TAY: Should Parents be Kid Cruise Directors?

Lately I’ve been reading some great posts that have given me serious food for thought–posts I wish others (you) could read. These topics are, to me, relevant for today’s world and are worthy of good discussion. That’s why I’m bringing them to you this week.

TALK AMONGST YOURSELVES WEEK
Or as I considered calling it: CONTROVERSY WEEK

The word ‘controversy’ sounds so…oh, I don’t know…controversial, so I changed it up a bit. We all love to talk (some more than others–big shout out to Reagan, whom I’ve renamed ‘20,000’) and I’d love to get the conversation going on the posts I’m going to bring to you. These have been written by other bloggers and reposted with their permission. So get the conversation going here in the comments section, but if you feel strongly about what they’ve written, by all means, head over their blog and comment to them!

Today’s post is from Christy of Motherhood…Unscripted. She wrote recently about having to plan all her kids’ fun and how that’s just not how parenting is supposed to go. I have to say, I totally agree with her. As I was reading her post I was pumping my fist in the air and planning a rally on the steps of the capitol. My rally cry: “I’m a Mom, not a cruise director!” Reagan and Ashlyn stopped what they were doing, looked at me dumbfounded, and began to cry. Read Christy’s post below and then tell us what you think.

Julie McCoy, I Am NOT

This ain’t The Love Boat & I ain’t Julie McCoy. I don’t know when we, as parents, changed from “parents” to “cruise & entertainment directors”. I was actually talking about this to my mom & dad a couple weeks ago, but it came back to the forefront today. You see, my daughter (who’s 10, going on 11) is under the impression that it’s MY JOB to think up fun & interesting activities for her when she’s bored. Oh, and she’s also grounded. So she can’t play with friends or watch TV or play computer. So, somehow, it became my responsibility to conjure up stuff for her to do. And, because I’m saying no to all her suggestions (baking cookies, going somewhere, riding alone to the library), I’m made of suck.

See, here’s the thing. I never would have DREAMED of going to my mother and demanding that she plan my entertainment for the day. It never would have crossed my mind to expect her to play with me. She either would have laughed in my  face or screamed at me that she was busy – what was wrong with me?!? Somehow, our generation of mothers, especially, are expected to be the source of everything for our kids. We’re supposed to engage them, entertain them, enrich their lives with activities and adventures and crap. Everywhere we turn, we’re told how we can better “play” with our kids or ways to enrich them and that kind of thing. Trips to go on, places to visit, activities to engage them with – all carefully planned and led by mommy. Pick up a Parents or Parenting or Family Fun magazine and leaf through it. It’s chock-full of stuff you’re SUPPOSED to be doing with your kids and woe upon you if you don’t.

I know there are moms out there who do this stuff. Who have craft time scheduled every week and take the kids to the park everyday and take time to teach them gardening and all about the insects in the soil and stuff. Good on you. If you enjoy that and it blesses you & your kids, that’s awesome. It’s the new expectation that, as a mom, you’d BETTER be doing this kind of stuff that gets under my skin.

My parents were completely unaware of this. As grandparents, they’re not exposed to this trend and sat in slack-jawed disbelief as I explained it to them. About the way we’re made to feel guilty if we don’t want to play Thomas trains with our kids. About the onslaught of articles and gentle “reminders” we’re hit with telling us how we need to bike ride and play outside and dig holes and go to the zoo and grow plants and play Barbies and build with blocks and teach about shapes and colors out in the world. My mother? Actually laughed. OUT LOUD. When I asked what was funny, she replied, “I just thought about my mother riding bikes with us and it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever imagined.”

So, see, HER mother didn’t play with her. Didn’t even consider enriching her or riding bikes with her (and her sisters) or playing dolls with her. She was BUSY. Even the thought of ASKING her to join them or come up with something for them to do is, even now, ridiculous to my mother. And, goodness knows, it’s ridiculous to me. We NEVER asked my mother for stuff like that. Of course, my mom’s situation was vastly different, but still. My husband’s mother never did, either. She was a SAHM of 4 kids. She didn’t play with them or go bike riding with them or take them to the park. She was BUSY. The kids played with each other or other kids in the neighborhood. And, while I might have been bored and even dared share that with my mother, I NEVER insisted that it was her responsibility to provide me with entertainment.

