The Sins of the Fathers Are Visited on the Grandchildren

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Many childrearing practices are reactionary — parents raise their kids partly in rebellion against how they were raised. We often complain about how every kid now has to be treated like a special snowflake, and groan about helicopter parents making bizarre demands on schools and colleges. But I know why that happened — when I was growing up, we kids conformed to the system, not vice versa. We didn’t get any snacks during the day and I was often hungry. Not only was there no school choice, but your parents couldn’t even pick which teacher they wanted you to have. No one had learning disabilities — you were either smart or dumb. Things like Scout Camp were long exercises in being scolded for all your moral and physical failings, and being forced to eat disgusting canned carrots, being punished as a group for something stupid that one or two of the brat-girls did, and so on. Rules were rigid and punishments were swift and often unfair. Childhood was in large part a matter of putting up with a lot of injustice, having no choice over outside activities, enduring nasty behavior from teachers and other authority figures who were never held accountable because Adults Were Always Right, and so on.

So that’s partly why today’s kids are snowflakes, and each has to have customized care and an IEP, and why no one can have peanut butter because Madison’s allergic, and why frantic parents are now faced with a million decisions about schools and programs and teachers. It’s because my generation said “As God as my witness, my child will never eat canned carrots or put up with Mrs Sorenson for 6th grade. Their lives will be better.”

Totebaggers, what do you think this generation of kids is going to rebel against? What will schools look like in 40 years? How will recreational activities be handled? Will future children get one bowl of gruel per day and a sound beating for being dyslexic? Will they complain that they didn’t have parents, just friends who happened to be biologically related? Will it be Tom Brown’s School Days?

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123 thoughts on “The Sins of the Fathers Are Visited on the Grandchildren

  1. Totebaggers, what do you think this generation of kids is going to rebel against?

    Excessive amounts of homework, activities, and the high levels of parental involvement that go along with it.

  2. Activities. And I’m as guilty as anyone, not just for the school year but summer as well – our summer has been way overscheduled and now that we are 1/2 way through, we are all exhausted and grumpy. Am actively seeking boredom for everyone for the next 5 weeks.

  3. I agree with Rhett. Also the overbearing pressure to get on the calculus track and get into an elite college.

  4. This is an interesting but hard question, and I think Totebaggers will rebel against different things than less Totebaggy families. Areas that I think (hope?) will become more valued
    1) More freedom for kids again. The Free Range Kids movement is drawing attention to CPS overreaches and I hope that will limit government involvement in families. (My latest government complaint is that the local hardwood furniture manufacturer quit making bunk beds, because the government regulations are too hard to keep up with for the volume they manufacture. You lawyers think rights are protected if people get due process, but due process isn’t free. But you know that.)

    2) Design for longevity/recyclability. Clothes and baby items will improve in quality and have better longevity. Environmental trade-offs (use of small amounts of formaldehyde in dye to promote longevity; lead solder in brake lines) will become more rational and cost/risk based.

    3) Families. The divorced rate among college educated people has already dropped among college educated people since the 1970’s. I hope this trend extends to the rest of society. Older people, especially grandparents, will become more willing to change residences vs. being attached to a particular residence. The young grandparents I know (not Totebaggers) are willing to be involved with regular childcare to give parents a break/help to be dual income. In my opinion, grandparent support is the best way to be a two-income family, which (other than possibly career breaks for young childhood or eldercare) is necessary for a middle class life and is economically logical.

    4) I don’t think this will happen, but I hope social science can become less politicized. If researchers find that full-time childcare is harmful, or elder orphans have much worse outcomes than elders with children to support them, or children of gay men succeed in society at very high rates, we should seek to understand/explain the data, not ignore what doesn’t fit our preconceived biases.

    5) Ties to place: I’m not sure how governments and planners can do this, but I think ties to particular places should be promoted. Certainly having everyone move to the dry southwest isn’t ideal. Zoning should also consider the impact of changes on future people. As it is, retired people vote on the zoning laws to keep those quaint, old houses for the next 50 years, because they vote.

  5. Rocky: What a great write-up and interesting question.

    I agree with Rhett–we do a good job limiting activities, but our kids’ homework load is out of control. The pressure to get into the “right college” leads to an insane homework/activities arms race.

