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February 18, 2005



Damn, that many Boomers still have kids in their teens? My parents were born in the middle of the Baby Boom--'52 and '55--and out of the 5 children they had together or with other spouses, there is only one teenager and the eldest--me--is 27.


I'm getting ready to go to my daughter's varsity soccer team playoff game in Oxnard right now. Do you know that my daughter has called me twice (her team is already there) to tell me not to come.__I don't know what this does to your theory that kids want the parents to spend more time with them. I think my daughter is just weird...I think that having me present might put too much pressure on her to perform at a more intense level than she would like to. __ I guess I am a little intense about competition...

I have given my kids a lot of time and energy, and maybe, just maybe, you are right and they really do appreciate the extra effort. However, I think the time has come to divert my energies toward other pursuits, as my kids are now almost all grown up now.


On the flip side, there is such a thing as parents who are TOO involved in their kids' lives. I was always just as glad if my parents skipped my events, and I could not wait to move 3000 miles away from home for boarding school when I was 14, just to have some more independence and less parental involvement and scrutiny.


It's a brave call to say that liberal churches attract more self-absorbed people, but I think you are right. Then again, I admit we tend to attract the nit-pickers and judgemental lot, so I suppose we're even. But I will say that Evangelical churches tend to put much greater emphasis on family, and family discipleship. The subject of a post, perhaps. Hurrah for Ecemunical dialogue! (Perhaps I ought to have written "Interfaith" dialogue, but I'm feeling inclusive today! ;-))

Sarah Dylan Breuer


In the Severna Park parish where I work, many parents have bought houses that cost well over $500,000 -- in many cases, over a million. My partner (and English professor) and I (a parish staffer) bought a 3BDR, 2BA house (well, we put in the second bathroom ourselves) for $131,900 in Frederick, sixty miles from Severna Park. A house in Severna Park that's significantly smaller than the one in which I live just sold for $500,000. When 30-something or even 40-something parents buy in a community like that, in many cases both parents must work insane hours in a lucrative career just to make the mortgage payment.

Why do they do it? Because the schools in Severna Park are very good. We have only a semblance of public education left in this country. Karen and I can buy a much cheaper house in part because we're not particularly concerned about how good the schools are, but Severna Park parents feel obligated to provide their children with the best education possible, even if it means that they hardly see their children, except when shuttling them in the minivan to lacrosse practice or SAT prep sessions.

Severna Park parents don't send their kids to daycare because they're self-centered; they send their kids to daycare because -- given their assumption that they are absolutely obligated to send their kids to the best schools available -- they don't see any other way to get by. A lot of my sermons and a great deal of my pastoral work over the last two years has been aimed at challenging those assumptions, and suggesting that there are gifts far more important for children to get from their parents than resources for academic success.

And then there are the parents who aren't from affluent communities like Severna Park or South Pasadena and San Marino, who send their kids to daycare because if both parents don't work at least two or three jobs, they won't be able to pay rent on the two-bedroom apartment that the family of five or six shares.

In short, I don't think you're being fair to parents in assuming that parents who send their kids to daycare are doing so out of selfishness. If you want to free more parents to spend quality time with their kids, I'd spend that energy working for more affordable housing in areas with excellent public schools, and more resources for public schools in areas that have affordable housing. Working to raise the minimum wage and promote workers' right to unionize would hurt, either!




Huh-- If anything, I'd assumed that boomer parents were the opposite, too ready to put their children first, or to seem to in the passive-aggressive sense where they want you to know exactly how much they're giving up by dropping everything for you.

My mother is a Boomer and seems to spend her time doing almost nothing but shuttling my youngest sister, the one who still lives at home, back and forth to activities. I live 40 minutes away and she has actually told me things like, "Do you want me to come pick up your laundry and bring it back to you?" (Well, I was wearing a particularly filthy shirt that day, but I'm a college student...)

