Saturday, August 21, 2010

The culture of freaking out

I thought this was perceptive, reflections by a grandma-to-be on the new generation.  

I am a little afraid of what I've noticed: That some girls succumb to what I call "the culture of freaking out."

This is where girls today freak out when life happens. Normal life isn't the norm anymore.

I think that there's a funny combination of a lack of stability in people's personal lives and extreme consumerism that makes some women quite anxious.

If you grew up with some fundamental uncertainties (and here I'm talking about the decades-old entrenched habits of divorce, self-medication, lack of babies in everyday life, and some other stuff that you might be familiar with), and if on top of that you were exposed to the relentless practice, from a young age, of using shopping as a drug or control mechanism, you are going to be seriously off balance when you are faced with something as elementally challenging as bringing forth new life from your body.
I've noticed this too, and it can show up particularly in the homeschooling world. When I was first homeschooling, the main unhealthy "theme" I noticed was one of control.People seemed to think that if they did X and Y and Z their children were guaranteed to turn out wonderfully virtuous, disciplined and godly, as well as way smarter than the average bear. These would be the Christian homeschoolers. The secular unschoolers tended to believe that giving their children maximum freedom and natural living would prevent them from being stifled and ruined by social strictures, and they would become creative and self-directed and be able to do almost anything. My sense with both of these tendencies, different as they seem on the surface, was that they were "repairing the family tree" -- something that I understand is a tendency of those who come from problematic backgrounds and want to do better for their children. In some cases, the problem wasn't with their own family background so much as with their catastrophic understanding of society. They were "repairing the culture" by raising their children in alternative ways.

Nowadays you don't tend to see these strains quite so much. I am sure they still exist is some places, and perhaps it's just that I don't much read those books and websites so much. I am not saying it's wrong to repair generations or culture; I'm saying that sometimes it took on a "works righteousness" aspect where you spanked your kids (or DIDN'T spank them); disciplined them into military obedience (OR gave them complete autonomy); drilled them in the 4Rs (or let them learn from real life) and THEN expected that this would necessarily produce a superior being. It was the recipe aspect of this that was problematic. I have met a lot of disappointed people who tried one of these remedies and found it didn't "work". The problem was expecting parenting to be a recipe or an antidote rather than a constant loving endeavor.

What I see nowadays much more commonly is the shopping-as-panacea and the lack of stability which leads to freaking out about elemental parts of life. If you visit any homeschooling message board you will see it. Any problems in life, in homeschooling?  Buy this!  It solved my problems. Now I'm at peace.... until next time, when I will recommend something new (and it will cost you time, money and momentum, but it will make you feel like you're doing something).

And then the discomfort, almost guilt, about normal life sufferings. Normal life is no longer the norm.   If your child happens to be going through a wayward stage, it is your fault and the only way to remedy it is to go to heroic lengths to "fix" the problem.   What about a kid who doesn't quite fit in, who has learning difficulties, who is socially awkward or hostile? The way you redeem this is to get a label and then throw everything at the problem -- bring in the experts, the behaviorial solutions, the new interventions. Naturally, nothing will quite work completely, so you are set up for an endless quest among all the possibilities. More money, more purchased solutions.

What if you're unhappy, you wake up in the morning without a sense of well-being and contentment?  The earlier generation of homeschoolers didn't worry about this so much. They were pioneers and pioneering is always hard. Bring it on! But nowadays, discomfort or boredom or less-than-amazing results means there is probably some kind of problem.... and it's probably with you... and you can fix it if you research to the max and/or buy.

Both of them at their extremes have in common the dream of being a superhero in regular life (I think it's all those TV specials we grew up on) and the outward focus on something else that will solve problems, whether it's a certain way of doing things or a certain thing to buy. We can all be saints, but being a superhero isn't like being a saint. A saint (1) looks to God, not his own powers or the power of things outside and (2) doesn't use adrenaline like it was water.

IT seems to me that the older extreme would get closed in and set in their ways and the new extreme tends to be always chasing rainbows. Again, it's not wrong to research and look for solutions. It's the expectations that somehow these things will produce Utopia.

As I said, I'm not immune to either danger, otherwise I wouldn't even bother to talk about it. I'm in the sandwich generation of homeschoolers.... not a pioneer, not a newbie. That means I had my pick of the vulnerabilities of both generations.

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