by Greg Schwem
One of the greatest joys of having adult children is knowing I now have the freedom to criticize other parents and their disciplinary methods.
OK, maybe “criticize” is too harsh; “actively observe and silently disagree” might be a better phrase.
My children are 26 and 21, independent (more or less) and free to make their own decisions without my guidance. Which leaves me with plenty of free time to notice, in grocery stores, airports and other public facilities, millennial and Gen Z couples who have chosen to have children instead of dogs and now realize you can’t cage a child if it acts up. Like my parents, I find myself cringing at what this new breed of procreators consider to be acceptable punishment.
I don’t envy today’s parents and the challenges they face. Suffice it to say none of the other parents in my daughters’ kindergarten carpools would have marched into their schools and demanded their severely underpaid teachers stop reading “The Little Engine That Could” because it’s too “woke.” Well, come to think of it, a mother of seven who lived on my block and attended church several times a day may have if she’d been familiar with the word and its meaning.
Social media was a novelty in my daughters’ middle and high school years and certainly not the harmful behemoth that, today, is the gateway to bullying, ostracization and, in some cases, suicide. Yes, they both had cellphones at young ages and there were moments I had to lecture them about proper phone etiquette. Was I too lenient in certain situations? My father certainly thought so and wasn’t shy about voicing his opinions, usually at holiday gatherings. I would fruitlessly explain that he may have a different view if cellphones had existed when I was under his tutelage.
So maybe I’m overstepping my bounds when I question today’s parents about their punishment tactics. But I am generally curious. At the very least, can somebody with children please answer the following three questions?
1. Have you ever actually gotten to ”three”?
Time and again, I see children misbehaving, only to silently snicker as their mom or dad says, “Logan, I am going to count to three.” What follows is the slowest, most drawn out recitation of “one” and “two” that I have ever heard. If I were a professional boxer, got knocked down in the ring and had 10 seconds to get to my feet, I would want one of Logan’s parents to be the referee. The Logans of the world aren’t stupid; they know they still have at least 20 seconds to do whatever has drawn their parents’ ire before backing off.
2. What exactly are “privileges”?
Because I am always looking for future comedic material and column ideas, I recently started driving for Uber. While taking a couple and their two children to the airport, I heard the dad telling his son if his behavior didn’t improve, he would lose all “privileges.” It’s not the first time I’ve heard that, and now this inquiring mind wants a definition. Maybe it’s because I don’t remember having any “privileges” when I was growing up. In my father’s eyes, being born was a privilege.
3. What, and where, is the “Circle of Trust”?
I first heard that phrase when Robert DeNiro famously uttered it to Ben Stiller in “Meet the Parents.” But that was a fictitious movie. When the Uber dad reminded his son that he was approaching a Circle of Trust violation, I wanted to stop my vehicle and ask if I could view the circle some time. Is it actually drawn somewhere in the house? What are the dimensions? These circles must exist somewhere, because I have heard multiple parents refer to them.
Parents of young children, if I receive the answers to these questions, perhaps I will no longer roll my eyes or mumble under my breath when your little darlings are throwing tantrums at the bank or the hardware store. Even though my father never understood my concept of parenting, I want to understand yours. So I eagerly await your replies.
Don’t make me count to three.
(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of two books: “Text Me If You’re Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad” and the recently released “The Road To Success Goes Through the Salad Bar: A Pile of BS From a Corporate Comedian,” available at https://www.amazon.com/. Visit Greg on the web at https://www.gregschwem.com/.
You’ve enjoyed reading, and laughing at, Greg Schwem’s monthly humor columns in Senior Living News. But did you know Greg is also a nationally touring stand-up comedian? And he loves to make audiences laugh about the joys, and frustrations, of growing older. Watch the clip and, if you’d like Greg to perform at your senior center or senior event, contact him through his website at https://www.gregschwem.com/)