And you hear stories about college freshmen being overly dependent on their parents, being on the phone with them between classes... I don't think I know very many narcissistic parents. But perhaps devoting one's life to one's children can be just as narcissistic in its own way, trying to be the best possible parent and never be hated by one's children, ever. I don't want to put my hypothetical future children first if it means ever, ever telling them that I wish I'd put something else first instead.


Ooo...this is good.

I was all ready to agree with Hugo, and then I came upon the comments. Now, I have to go home and think. Outstanding stuff.

Perhaps, as we look across the liberal/conservative divide again, we will see that parents are usually trying to get at the same thing and that there are different schools of thought on how to get there. Give your kids a good future by sending them to Exeter. Give your kids a good future by having mom stay at home and living lower-middle class but "happy." Pros and cons to both positions. We do what we can.

I think, not to give Hillary too much credit on this one, that what we could be doing as a culture is putting too much of the onus of child rearing on the parents. I'm serious. The nuclear family gets far too much credit and shoulders far too much responsibility in this country. Hugo, what if the parents are hoping you (church leaders) will fill in some of the gaps? Is that perhaps an assumption that these parents have of the church? I bet it is for some.

I, as a someday-father, hope that there are others to help raise my kids because I will not be able to be there for them all thet time, or perhaps even most of the time. Maybe when I look around for God-parents for my children, I should let them know that I take their job description very seriously. "God Parents" are responsible for teaching the children about God the world and everything alongside the parents. It is a huge responsibility.

All teens, all kids probably, benefit from having adult friends of their parents around. The more models of adulthood, the better...and it may encourage a little compassion when the kids are ranting about their negelctful parents in their first psych session. ;-)

Good post, Hugo. Good comments.


I echo Amanda--aren't most of the boomers having kids *my* age or in their 20s? Teens seem more for the very tail end of the Boomer generation, I'd think.

I too think the comments are excellent, but I'd add that or culture doesn't put all that burden on 'parents'--be honest. We put that burden on mothers. Nobody blinks if Daddy works 80-hour weeks to feed the kids and send them to Catholic school, as long as Mommy is home with them full time. But if Mommy also has a job, then we natter about Mommy putting her "career" first and how day care is awful.

(And I really can't bloody stand people who think daycare is bad, yet approve of sending kids to school the second they are old enough for kindergarten. If you think day care is bad, you should be 100% in favor of homeschooling. Children do not stop needing to be reared by their parents when they hit age 5.)


"bewildered students"

is there anyother kind?

(annika, the perpetual student)


I would like to spend more time with my kids. But in order to do that I know that I must first evaluate their needs in order to come up with creative solutions.__I need to take the time to get to know my kids before I can actually address the issue of sharing quality time together.


"I would like to spend more time with my kids. But in order to do that I know that I must first evaluate their needs in order to come up with creative solutions.__I need to take the time to get to know my kids before I can actually address the issue of sharing quality time together."

Charla: I've heard this refrain many times and still don't understand what it means. Does quality refer to the depth of engagement, if so, how is that determined? The "quality" of the time with kids is directly related to the quanity of time we spend with them. I would add that completely narcissistic and screwed-up parents could spend whole bunches of time with their kids w/out it being quality. The corrolary is that the best of parents could try to make the time they have with kids "quality" and miss out on what is really needed.

Hugo's point, which the posts haven't addressed, touch on the impact of divorce on children and, in short, it sucks. As a thoroughgoing evangelical, I am very, very troubled that evangelical circles don't do a better job of keeping marriages intact. In my more esoteric musings, I'm guessing it has something to do with the radically democratic nature of the evangelica faith, i.e. it's my faith and that faith is true in my experience of salvation. The focus, then , is on the individual's experience of God. It leads away from, rather than toward, obedience when that obedience is in contradition to what we may "feel" at any particular moment.

So, no, Hugo, I don't think liberal churches have a lock on self-absorption. I do think evangelicals often reflect the pervailing standards of judging the right/wrong of an action more than we should.