Our generation is truly expected to do everything. We should work, have our own hobbies or lives outside caring for the children, keep a good house, enrich, enlighten and engage our children far beyond what any previous generation has done, be a good cook, an interesting and attractive wife, and still have time to continue to learn, grow and flourish as our own persons. If I was a swearer, I’d unleash a string of profanity that would make the guys on Deadliest Catch blush. This is horse-pucky. A big, old, forgotten pile of horse-pucky, covered in flies and what they lay, some vomit and rotting vegetables. It’s the reason why so many of us moms are on meds today. Because the stress of trying to meet all these expectations makes us CRAZY. It’s certainly why I’m on Zoloft. There isn’t a woman alive who can be this person. Without pharmecuticals or a whole lotta booze.

I’m sick of it. There is only ONE of me. In order to not end up digging out my own eyeball with an icepick, I will simply do the best I can and the rest will have to burn. My children will have to learn how to entertain themselves. They have plenty of books, a backyard, Legos and big brains filled with imagination. FIGURE. IT. OUT. Because if I have to hear the deep, soul-rending sigh of a preteen girl, filled with tears as she stomps up the stairs screaming, “I HATE YOU!!!” with all the feeling of Meryl Streep choosing between her children, I will take a hostage, I swear to God. I am NOT Julie McCoy & this AIN’T the freaking Love Boat.

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So, what do you think? Are we, as parents, supposed to make sure our kids are entertained all the time? Is it ok for children to be bored? Is it selfish to not want to play with your kids all the time? Talk amongst yourselves!

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18 thoughts on “TAY: Should Parents be Kid Cruise Directors?

  1. Vicki –

    All I can comment on is my experience. My mother was not the cruiser director type and did not plan our entertainment. We were expected to find our own fun, and we did just fine.

    But – on the flip side – I used to run around barefoot in the middle of the summer all day long and not come home until the sun was coming down. Do we let our children play this way nowadays? The last time I checked there was an overwhelming fear that children would inevitably be kidnapped and the outdoors is no longer a safe place to be. If our kids are cooped up all day long, and we don’t want them sitting in front of the television all day, that sort of limits them in their options.

    So, yeah, I guess I see it both ways. Kids are perfectly capable of making their own adventures, but when you limit their play space so drastically it makes it a lot tougher on them.

  2. I agree with you Vicki. When I was younger, I was allowed to run all over the neighborhood, play with my friends, etc. I came home when I heard my mom yell for me.

    But now, we can’t do that. At least I can’t. For one thing my kids are far too young. But if they were a little older, I still couldn’t do that. We live on a busy street with cars that speed. I do let them play in the backyard alone, however I am usually at the kitchen table folding laundry so I am able to watch (and hear) them. Or I am loading the dishwasher and there is a window there as well.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I do play with my kids, read stories (though they can’t read so I guess I have to do that part LOL), play playdoh, etc. But not everyday all day. I would never get anything done if I did. And let me tell you, once bedtime hits, my butt sits in the recliner and I am not about start cleaning then.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with any of the above!!!!!!

    I recall my mother playing with me occassionally, but she was not my biggest souce of entertainment (perhaps this is why I so desperately prayed for a sibling?) It was up to me to FIND THINGS TO DO.

    Now that I am a mother (with 4 kids 6 and under) I do make time each day to do something with them both as a group and individually, but the rest of the time, it is up to them to FIND THINGS TO DO!

    No, I don’t think this is a bad thing and yes, I am tired of being made to feel guilty. I have friends who can’t even go to the bathroom without their children screaming in hysterics that mommy is gone. Way to teach them to be independent and self-reliant.

