Pink now is the wardrobe essential for an entire generation of tween and teen girls, so it didn’t surprise me when a mom I know mentioned taking her daughters to the new Pink retail store at the mall.
What took me aback was when she said: “I absolutely hate the Pink store and I can’t stand shopping there. Yet my two girls are always walking around with the word ‘pink’ across their rear ends. What can you do?”
What can you do?
Hmm. … What can you do? What, oh what, can you do?
This is the pivotal parenting question for 21st-century moms and dads.
We ask ourselves that question when considering a host of topics, from Victoria’s Secret styles to the decline of table manners, from the racy shows our children want to watch on TV to the hours they want to spend surfing the Internet.
We modern moms and dads always seem to be on the horns of a dilemma that pits our common sense about what’s best for our children against our apparent inability to implement our own preferences.
Here’s what I mean:
- Surveys of parents by the Kaiser Family Foundation show that moms and dads believe today’s television content contributes to precocious sexual behavior, rude and course language and bad attitudes in children. A majority also think they should do a better job of supervising media consumption in their homes.
- In surveys of parents, the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that moms and dads believe it’s best to limit the amount of time their children spend online and supervise the sites their children visit. But their studies have also found only a small percentage of children who use the net report that their parents have rules about it or know what sites they visit.
- An Associated Press annual rudeness survey says the majority of Americans believe our society is getting ruder every year. Most people say they have experienced bad manners and inconsiderate behavior from children in public places. When asked who was to blame for this trend, the number one response was “parents not teaching good manners to children.”
That reminds me of the time, while talking about our kids’ computer usage, a dad said to me, “I wish we had rules about the computer like you do.” I stood there thinking, “Um … dude … you’re the dad. You can make the rules.”
That’s the short answer to the parenting conundrum of our time: What can you do?
Lots of folks follow the conventional wisdom of “choose your battles.” It’s wise to conclude that shopping at a store you loathe – but your daughter loves – is a fight you can and should avoid. And they apply this wisdom to nearly every issue that comes along.
But choosing our battles seems to have created a generation of parents who simply avoid battles altogether. We can see what’s best for children, but we don’t have the will to implement our own good judgment.
Our children have no choice but to draw conclusions about our values when those values have no impact on our decisions. They see us pull out the credit card and pay for clothing at a store we claim to hate, dressing them in apparel we say is inappropriate, and they think, “Whatever.”
Suppose the mom I know decided that a seemingly insignificant scuffle over “Pink-wear” actually does matter. Suppose she said “no.”
Would it be easy to swim against the cultural tide that rushes toward you in a sea of pink on which is printed in pink ink the status symbol of an entire generation – the word “Pink?”
No. But nobody said parenting was easy.
If we find ourselves too often shrugging our shoulders and asking that rhetorical question, “What can you do?” then it’s likely we’re not choosing enough battles to win the war.