I would sugguest, however, that evangical, or liberal, religious or otherwise, the increase in divorce will do more damage than we would like to admit and it is, fundamentally, a selfish act. No, not always, there are grounds for divorce. But, we watch enough t.v. and Sleepless in Seattle movies to believe that lie. That the "one" is out there, waiting to be found. And if we come home and find that the person we thought was "the one" fails to be so, then on to the next. Sad.


Nail, meet Stephen. He just hit you on the head. Bravo.


I am fascinated by the idea that some people have where they purchase a premium house so the kids can go to the best public school (addressing Dylan).

In many cases, once can move to a working class neighborhood, save a couple hundred grand on the house (e.g. something for $150K-$200K, rather than double that in a "good" neighborhood - which usually is code for "upper middle class") - and spend the balance on the private school of their choice. Of course, that means opting out of the public school system... but for many people, that is a feature, not a bug.

La Lubu

ahh, but SourAaron, we live in a state where there are large pockets of affordable housing. In southern California, "affordable housing" is what we would consider an outrageous price.

As for public schools, I'm gonna keep mum for now, 'cuz I could easily derail the thread on how school funding through the property tax system and the shifting tax base due to white flight, lost jobs, etc. have taken their toll on public schools. And let's keep in mind that private schools are not required to take everyone, nor are private schools necessarily better than the public schools at educating students....folks just have that perception because the discipline tends to be better (translation? if a student is a problem, they can throw the student out....among other factors).

And Hugo? I sure wish you'd rephrased the "growing up in day care". I attended day care; I did not "grow up" there; then again, perhaps you are speaking of boarding school day care, which is something I haven't heard of yet...but I suppose it could exist somewhere. The more common use of the term "growing up in day care" or "day care is raising your children" is to slap down parents...err, excuse me, mothers, who can't afford any alternatives. It is particularly used to demonize single mothers like myself who were supposed to give our children away to rich couples rather than raise them ourselves. Our love, our intellects, our traditions, our working-class incomes are considered wholly inadequate to the raising of children. Bah! Single mothers are everyone's favorite scapegoat, from the right to the left.


e.g. something for $150K-$200K, rather than double that in a "good" neighborhood - which usually is code for "upper middle class"

Where I live, $200K won't buy you a crack house.

As for public schools, my experience is that 'private' is not a synonym for 'better.'

La Lubu

"Where I live, $200K won't buy you a crack house."

In most parts of Illinois, $200K gets you a huge McMansion with all the trimmings in an exclusive subdivision with fully-funded public schools that have loads of "extras", like art, music, foreign languages, etc.

It's weird sometimes, to get on the 'net and read about income and prices of housing; sometimes I feel like I'm in a not-so-well-to-do foreign country when discussing such matter with coastal folks!

Hugo Schwyzer

In using the phrase "growing up in day care", I was paraphrasing what two of the youth themselves said. I ought to have made that clear.

I ought to have been more aware that the politics of day-care can, in the wrong hands, devolve into a single-mom bash-fest. That was not my intent.

Like Dylan, I question the motives of parents who work terribly hard to get their kids into the best schools and provide them with the best opportunities -- while depriving them of what kids need most, which is TIME. When I meet the kid who would rather have an iPOD and cool shoes than more time with a parent, I'll let you know. Adolescents tend to pretend to loathe their parents a lot more than they actually do; it is a huge mistake to confuse teenage rebellion and insouciance with an actual desire to be left alone. Nothing could be further from the truth, in my experience.

Todd Granger

Hugo, I realize this isn't entirely in keeping with this thread, but have you read Christian Smith's latest book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, examining the results of the National Study of Youth and Religion (the largest such sociological study to date, for which Chris was/is the primary investigator)?

(Oxford University Press, 2005 - I'm sure Amazon has it, and no doubt local bookstores would as well.)

La Lubu

well, Hugo, I guess I'm reacting purely based on observation of a wholly different dynamic where I live. I think that the high cost of living in southern California (and other places) has a helluva lot to do with what you're seeing.

