovering around them ALL. THE. TIME.), parent shaming, or they have made parenting a religion.
Even I have noticed that I fall under the helicopter parenting category with Abner. I know, I know, some of you naysayers are thinking “he’s just a dog, not a human.” But I disagree: he’s still my baby. My siblings call him nephew so they get it!
When I first moved to Germany, I made sure Abner was constantly on a leash. I love my dog and for the most part, he is very smart. Unfortunately, he can also be very dumb. He has wandered into the street a number of times already and the last thing I need is to see my little snort-machine getting hit by a car thus inducing a heart attack.
But Thorsten is so much more chill with the pooch than I. When we go hiking or even walking him around Lake Constance, T will let Abner off his leash and let him be a dog. At first, I didn’t like this. I am naturally paranoid when it comes to my fur baby so as I watched him wandering around without a tether I would immediately start coming up with scenarios of all the terrible things that could go wrong.
But Abner is a good dog and never strays far. I gave him opportunities and I have learned to trust him. Obviously, there are certain times he needs to be on a leash, but if the situation allows it he gets to run around as much as he wants (which is great because it burns all the energy he has stored in his little body). I have also learned to trust Thorsten’s family (our own little village) with regards to the fur ball. I know that between everyone, Abner will be safe because he always has someone looking out for him (even the kids!).
I wish American parents would realize that with their own brood. We all had that freedom where we were that age so what happened between then and now that we suddenly must lock them in rooms and never allow them to see sunlight (so to speak).
Well, I know why. It’s the fact that we no longer trust our fellow neighbor, but I believe this is due to all the sensationalist fear mongering brought on by our TV news networks. Little side note: with all the terrible things ‘happening’ on the American news….it feels so extreme that I am starting to believe that half of it is made up just to keep Americans afraid. But that’s my two cents.
Anyway, I know I do not speak for all Americans. I have seen plenty of great parents (mostly from my own family) but I have seen this extreme trend as well and I don’t like where it’s headed.
Especially when it comes to parent shaming.
As I have watched family members and friends raise their own little ones, I have come to the same conclusion every time: parenting is hard enough. Why do people feel the need the tear each other down because someone let their kid eat mud or play with a dog?
To the germaphobes out there (wherever you are!), let this Microbiologist tell you: it is actually good for your kid to do these things. This will help them build immunity to germs in life. Sanitizing everything is detrimental and will not protect your kid. It will make it worse and they will actually get sick more as well as develop allergies.
As I said before, having another life depend on you to survive (whether pet or baby) is hard. So let that village help you raise that child. It doesn’t make you a bad parent for reaching out. In fact, having help with the burden gives you breathing room to take care of someone else equally important: yourself. Once you do that, you may actually become a better parent.