  6. Sort of on topic: To Milo’s point a while back about the competition not being that stiff. Half my team works exclusively from home and it’s just come out in a big meeting that some of them don’t seem to be doing a whole lot. I tend to imagine that everyone else is some workaholic Dynamo so it’s always a shock to find out that people are doing far less than I’m doing.

    I’m curious if some calculus track totebag kids might not be so gung ho when they are confronted by the reality of corporate America.

  7. I think the homework volume is Totebag specific. My second grader had to write sentences about his Show ‘n’ Tell item about once a month, needed help to research his end-of-the-year “big” project including diorama and we were asked to supply stuff (usually voluntarily) for special class projects 3 or 4 times, always with a week’s notice. We’ll see how third grade is.

  8. I like WCE’s list, but I found these contradictory:

    “Older people, especially grandparents, will become more willing to change residences vs. being attached to a particular residence.”

    vs.

    “Ties to place: I’m not sure how governments and planners can do this, but I think ties to particular places should be promoted.”

    I think I agree with everything that’s already been said. In some ways, I feel like my childhood already included the response to many of the things Rocky described.

  9. I really hope that the next generation will be able to run around outside more. There was just a piece in the NYT Well blog about how kids don’t actually get as much exercise as their tired, optimistic parents believe. Of course PE was always a lot of standing around waiting for your turn at kickball. But at least we were outside. And at recess we clambered all over the jungle gym and rings and stuff.

  10. Yes, well, Milo, I am in fact old enough to be your very youthful mother, so that doesn’t surprise me.

    On a Palo Alto nostalgia group on Facebook, some of us were reminiscing about how we used to get on our bikes and ride all over town deliberately trying to get lost, just for fun. No cell phones to make panicked calls back to parents. I, at least, occasionally had to ask an adult where I was. You know, guys out mowing their lawns or even someone in a car at an intersection. I had no expection that I would be snatched and indeed I never was.

    Yes, this memory was brought to you by Affluent White Privilege. The kids in Bronzeville in Chicago could never have lived this way. Still, I wish all kids could.

  11. So here’s a new one that just came up the other day. I have two friends from high school — let’s call them Stacy and Tom — who still live in Silicon Valley and have successful SV lives and successful Totebaggy kids (older kids at Stanford and Ivy Leagues; younger kids doing swimmingly at Calculus in high school). Stacy and Tom used to date in high school but married other people, and I was friends with both of them. So each of them just acknowledged that their youngest kids, both girls, both in the 16-17 age range, have decided that they’re gay. They have brought home girlfriends. Stacy and Tom are each having a serious Seinfeldian “not that there’s anything wrong with that” moment. But they’re both startled and nonplussed and at a loss about how to react.

    Now my parents and Stacy’s parents would have had a meltdown in similar circumstances. We might have been shipped off to some re-education facility in the Arizona desert. We didn’t even sleep with our boyfriends back in the day (much to Tom’s disgruntlement).

    Part of my initial reaction is: Oh for heaven’s sake, don’t you girls have any homework to do? If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump off one too? This is just a fad because gay rights and transgender rights are all over the media right now. And girls have often had super-intense friendships in high school. I certainly did. Way more intense that any boyfriend relationship. Doesn’t mean you have to sleep with them! Gracious.

    Now how that one will balance out 30 years from now, I have no idea.

  12. “Older people, especially grandparents, will become more willing to change residences vs. being attached to a particular residence.”

    This absolutely captures our “as God is my witness…” moment. DH and I have already discussed how we will be willing to relocate to be nearer our (someday? maybe?) grandchildren if they wind up far flung, and our kids will never be expected to fly with toddlers to visit us on holidays.

    I’m RMS’ age, and her description of childhood resonated with me. One thing I see in my young adult sons is less aspiration to own a house, and more of an interest in owning less stuff. I remember aspiring to have “grown up furniture” – solid wood, etc. They have no interest in accumulating possession other than electronics.

  13. I hope that technology will become so integrated in daily life that it is not a novelty for kids. Then maybe they will get outside and play rather than hunker down in front of a gaming system or iPad screen. I’m thinking live-action, virtual-reality, kind of adaptation of gaming. I also hope these integrated technologies include transportation, perhaps with the next generation of connected vehicle technology and drones. I feel like so much time, energy, and money is wasted driving around and running errands, and the next generation will not have the patience for it.