    Cruise director I am not, loving mother trying to guide (not attach to or do for) my children I am!!!!

    P.S. Leah, I am with you on the recliner bit (guess that explains the extra 15lbs still trying to lose hmmmm 🙂

  4. I don’t have kids. But I do have eyes, ears, and opinions. YAY to the parents here who are teaching their kids to be self-reliant.

    Why is it that this generation of parents (w/kids from birth to 18) are responsible for doing EVERYTHING for these kids? What happened to the imagination that childhood is so famous for? And isn’t learning to think and act on your own something kids should do? That doesn’t mean they don’t need some guidance.

    At best, you’ve created whiny, helpless, and demanding little creatures. At worst, you’ve created a generation of over-indulged, self-destructive, little blamers who take no responsibility for anything. They do nothing for themselves. Why should they? You’ll do it. They have no respect for anything or anyone – including YOU. Why should they? You tolerate their insolence.

    They skateboard off neighbors’ porches, throw trash in your yard, and steal things throughout the neighborhood. Dare to call them on it and you’re called everything but white. If I had ever contemplated doing such things – much less actually DO them – they’d still be finding pieces of me scattered around the planet.

    And this is not isolated. This seems to be the majority behavior in my neighborhood, with some of my friends, and even in my own family.

    Child abuse is a horrible thing. But the 180 approach to that – to forbid even spanking – seems to have opened the door to a free-for-all for kids. A swat in the butt at least got their attention. That seems almost impossible to do anymore unless a game controller is at the other end of it.

    Parents don’t want to discipline their kids at all, in any way. Kids have to be bargained with. Since when is parenthood a democracy? Privileges and rights are not the same thing.

    If it is ignored, maybe it will just go away. The parents seem purposefully oblivious to it and when made aware, are angry at you for disparaging their “little darling.” My fear is that if so many of these kids are this way at 4, 8, 10, 15, what will they be like at 18, 21, 25, 30 …? And how will their kids be any different?

    I’m not saying all kids are this way, but too many are. And the older they get, the worse it gets. Why? Because a bad pattern has been established.

    Parents are not cruise directors. I think they’re more like traffic cops, but with a vested interest and a loving heart.

    Their job is to keep traffic moving. To keep it going in the right direction and to try to avoid the big smash-ups. They’re on site when the big smash-ups happen, they make the reports, issue summonses when needed, and try to keep it from happening again so that everyone can keep happily motoring along down life’s path.

  5. Hi, I agree with above and another issue is kids always feeling like they desire gifts. I had to sit my 4 year old down and tell him he doesn’t get gifts all the time. He started crying because I was wrapping a baby shower gift for a friend and he wasn’t getting anything… what in the world? And when we go to birthday parties… he should be getting gifts, it isn’t his birthday! Who thought of that? When we were growing up, we got presents on our birthday, christmas and easter. My son and I had a long talk about this. And I am sure we will have many more.

    Okay, sorry about all that. I had to laugh at your comment on my blog… my husband was so happy you said I was the only person you met who doesn’t sneeze in the light… ha ha. He feels fully justified… ha ha. I always thought it odd, but I guess I am more odd huh?

  6. Great points so far from everyone! Nicole, you have a grasp as to what is ailing our youth today. It all starts with the family and parents actually stepping up to the plate to be parents and not friends of their kids.

  7. Honestly for me it needs to be a balance. I do spend quality time with her each day because that’s one of my fondest memories as a child was the time that was just Mommy and me. I try to take her out for lunch with me one day/week and we go to Mom/daughter music lessons every Saturday.

    As for everyday. I do work so our evening time is pretty limited but I always make sure there’s time for story time.

