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.
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.
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.