  14. Oh, we’re going to have to back off this obsession with “sex offenders,” or at least treat it with some shred of common sense. The restrictions on living near a school, even using the internet, plastering their mug shots everywhere, that’s all such overkill and I can’t see how it’s Constitutional. As more and more young adults from “good families” get caught up in it, things will probably change.

  15. I see Milo’s point that my goals are somewhat contradictory. I simultaneously hope that the Rust Belt/Midwest can be somewhat revived, because there’s already lots of housing and infrastructure there, adequate water, etc. Housing in thriving coastal cities is (mostly) expensive already compared to incomes.

    I was thinking more of Hour From Nowhere’s point that people will be willing to move to residences without yards when they are no longer able to take care of them, etc. My mother died this week, after a few weeks of fairly rapid decline, and my Dad is thinking about where he’d like to wind up. He does not need a five bedroom house with a one acre yard long-term. My great grandparents and grandparents lived in the same house for 30+ years till they died or went to assisted living. That’s why I was thinking about residences.

  16. One stereotype of Gen X is that we grew up underprotected, and I can see some of the difference from Rocky’s description even though we’re less than 10 years apart in age. My parents were pre-Boomer — not by that much, but old enough to be out of college already in the late 60s and not to want to turn on, tune in, and drop out. Whereas some of their younger siblings were drawn to this scene: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/07/the-death-of-the-hippies/397739/ . And the parents of some of my peers, and even more so the peers of my younger sibs, were coming from there. So while we had the no-snacks, no-teacher-choice, and horrible canned vegetables, we also had the classmate’s mom who said, “Oh, just call me Linda!” when you called her Mrs. Classmate (now what do I do?!), the aunts/uncles who firmly believed that telling their children “no” would stunt their development and left pot brownies around, and the not-yet-parenting aunts/uncles who offered to take tween kids off for a fun weekend with their 20-something possibly druggie friends. (Also Free to Be You and Me, which was awesome.) I did not generally feel unprotected as a child, but a lot of the moments of insecurity and uncertainty I did experience were connected to that part of the it-takes-a-village adults who had been caught up in the hippie movement. So I can definitely see where the stereotype comes from that Gen X was raised by wolves and as a result we wrap our own children in bubble wrap.

  17. Childhood was in large part a matter of putting up with a lot of injustice, having no choice over outside activities, enduring nasty behavior from teachers and other authority figures who were never held accountable because Adults Were Always Right, and so on.

    Amen. I am a bit older than RMS, and was also a young mother, so I have perspective on several generational swings. Since my mom worked and was divorced, I wasn’t forced into the usual mold, but being naturally odd plus in non normative household meant that I didn’t just rebel against conformity out of privilege and pique, but because that world didn’t have a place for me. But I also made my own parenting choices against the background of her striving immigrant expectations and raised eyebrow method of making me feel less than, and tried to let my children just flower – mostly I fiddled with the school environment until I found the best possible situation given our financial circumstances and their strengths and weaknesses . No day to day hovering or micromanaging. Hippie rather than totebaggy. They of course wondered if we were paying any attention at all.

    What I see with them now as adults is a very personalized reaction to their specific circumstances, rather than cultural stereotypes. My son and DIL have created a world where the kids grow up within the (large extended) family and in the large house, not within a large neighborhood as the parents both did. Lots of keeping safe. They don’t want 529 plans per se because they don’t want their kids to feel obligated to punch the college ticket right out of high school. If that ain’t the product of privilege, I don’t know what is. My girls are really hesitant about kids (one does want them, though) because they don’t think they could run the gantlet of modern UMC parenting, not to speak of avoiding visits from CPS, or of finding a life partner who won’t treat them post kids like domestic help.

    And on RMS comment on free range when we were kids – every kid was free range. Poor, rich, white, non white, urban, suburban, rural. Even tough neighborhoods were not particularly unsafe in an outdoor physical sense for elementary aged kids. Co dependent hovering moms were tranquilized or warned that they were making their sons into (insert slur here).

  18. WCE, I’m so sorry for your loss. And good luck with helping your father in his next steps.

  19. Sorry to hear that, WCE. I sort of figured when you were asking about flight arrangements.

  20. WCE, I’m so sorry. We’re never ready to lose our parents, even when we know it is coming. {hugs}

  21. @WCE, I’m so sorry, my condolences.

