Friday, November 5, 2010

Parenting in a Changing World

I'm thinking about the 'gain/lose time' paradigm shift for quite a while and a recent piece of news made me put my thoughts in writing. A 26-years old man stabbed his mother to death and his 38-year old brother to near death because 'they had been pressuring him to find a job'.

When I was only 5 years old, my parents filed a petition with the authorities to let me begin school before I was 6. In line with the contemporary thinking (socialist materialism), this would make me gain a year. Not sure what the repercussions of this move were. Throughout my school years I was always the smallest in class, always had older friends. Perhaps another year would have given me more mental strength to cope with the world, especially socially. With the subjects taught I had no problem, always being among the top pupils in my class.

In older times, youngsters staid with their parents until married. Then came the first shift: until 10-15 years ago, most youngsters were eager to leave their homes and start their own independent life. Nowadays, there is an opposite trend. Youngsters start their 'lives' much later, taking their time to travel, to decide what to do next, to study something they like, to study something practical, to find a real job, to marry and bring children into the world. By this time they are 30 something, almost 40. And where should they rush to? 30 years of commitment and mortgage payback? More work years? There is plenty of that until the new retirement age of 67. (I admire and envy the French protest against changing retirement age from 60 to 62, not to mention their short work week and long vacations.)

Except for a few basic truisms, life and perceptions have changed so much that it's pathetic to think that what worked for us 30 years ago is relevant advice for our children. Does a full time job for a large brick-and-mortar corporation make them happier than Internet-based freelancing? City life and traffic jams or country home and organic tomatoesGovernment and politics or high-tech? Life-long marriage with compromises or excitement hunting? And what's the right balance between volunteering and saving the world, and minding your own business?

Only they can define their own happiness.

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