Personal Experience as Truth

It seems I’m incapable of writing about anything other than perceptions. Moreover, since discussing the perceptions of parents, I’ve been confronted with people’s general perceptions of parents in the modern epoch. None more confrontational, none more of an affront to everything I believe than a comment that, and I paraphrase, “babies cry more on planes today than they did in the 80s is a symptom of the reduction in parenting skills.” I was told in no uncertain terms that parents were great in the 80s and suddenly, when the calendar flipped to the 90s, parents became worse, more permissive, incapable of teaching their children how to behave like rational people.

Yeah, I'm sure hovering over your child like gods isn't going to give them a complex...unless this is the cover of their folk band album, then it's fine.
Yeah, I’m sure hovering over your child like gods isn’t going to give them a complex…unless this is the cover of their folk band album, then it’s fine.

Through a short discussion it was clear that the commenter was basing this opinion on personal experience and no amount of logic or inquiry was going to change this personally held truth. But isn’t your personal experience your truth? I get sunburned easily, that’s my truth. Don’t we all have our own personal dogma based on our experience that we consider unassailable?

The answer is, “absolutely not.” Hearing, seeing, experiencing things that contradict what you personally believed or thought or had experienced up until that point is how you grow as a person. “From my experience,” doesn’t mean anything because that’s not a scientific basis. Our brains are so limiting and filled with vile trickery. That’s why there’s things called confirmation bias, and choice-supportive bias and selective perception (here’s a list of other reasons our brains are unreliable narrators).  If all you know as “truth” is what you’ve personally experienced, crack open a book or watch a documentary or look at the news–scratch that, read well-written journalism, don’t watch televised hairpieces parrot sensationalism.

Back to the original point that parents were “better” in the 80s. There are aspects of parenting that are objective, but for the most part, it’s subjective. What makes a good parent? A firm disciplinarian? A rational, discussion based system? Simply not letting your child root around in its own feces and have its first word be a racial slur? Who can say for certain. But like I said, there are some objective measures we can look at. A two parent household would be good, right? More attention for the kid. Well, the divorce rate peaked in the 80s and has since declined. Here’s a chart from the CDC:


That’s an objective reality. People often attack science for being dogmatic but scientists are constantly attacking the work of their peers and their own, completely open to being wrong should new evidence present itself. Speaking of science, we’ve had years upon decades upon fortnights upon centuries of people studying childhood development. More information is available. We know that smoking around your kids isn’t a great idea. We know that violent shaking of the baby isn’t soothing. We have more information about spanking–and I’m not getting into this debate, just leaving a bit of science–a massive 50 year study of over 160,000 children has shown that spanking probably leads to increased aggression, mental problems and anti-social behavior. We also know–and this one isn’t debatable–that anyone who uses the phrase, “and I turned out fine,” definitely did not turn out fine and is avoiding therapy like Mickey Mantle avoiding sobriety.

Tell me again how 80s parents weren't narcissists.
Tell me again how 80s parents weren’t narcissists.

We just know more. We’re better equipped to raise our children. Not that everyone does it, but the potential is there. There’s probably still the same percentage of complete screw-up parents who shouldn’t have brought a kid into the world, but in no way does that mean that parents are somehow worse now than they were three decades ago. Parenting was probably easier then than now with the internet and all, but certainly not better. There have been and sadly always will be complete idiots and narcissists, but don’t let that fool you into thinking falsehoods that make you cynical. There are plenty of other, real reasons to be cynical! Hooray!

Oh, and there’s way less cocaine use now. The 80s were made of cocaine. The 80s were like a gingerbread house but made of cocaine with a cocaine witch luring cocaine children into her cocaine oven, all retold by a record executive in the bathroom of a club as blood from his nose drips on his keyboard print skinny tie.


Add yours →

  1. I had an auntie like that, who always stubbornly denied objective reality in favour of her own factually baseless opinions. She drove me around the bend.


  2. Ok parents through out the ages have been good and bad and bloody indifferent if you ask me and I believe we learn how to parent from our parents we either want to be like them or not like them but either way they set the bench mark as to what type of parent we want to me. My nephews mother was a terrible mother she really sucked at it but her mother was a terrible mother who abandoned her children, Michelle never abandoned her son but instead chose to leave him in the car of his father and grandparents because she felt they were better at being a parent then she was and she was right she loves her sons but the day to day parenting she sucks at. I always knew I wanted to be a mum and wanted to be just like my mum who I think is bloody awesome and I try my best to be as good a parent as she is.


  3. Jo-Anne is right about good, bad, and bloody indifferent. It’s always been the same. I’d say the parenting I received in the sixties and seventies leaned more toward bad. My children were born in 1980 and 1986. I saw plenty of terrible parents. I tried very hard to be a better parent than my mother was, but I was more toward the bad side myself. My children’s good and bad points are a product of my poor to sometimes good parenting and the decisions they’ve made after years of not being under my influence. I felt as if I couldn’t get away from my mom, even after she died. I “heard” her voice criticizing everything I did. She’s finally out of my head. A lot of people think parents were much better during the fifties, but if that’s true, then why have we had, for quite some time now, support groups for survivors of sexual abuse and adult children of alcoholics and so on? I pretty much sucked at parenting. In spite of my efforts, I also had to contend with a man who didn’t and does not give two fucks about his children. I can make millions of excuses for my failures, but it mostly comes down to my making poor decisions under pressure. I pay for it now, every single fucking day. Don’t believe it when people tell you that parents of a certain decade were better than parents from another decade. There’s nothing new under the sun.



  4. abeerfortheshower June 16, 2016 — 11:48 am

    Are you telling me that my grandmother’s findings, that the world is much worse than it used to be, and kids these days don’t have it like they used to in the old days*, are invalid?

    *polio, smallpox, beaten with wooden spoons by nuns


  5. What we need is a time machine. It’ll be good for us – statistically speaking.


  6. I’ll tell you something though. Music today is garbage, but when I was growing up it was GREAT.

    (- says every person who has ever lived. even those who grew up in the 80s. the 80s!)


    • I agree. To be fair, though, have you snorted a mountain of cocaine and listened to anything recorded in the 80s? It makes a lot more sense–UH I HEAR! I DEFINITELY WOULDN’T KNOW THAT FROM FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE, MOM. IT’S IN THE ZEITGEIST!


  7. I feel like cocaine would make me a better parent. Cocaine and booze. I think I would be way less yell-y. Some people go with yoga and meditation. But yeah, I think I’m gonna go with booze and cocaine.
    As for the spanking, my parents had four of us. My Brother and I got spanked. By the time my two younger sisters came around they’d realized the error of their ways and stopped with the corporal punishment.
    Compared to my Sisters, my Brother and I most certainly did not turn out fine.


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