    Rocky, wow. What a description. I was right on that edge between the Rocky and HM generations and see some of both. But that sense of powerless, yes, that’s it — it sinks to the bone and is etched into who you are (hmm, and I became a lawyer — go figure). I *totally* did the Scarlett O’Hara “I will never be hungry again” — my kid would have a voice. She isn’t entitled to always be right or get what she wants, but she is entitled to my respectful attention.

  22. Thanks for your condolences. It was a peaceful passing and my Dad and sister handled logistics. Mr WCE was able to rearrange his trip to Europe so I won’t have to travel alone, which reduces my stress level a lot.

    Mémé’s comment about going to college as a norm of privilege reminds me of another hope, which is that credential inflation will abate. Ideally, this will be associated with testing for job aptitude being acceptable, despite its racially disparate impact. For many jobs, you can identify people with sufficient aptitude relatively quickly and easily (though imperfectly) without spending years getting a degree in Law Enforcement or a doctorate in Physical Therapy.

  23. The pressure to get into the “right college” leads to an insane homework/activities arms race.

    So don’t pressure your kids to get into the “right college”. Problem solved.

  24. WCE,
    I am sorry to hear about your mom.

    Rocky, this a wonderfully inspiring post. My Dad raised me in the parents are always right school, but when I had kids, he told me to make my own choices and that what I chose would be better than what he did. That was a powerful vote of confidence, one of many, I miss you Dad!

  25. Interesting topic, Rocky! This is on my mind a lot with our first little one on the way. As one of the younger Totebaggers I think my childhood occurred as or after the pendulum was swinging the other direction from what you experienced. Though I did attend an old-school religious gradeschool so I know what you mean about group punishments and teachers as strict authority figures. Took me forever to break the habit of calling every adult “ma’am” or “sir” and standing up to speak after I left that school. I was annoyed by some of the unfairness of that environment but no permanent damage, while my sister had such a hard time with an overly rigid kindergarten teacher that it was the beginning of some long-term mental health issues for her. But I also saw the harm done by the “everyone is a special snowflake” mentality and coddling kids too much. I really don’t know what the answer is- the more militaristic style can give many kids some much-needed toughening up, but it can break others.

    Further, my DH and I had opposite family origins in a lot of ways growing up. I had a very tight-knit family and loving but very hard-core tiger parents. DH feels like his parents didn’t give him enough attention or push him hard enough. So I guess we’re aiming for a sort of middle ground between our two experiences?

  26. I’m curious if some calculus track totebag kids might not be so gung ho when they are confronted by the reality of corporate America.

    No kidding. Not to mention they’ll find that most of their coworkers slacked through HS and went to much less prestigious colleges and yet are doing the same jobs for the same amount of money.

  27. WCE – I am glad to hear that Mr WCE will be able to accompany you during this time, and not just as another set of hands and a lap.

    There is a common lack of understanding of the depth of grief and bereavement that occurs even when the end is expected, especially after a debilitating and painful illness or after a long life. I can recall a month after my mom passed in her 90s that a friend said, why are you feeling blue? I think you need some pills. I know that you are aware that the usual advice to your father is to take some time before making big decisions, but it is good that he is not stubborn about his options.

  28. “So don’t pressure your kids to get into the “right college”. Problem solved.”

    It’s not that simple. The pressure comes from internal expectations, not from us. We have no expectations on where DS will go and are actually pushing colleges that are less competitive.

  29. WCE– I’m sorry for your loss as well. I’m glad it was a peaceful passing, but I imagine this is still a big loss. And I”m glad Mr. WCE can help with the logistics and traveling together.

    I’m at the tail end of Gen X, and I grew up with a lot less freedom to just get lost for the day. (I also had legitimate kidnap-risk relatives nearby, so the issue was always the people I knew, not stranger danger.) There have been some recent articles linking college kids’ mental health struggles with being independent with the intensive parenting done at home. I’d like to think the pendulum will shift, but those young adults have to be capable enough to shift the pendulum for that to work.

    We regularly joke that we’ll never know just what it is that we’ll do that will set our kids into (therapy) a reactive posture. I suspect it’ll be something that isn’t even on our radar screen.