Where I live, if the parents are working 50-60 hours a week, it's because they are barely scraping by at poverty level and need those long hours just to afford housing, utilities, and food. In my neighborhood, the kids with iPods or cool shoes bought those things for themselves with the money they earned from the job they go to after school lets out. The well-off suburban parents spend a lot of time with their kids, because they can. The cost of living here is low, and parents with professional or (most) unionized jobs (but not construction!) offer personal leave as a benefit....and parents use that personal leave to attend school or extracurricular events, if they occur during working hours. And remember, that personal leave isn't just about the pay...it's also about the permission to take time off without losing one's job. If you are a clerk at a convenience store/gas station, and you want to take time off to see your kid in the school play, you just may be excrement out of luck.

You talk about the freedoms that kids have now, but amongst the more well-off I see the opposite....I see kids with tight schedules of karate class/dance class/art class/soccer/basketball/baseball/music lessons/school plays/Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts/etc. That, on top of homework and sometimes volunteering (for the older teens). It's a more rigorous schedule than most adults have on the job!

I think part of that stems from the competition to get into college, and more importantly the competition to get a scholarship to go to college (no scholarship means going to community college instead...and don't get me wrong here; I attended community college and my daughter probably will too! Not a damn thing wrong with community college! But there tends to be more scholarship money available at four-year institutions).

I think another part of it is fear from parents that their kids be "successful"...economically successful. The middle class is shrinking, so parents with the means pull out all the stops to make sure their kids aren't the ones left behind.

And where I live, only children aren't as rare as they were when I was growing up (I was usually the only "only" in any classroom I was in at the elementary level), but they are not as common as the two or three child family. Again, I think that is a reflection of the high cost of livingin your locale. Parents here can afford more than one and still buy a house.


When I meet the kid who would rather have an iPOD and cool shoes than more time with a parent, I'll let you know.

Gosh, I think that described 99% of the teens I knew when I was a teen. :)

I am sure that when my kids are older, they will appreciate the time we spent with them--but for now, we get a lot of whining about how 'poor' we are and how we don't have the things many of their friends have, etc. I suspect that some of the 'raised in day care' teens you deal with are the flip side of that. I'd also guess that, like my kids, many of them don't yet have a good grasp of the Lots Of Money = Lots Of Work equation, and aren't clear that the college fund, the ski trips, the nice clothes, etc. would go away if Mom chucked her job.

(I do know that when I was a preteen, in the neighborhood I lived in, the kids with at-home mothers barely saw them more than I, a day-care child, did. It was SOP back then for moms to kick the kids out of the house all day to go play so they wouldn't create mess.)

For the ones who genuinely crave and haven't gotten time with their parents, may I suggest that, if possible, that's something they should bring up at a family conference? Sure, some parents probably don't WANT time with their kids. But some may genuinely have no idea how much their kids need them.

I'd add, also, that while my kids benefit from time with me, "Time Spent With Mom" does not do much on a college application or resumé. I'm sure many parents are taking that into account when making their choices.


This discussion about too much time/not enough time is an interesting one.

The too much time position is well articulated
by Betsy Hart - see http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/hart042604.asp

On the other hand, you see how the disconnectedness of the parents of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris led to Columbine.

The answer lies in quality time - that is not driving 40 minutes to soccer practice or ballet or whatever highly structured activity young children aren't ready for. Time spent at home (WITH NO TV!) doing arts and crafts, reading, toys, that is much preferable.

It's a tough nut to crack though, because spontaneous, neighborhood based interactions seems to have gone the way of the BetaMax. It's too dangerous to leave your kids unsupervised these days, isn't that the prevailing attitude?


Making breakfast for my kids every morning is a bit of a challenge. But once a week, I wake up really early so I can sit down to breakfast by 7:30AM and spend some time with them before we rush off to school.__This is a special time for us, instead of the usual grab a bagel on the run routine. I try and serve up a simple, yet nutritional meal. It's a nice way to spend a little extra time with them.


