As the digital world continues to evolve at exponential rate, the joys, demands and difficulties of modern day parents are also expanding rapidly, as they struggle to keep pace with the times and the rapid intellectual development of their offspring.
Today’s parents were often reminded in their childhood of how lucky they were to enjoy modern amenities and facilities which then did not exist, or which their parents did not have access to due to financial constraints. “Your grandfather had five ah we to raise, and he used to work for a pittance. We didn’t have car, electricity, running water and telephone, and grandmother had to cook on wood stove and wash clothes by hand every day. We use to walk school, rain or shine. Today, ayah lil’ tail lucky, you all got everything and still you complain,” was the familiar cry of the day.
Oh, for the good old days. Times have changed and today’s parents can reflect (oft times silently) as they compare the standards of a bygone era when teachers taught in the classroom and the culture of private lessons was non-existent. Teachers were revered and feared by students who looked forward to their well-prepared classes. Discipline dispensed by the school system was complemented with the installation of manners and values by the home and the extended family circle, and a society displaying, or at least willing to display, more religious tendencies. Guyanese children growing up today are fortunate to have both sets of grandparents in Guyana, as inevitably one set are residents ‘in foreign’ and their absence leads to a massive gap in the support system for the parents.
Modern day parents are also burdened with having to deal with a lot more variable factors than their forefathers. The number one challenge, of course, is dealing with the influence of today’s digital information highway and its seemingly never ending array of platforms, whether it be facebook or instagram or twitter, which present an enormous stumbling block to parents who possess limited, or none whatsoever, knowledge of the computer age.
Today’s digitally enlightened child is being constantly bombarded with music (if one can call it so) laced with violent overtones and advertisements with cleverly presented subliminal messages, as the internet seeks to provide the answers to their endless strings of adolescent questions. Parents endure the difficult task of trying to have a conversation with their children whose attention is more often than not diverted by the continuous flow of text messages on the latest electronic device from their internet friends. The messages appear at all hours of the day and night, as the new generation apparently spends most of the time awake.
Our parents and grandparents cautioned the lads on the evils of rum, beer and cigarettes, whilst the girls were lectured on the dangers of boys and their desires. Today’s youth has to deal with even more variables including increased peer pressure, more readily available hard drugs, and the culture of fast food and its negative effects on the human body.
As if having to deal with an evolving social landscape was not enough, the element of career choices presents another factor which ‘back in the day’ seemed confined basically to the five standard professions of accountancy, architecture, dentistry, law and medicine, and a number of science oriented pursuits. Today, there are so many fields to choose from, that children and their parents more so, are often at a complete loss in which direction to turn. It could be a spinoff of the fact that children spend less and less time reading, thus when the time approaches for a career to be pursued, the child is unprepared and eventually just ends ‘backing in to a job.’
The task of parenting has never been and will never be an easy one. With each generation the effort and skill set required seems to increase, making it a profession all by itself, which unfortunately, is too often overlooked by the society of today. Parents can be dictated to by the circumstances in which they find themselves, whether it be, single, divorced, widowed, affluent or otherwise, and tend to use these conditions as excuses for their shortcomings as parents.
There is no definitive way to raise a child, since each bundle of joy is unique, with his or her own personality, to be nurtured and developed to the best of their ability. The harsh reality is, when one makes a decision to be a parent, whether consciously or not, one is obliged to give of one’s best at all times to ensure that their child or children enjoy the best possible environment for their upbringing.
Regardless of our circumstances, we must remember that we have been blessed with the honour and privilege of being a parent.