    I hope we all get more sane about the sex offender registries. It’s gotten ridiculous, and I suspect that data would show that it’s making fewer people report to probation and thus making us less safe. Talking to friends, I think it also further “others” the people who commit sex offenses on minors, so that people sit and think that they don’t know any of “those people” so their kids are safe. It ignores the reality that most kids who are sexually abused are abused by an uncle, a coach, a stepdad, their older sister’s boyfriend, the neighbor’s dad, etc. It’s like people spend all their time trying to convince themselves that their kids are immune, but then they don’t actually want to talk to their kids to prepare them to protect themselves from the people they trust turning out to be less than trustworthy.

  30. “lead solder in brake lines”

    Or in electronics, especially in applications in which failure can be life-threatening, unless someone figures out how to avoid tin whiskers.

  31. Speaking of the sex offender registry, we fell in love with a house and were about to make an offer. Then we were spooked by seeing that a sex offender lived next door, and another a few houses across the street. And not the type who were arrested for public urination or sleeping with a 16 year old girlfriend- they were both rapists of young children. We knew statistically that our kids would probably be in more danger from people we would never suspect, not people on the registry. But once you know something like that, it is hard to willingly choose to move in. Do you want your child to be the one in closest proximity? Someone else got the house before we were ready to make a decision, so it felt like the decision was made for us, and I didn’t send my “ask the Totebag” email. But really made us think about how we will quantify risk and how we will make those type of decisions as parents.

  32. It’s not that simple. The pressure comes from internal expectations, not from us. We have no expectations on where DS will go and are actually pushing colleges that are less competitive.

    Have you talked to him about why he’s pushing himself so hard to get into a top school? I’m genuinely curious to know why he feels it’s so important and what advantages he thinks it’s going to get him, and what bad things will happen if he goes to a lesser school, etc.

  33. Rio, you were wise not to buy that house. Rapist of small children is why that registry was created. It needs to get back to that, and away from 18 year old who slept with 17 year old girlfriend.

  34. The competive school aspirations tend to run in families. Mine all went to very competitive top ten schools for essentially the same reasons, they wanted to game their chances of getting interesting creative jobs , better opportunities for post grad training . The eldest thought degrees from prestigious engineering school would make doing a startup easier to fund. That child is still working for a big consulting outfit but is planning , recruiting venture funding so we shall see.

  35. WCE, I’m sorry.

    Rio, it was good that you didn’t buy the house. Even if nothing ever happened, it would change the way you live once you have kids. Not only would you have to be vigilant outdoors, but you would have to be mindful of what could be seen inside your house.

    Plus that is someone you can never use as a resource in an emergency – if your kindergartener takes the bus home on Daisy meeting day and you’re not home, you faint while pregnant with #2 and your preschooler needs help, etc.

    Weren’t you the one whose husband wanted to spend less on the house? I’m all for that generally, but if it means your target neighborhood is full of child rapists, raise your budget!

  36. Yes, the excessive homework is UMC and above.

    I agree with many of the previous predictions, but I have to believe that economic conditions will affect tomorrow’s parents. If there are no jobs for the lower to moderately skilled citizens, will UMC parents be content to let their children coast along with the basic guaranteed income crowd (if that comes to pass), or will they push them even more to strive for the top?

    “One thing I see in my young adult sons is less aspiration to own a house, and more of an interest in owning less stuff.”

    Home ownership is down among young people relative to previous generations, and I do see that the drive to own a home is not as strong. They probably recognize that the increased need to be nimble in career moves favor renting over owning.

  37. My parents lived in Europe from 1969-1972 and my mom used to say that liberals (my parents are NOT liberals) want the US to be like Europe, where people work less, don’t own homes and pay much higher taxes. Her view of Europe is shaped by Germany. When people say they wish the US were more like Europe, they usually mean northwestern Europe, not Bosnia or Bulgaria.

  38. From the (decidedly liberal) The Capitol Steps – this song is one of my favorite parodies of theirs – perhaps explaining why many Americans, including many prosperous liberals, don’t want the USA to be like even the most comfortable parts of Europe

  39. Mémé, I quite like your parody song. I would be delighted to drive a Hyundai (and our rears would all fit) if The Liberals hadn’t legislated that all children be in a car seat until they are 4′ 9″. I spent quite a while last night figuring out that Hertz at O’Hare had one remaining vehicle that legally holds six people and prepaid for a Silverado full size pickup. (That option shows up on no rental car website except Hertz’s, in case anyone is ever needing a vehicle for six in the future.)

