What, pray tell, is COVID parenting? I need to know because over the past few months, several journalists have asked if I have any COVID parenting suggestions. I went online and, sure enough, a fair number of so-called “parenting experts” are advising parents on how to “survive” shut-downs, as if having children in the home as opposed to attending school is life-threatening. Since when does day-to-day of living with children require a unique set of parenting skills?
After doing some research, I realized that I may well have experienced COVID parenting as a child. There were, after all, days when for one reason or another I was confined indoors. It was raining cats and dogs, for example. Mind you, it had to be cats and dogs for me to be indoors. If merely kittens and puppies, my mother would send me outside. One of her favorite COVID parenting aphorisms was “Water never hurt anybody.”
When I was confined indoors, Mom’s primary COVID parenting rule was, “If you don’t find something to do, I’ll find something for you to do!” I was not allowed to be bored or bother her for any unnecessary reason, which pretty much covered everything. It was easy to not be bored back then. My only electronic device was a record player, so I learned to entertain myself with nothing more than the weird stuff that normally goes on in a child’s head.
The summer of 1952 required maximum COVID parenting only the disease wasn’t COVID; it was poliomyelitis, which is a whole lot worse. That was the summer of the nationwide polio scare. No one really knew how polio was contracted and all sorts of rumors flew, including the notion that polio loved hot, humid weather. My mother and I — she was a single parent in those days — lived in what is now called the “historic district” of hot, humid Charleston, South Carolina, only it wasn’t historic back then. Not, that is, unless run down and falling into ruin is historic.
Our flat on the second floor of a now-historic home with a Bentley parked in the courtyard was plumbed for cold water only. Anyway, anyone who’s experienced a Charleston summer will appreciate that I was indoors most of that summer, being POLIO-parented.
I really don’t get this “survive” stuff, but then, childrearing has become a soap opera since I was a kid. Mom never seemed the least bit ruffled by me being confined indoors. I left her alone and she reciprocated by leaving me alone. It was an unspoken arrangement that had no downside for either of us. Mom did not think it was her responsibility to entertain me; therefore, I learned to entertain myself. Believe it or not, children can actually do that.
I think I’ve figured it out. COVID parenting, in the modern sense of the term, is what a mother thinks she has to do when children are underfoot because she has never informed them, in no uncertain terms, that she is not their playmate or personal go-fer and insisted that they entertain and fend for themselves. Today’s moms, to their discredit, think that ignoring their children is bad mommying. So, they don’t ignore and their kids end up thinking mommy is akin to a multi-purpose app one downloads into one’s life and taps into action at whim.
It is the paradox to end all paradox that so many women, supposedly liberated, have enslaved themselves to their kids. I have to believe that allowing children to run your life is the most demeaning of all forms of submission. But then, I’m just a man. What do I know?
Family psychologist John Rosemond: johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com.