Don't know if this will help anyone on this thread, but I am a single dad, 63, who became single when my kids were ages 6 months and 2.5 years old. They are both successful and balanced in their late 20's. I remained single until they were out of college. I felt it would have diluted my effectiveness as a parent to re-marry sooner. I remained celebate. Like Dr. Laura says, you have to put the kids first. I have had a business for 34 years, but have made it a point to always be there for them; they know it and respect it. It was tough. I could have been wealthier. Becoming an evangelical Christian helped me learn how to live through the Word. I married again three years ago; it's been great and my kids are very normal. And this all happened in L.A.


Don't know if this will help anyone on this thread, but I am a single dad, 63, who became single when my kids were ages 6 months and 2.5 years old. They are both successful and balanced in their late 20's. I remained single until they were out of college. I felt it would have diluted my effectiveness as a parent to re-marry sooner. I remained celebate. Like Dr. Laura says, you have to put the kids first. I have had a business for 34 years, but have made it a point to always be there for them; they know it and respect it. It was tough. I could have been wealthier. Becoming an evangelical Christian helped me learn how to live through the Word. I married again three years ago; it's been great and my kids are very normal. And this all happened in L.A.

La Lubu

I have to strongly second both mythago and Chris (and thanks much for that article ref, Chris; I can tell I'll be spending some quality 'net time with the JWR!)

Is anyone here (besides Amanda) familiar with Michael Ventura? The nature and experience of childhood is one of his standard topics; a recent column addressed (among other things) the issue of freedom in childhood. This article pretty much described how it was for me growing up; with the important difference that my folks were working class, not poor, so there was always food on the table (well, there was a time when both were unemployed so we had to go live with my grandparents, but there was food on the table there too). I do not see even most poor and working class kids with that much freedom to explore now. Keeping kids off the streets is a national obsession. There's another good article of his on childhood here. (Hugo? He also likes to write about masculinity, so you may want to check him out if you are not already familiar with him).

john, I liked your comment too, although I loathe Dr. Laura. But really, most of the folks I see who aren't taking that time off really can't take the time off without endangering their ability to pay the bills or endangering their job. You were fortunate to have your own business, and so could determine when you were going to take off....you were able to make that trade of less money for more quality time. Not everyone has that choice. I have relatives in L.A. who were not able to make that choice. We're human, and we work with what we've got. Probably the reason I got laid off before a lot of other people when the job started slowing down is because I did take time off for parent-teacher conferences, and did take time off when my daughter fell ill (I'm a single mom). The superintendent of that particular job I was on (who is the guy who determines layoff, not the foreman on the job) is one of those guys who works 60-70 hours a week and thinks that anyone who takes any time off is being a slacker. He's strictly old school and believes that those "time-off" moments are what you have a wife for! (and yes, he's not thrilled with women being in the trade. Thank God he is getting closer to retirement age). So, most of my union brothers (single dads being the notable exception) don't take that time off. The issue isn't money (we can afford the time off), it's the layoff. (and no, I'm not the self-sacrificing saint here. I live "lower on the hog" than a lot of these guys, but it's not a sacrifice to me....it's indulgence! I have more materially now, than I did growing up. I have a larger house and such, so it feels to me like I'm "living large", not sacrificing! Thus, I can make house payments on unemployment. I don't have outside pressure from parents, in-laws, or anyone else to do "better" for myself...they all think I'm doing great. I am the rich relative, LOL!....so, I don't really know what it's like from the other side of the equation...that push, push, push to do "better". I know some of the brothers whose in-laws put that pressure on them....)

And to anyone else, I'd like to point out the part in John's post where he outlined his strategy of child-raising, and how mate-hunting and remarriage didn't fit in his plans. When men postpone dating and remarriage in order to dedicate quality time to parenting, they are extolled for their selflessness. When women postpone dating and remarraige for the same reasons, we are called "men-haters" and selfish. Just thought I'd point that out.

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