    I was beginning to think we’d have to show up to the funeral in two Econoboxes.

  40. WCE, most folks who need a vehicle for 6 will rent a minivan.

    OTOH, it is often less expensive to rent two compact cars.

  41. Hertz (and a couple other companies listed on Costco’s website) was out of minivans and SUV’s that hold 7. Five people is the “normal” upper limit for a vehicle, especially a passenger car. I think this is due to a combination of low demand and meeting modern safety regulations in a middle front row seat. My Buick Century is one of the last sedans to hold six legally.

  42. “I think the homework volume is Totebag specific.”
    “Yes, the excessive homework is UMC and above.”

    I have contrary anecdata.

    My sister teaches at a public school which is not in a high SES neighborhood, and has told me many times about how they will get parental complaints about their students not getting enough homework.

    My kids go to a pretty totebaggy school, where the homework policy for lower grades is minimal homework, in part to give the kids time to explore extracurricular activities after school. Homework begins to ramp up at 4th grade, then takes a jump at 6th grade and again at 7th grade. Those are also grades at which the class size is expanded, and I’ve heard that the new kids who come in from public schools are often better prepared to deal with the HW load in those grades, because it’s not an increase for them.

    I’ve not heard of any complaints at my kids’ school about too little homework.

  43. Rio– For all my knowledge of statistics, I wouldn’t have bought that house either. Peace of mind and relying on your neighbors is a big deal. I wouldn’t randomly trust my neighbors, but the certainty that I couldn’t trust a couple that close would be unnerving for all the reasons people above gave. Not to mention that must truly tank resale value. The whole system is broken but we live in it and right now have to make the best judgements we can!

    WCE– For a family of 5, so far with 3 in car seats we still rent a minivan. We could have specifically purchased smaller profile car seats, I suppose, to fit 3 across, but we didn’t. I’m unwilling to spend that kind of $$ to rent a cheaper car, so for now we rent large vehicles. That said, I’m ok with it at this point because I really prefer the safer car riding practices. But I agree that it is ridiculously inconvenient. I saw this the other day and have decided that this would make transporting elementary kids MUCH easier, if it comes to be. http://www.baltimoresun.com/ct-autos-mifold-booster-sumroy-20150610-story.html?utm_source=MiFold+Pre-Order+Sign-Up&utm_campaign=ce8ac50873-Everyone_is_folding_mifold_issue_26_17_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b52765cb86-ce8ac50873-102885125&goal=0_b52765cb86-ce8ac50873-102885125

  44. How many cars (not trucks) do you see these days with front bench seats? I think front bucket seats are the main reason two row sedans don’t hold more than 5. That transition happened, or was well on its way, long before front air bags were mandated.

    Large families like WCE’s need to plan in advance, when possible, to reserve vehicles that can hold your entire family. I’ve noticed that a lot of rental companies are not trying to get renters to pay in advance, and offer discounts to enourage that (I’ve seen hotels increasingly do that too). I’m wondering if paying in advance will reduce the likelihood that a car of the class you reserved is unavailable when you show up– any experience out there?

  45. WCE – So sorry for your loss. I hope your travels go smoothly.

    I hope the pendulum doesn’t swing too far the other way in schools re: the special snowflakes. The biggest change I went through is in my view of authority. I never really realized it, but I entered adulthood with a kind of blind faith in authority – that all government employees were there to help, and assumed they did so because they wanted the best outcomes for everyone. So – I was an inadequate advocate for kids at times. I thought the schools would willingly do what they needed to address the learning issues, and trusted them when they said my kids were bright and would be fine with no help. Now that I’ve learned so much more about learning issues, i realize that some of the “bad” kids from my elementary days were almost certainly kids that just struggled with learning. Over 40% of people in prisons have dyslexia, compared with about 10% of the US population. If schools don’t adapt to help kids, those kids have a dismal future. I would agree that the pendulum has swung too far, and that everything is being labeled a disorder, but the costs of going back to the old model are very high in terms of damage to kids.