  8. Hi everybody! Just wanted to clarify that I think if you DO spend time playing with and enriching your kids, that’s awesome. I wish I was more wired that way, actually. I just am frustrated with this push that if you DON’T do this stuff, you’re somehow “less than” as a mom and your kids resent you for it.
    I simply do not have the time. If I want my house to stay presentable, have the laundry done, take my kid to therapy and still have time to do something that keeps my brain from turning to mush, I cannot do what I’m, apparently, EXPECTED to do.
    I appreciate all of your comments – I love knowing what other people think about topics that are rambling around in my head.
    Also, I wrote a follow-up post in my 2nd blog about some further things that this post made me thing about. If you’re interested, it’s over here:
    http://motherhoodunscripted.today.com/

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts everybody!!

  9. I’m not a cruise director either. Heck no, I don’t think it’s our jobs to entertain them 24/7. That’s what their imagination is for. Now, I do play with my kids, and I do plan activities, but I’m also known to tell them to just go play.

  10. I’m definitely not a cruise director. My child has grown up learning how to entertain himself and I think that it’s very important that he knows and understands how to do this. I love the fact that he will sit in the living room/playroom/my bedroom and play with Star Wars toys or Transformers for hours on end and not think twice about it. He’s got an imagination…. one that I don’t think he would have if he never had to play on his own.

    I don’t ever recall sitting down as a kid and my mom actually “playing” with me, especially not all day long. She had other things that needed to be done. I played with my friends, or my brothers, or I entertained myself. I do believe that the world we live in has changed since then though. I remember being allowed to play outside in the neighborhood from sun-up to sun-down… no questions asked. I remember in the summers spending every waking minute at the community pool down the street. There’s no way I’m going to let my own child do this. He’s allowed to go play in the backyard by himself, but not the front yard, at all.

    I do make time to do special things with my child each day, though…. just not every waking moment of every single day.

  11. I think my opinion is in the majority. I do plan special time with my kids but the rest of the time is up to them. Some of my greatest inventions came when I was bored out of my mind. I think kids need boredom sometimes.

  12. Wow! Talk about making you stop and think. This was a wonderful way to explain how so many of us have felt. I think it’s good for my boys to be bored sometimes – they are more creative when they are not allowed t.v., computer and hand held electronics. I love their creativity

  13. OK, I’m gonna say this…

    It makes me PROUD that my girls know how to play by themselves. When Libbey was little and stopped being in her face all day long, I felt selfish if I did a bit of cleaning/showering/book reading/scrapbooking/phone visiting while she sat nearby, “reading” her little books, playing with a toy, or watching TV. Oh, and I felt guilty, too.

    Not anymore.

    My kids loved being entertained…they especially love playing with Daddy & Mommy. But they also love being by themselves and doing their own thing, and that makes me HAPPY!

    Yesterday, while I Swiffered and took care of the cat (Lewis had a bit of surgery on Friday), Libbey sat up a “store” in the hallway. She put a all kinds of toys and pretend food in the store, then she and Caroline spent half an hour going shopping. It was adorable…it was sweet…they laughed and had a good time…and they used their IMAGINATIONS. Wow, what a concept!

    So there you go. Obviously I have strong feelings on this matter!

  14. What a great post!! When my parents were growing up the word BORED didn’t exist, and if my kids ever used around my dad he’d be sure to make sure they weren’t bored! LOL My parents didn’t play with us either…my dad didn’t even take my brothers fishing…and somehow they grew up relatively normal! I think there is even more guilt put on Fathers if they don’t do stuff with their kids. I have to say though that my husband does take our boys for bike rides and is building a fort with them, but when there is work to be done they are also expected to help out.
    btw..thanks for visiting my blog

  15. Society has created monsters…mothers are expected to go big or go home. I can’t imagine stressing myself out even more by taking on the role of cruise director. It just sound silly, but more power to the women that can and do, do it.

  16. AMEN!!

    This goes right along with what I posted about at BATW last Friday.

    Our kids are growing up to be way to dependent on us for everything. No wonder we are exhausted.

    I am on a mission to rehabilitate myself from being a Cruise Director (or Helicopter Mom) and you know what? My kids are LOVING the new found freesoms and independence.

    Great post!

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