    I hope there is a pendulum swing on the desire to medicate kids for everything. I have major regrets about following doctors’ advice in that regard, and I know plenty of kids with more mild symptoms than my child who take a lot of medicine.

  46. I completely understand the large family issue. Mr ex-Meme did not realize his advocacy for quiverful would quickly result in one more person than seat belts, even well before the legal mandate for big kids in car seats. That was the year before minivans, dodge vans were too large for the vertically challenged mom, so we ended up with a VW van. But my suburban son has a red Silverado with car seats. It is a noble American ride.

  47. “I hope there is a pendulum swing on the desire to medicate kids for everything.”

    I hope the anti-vaxxers are not the leading edge of that swing. OTOH, I really hope the pendulum does swing that way WRT antibiotic and antibacterial use.

    I’ve noticed that at Costco we can now buy jugs of hand soap that are not antibacterial.

  48. Love the SUV song. As a compact car driver, I am constantly frustrated by my lack of visibility backing out of a parking space, or even to see what color a traffic light is until I’m right underneath it. There is a stream of thought within conservatism that a culture of overconsumption is a problem and that we ought to “conserve” more traditional, localist lifestyles. The book “Crunchy Cons” is an interesting read. It’s something I sympathize with- though if and when we have more than a couple kids, we’ll obviously need a bigger vehicle.

  49. C’mon, Rio, think how much fuel would be saved if you’d drive two 40 mpg cars instead of one 20 mpg vehicle. That’s what CAFE is all about.

  50. ” Not to mention that must truly tank resale value.”

    I think the value is already depressed by the presence of the sex offenders, and would probably recover that value when the offenders leave.

  51. WCE – My condolences and I hope your travel goes smoothly.

    OT – I completely agree that we say, “My parents did X that was awful and I won’t do that” I also completely agree that while not doing that I am screwing my kids up in some other way.

    It never dawned on my parents that they needed to advocate for me. The one situation that was AWFUL, my mom went to the school, the counselor said something stupid, my mom thought the counselor was an idiot, but that there was nothing else she could do, so nothing changed. I do advocate for my kids, but try to do it only when needed and when it is either inappropriate for them to do so or their efforts have failed.

    Things I hope change:
    1. Less volume of homework, but school and some homework that is challenging. Some things do just take practices, but not hours worth every night.
    2. Less “zero tolerance” – IMO this makes kids afraid to ever make a mistake (and therefore take risks) because you can never recover. I put the sex offender registry for the 18 year boy old having sex with his 17 year old girlfriend in this category.
    3. More free-range and independent kids – kids should be encouraged to do age-appropriate tasks/chores/decision making.
    4. A better balance between advocating for your kids and helicoptering.
    5. A better balance in medication – yes for those who need it, but a need to understand and deal with sadness or that not having perfect ability to stay focused required immediate medication. Also, that we get back to being a country that vaccinates, exempting only those with medical reasons for delaying or avoiding them.

  52. We are on our second mini-van, and likely our last. It is the station wagon of the day. I would be happy with a station wagon, but they don’t really have them any more. Here is the one my family had as a kid:

  53. I would be happy with a station wagon, but they don’t really have them any more.

  54. C’mon, Rio, think how much fuel would be saved if you’d drive two 40 mpg cars instead of one 20 mpg vehicle. That’s what CAFE is all about.

    The focus needs to be on increasing the efficiency of vehicles at the lower end. Getting a vehicle from 10 mpg to 11 mpg saves the same amount of gas as getting one from 20 to 25 mpg, and the same as getting one from 33 to 50 mpg, and the same as getting one from 50 to 100 mpg, driving the same distance. Improving a Prius from 55 to 60 mpg is pretty much a waste of effort.

  55. As a compact car driver, I am constantly frustrated by my lack of visibility backing out of a parking space,

    Everyone should be backing into parking spots anyway. It significantly reduces collisions in parking lots.

  56. Finn– Likely true, though it depends on when the registries became available in your area. Sometimes the offenders move in– back home with parents, for example– and suddenly changes how the neighborhood shows up on a map.

    Denver– My dh would agree with you about the parking spots. I have so many people try to jog behind my car in parking lots that I’d be afraid to back into a spot in most places. I think the back-up camera on the minivan is one of my favorite advances ever.

  57. DD – the current era gives you either 3rd row seats or a trunk. The old one had BOTH.

  58. “Everyone should be backing into parking spots anyway. It significantly reduces collisions in parking lots.”

    Not until vehicles become fully automated.

  59. Austin, I don’t remember any that had any kind of decent trunk space with a third row of seats. All the ones I remember were like today’s models – if you opened up the third row it took up almost all of the trunk space.

    Finn, yes it does reduce collisions with manually controlled vehicles.

  60. “think how much fuel would be saved if you’d drive two 40 mpg cars instead of one 20 mpg vehicle. That’s what CAFE is all about.”

    No, CAFE is all about banning the 25 mpg cars because they’re “gas guzzlers,” but allowing loopholes for everyone to buy 20 mpg “light trucks” instead. That’s what killed the V8 RWD Caprice Wagon Austin Mom pictured. The recent CAFE tried to improve on this a tad, but did so with a really complex set of calculations based on a vehicle’s footprint–if I understand, actually the area of the rectangle on the pavement with the tires as outer points.

    OTOH, I may break with WCE a little bit and offer my honest doubt about whether the free market would ever have developed the incredible safety technologies we enjoy. I think everyone’s seen the YouTube video of “1959 Bel Air vs 2009 Malibu.”

    Also, when you’re bored someday, watch the old infamous driver’s ed video (before My Day) called “Signal 30.” It’s all the gruesome real-life footage of dead and dying bodies, and to our modern eye, it’s incredible how relatively minor some of those collisions appear. Traffic fatalities as a function of passenger miles driven have dropped so dramatically, and that’s not even controlling for average speed. So while there are no more front bench seats, minivans are comfortable and safe and relatively efficient and affordable and reliable. If Hertz runs out of them, then it pains me to say it, but we have to blame that on the free market.

  61. This has the best explanation I’ve ever read of the revised footprint-based CAFE standards, which continue to encourage crossovers over stations wagons:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/how-cafe-killed-compact-trucks-and-station-wagons/

    Unfortunately, the footprint method has the opposite effect; rather than encouraging auto makers to strive for unprecedented fuel economy in their passenger car offerings, it has incentivized auto makers to build larger cars, in particular, more car-based crossovers that can be classified as “trucks” as used to skew fleet average figures, much the same way the PT Cruiser did. Full-size trucks have become a “protected class”, safe from the most aggressive targets, while compact trucks have become nearly extinct as a result.

    I say this all the time, including IRL, but I’m always amazed how you have to go to free blogs to get detailed information at this level. You’ll never see this kind of substance in Car and Driver or Motor Trend. This seems to be true for many subjects.

  62. Milo, while I don’t disagree with you about CAFE killing station wagons, I don’t think that’s what killed front bench seats.

    I don’t think current high schoolers know what they’re missing. Besides front bench seats (although a lot of high schoolers do drive trucks), drive-in theaters seem to be a thing of the past.

  63. @WCE – my condolences. I understood why you were making the trip.

    My parents were Totebaggy but they were not emotionally close in the way we are with our kids today. They had a very busy adult life – work and socializing took up a lot of their time.
    RMS is correct. I don’t want to leave my kids struggling, scared and feeling like misfits. I will move other things down the list but make sure my kids have everything they need and go into situations prepared. In this way, I am very different from my parents. I hover, but more like a little drone than a big noisy helicopter.

  64. I agree with Milo that a pure free market probably wouldn’t have invested as much in safety technologies. It’s far cheaper to let people die. This ties into the fascinating question, perhaps for another day, of how regulation shapes industries, how I think the US is excessively political as opposed to engineer-like in its regulatory policies, which risks are wise to take, and who should get to decide which risks are worth taking.

    How many lives has safety technology in the Honda Odyssey (which is very good) saved vs. rumble strips on the shoulder for sleepy drivers (technology that applies to all vehicles) vs. boring middle aged mom drivers whose highest accident risk is backing up in the school parking lot (guilty as charged)? How has the US emphasis on MPG and our tight regulations on particulate and sulfur emissions characteristic of diesel shaped our vehicle market compared with Europe’s vehicle market? And given the potential distribution of distillates of crude oil, isn’t it a lucky thing the Europeans like diesel and we like gas?

    Is safety a virtue? If so, how does it compare to other virtues/values, such as charity and time for relationships? How does the risk of a somewhat-less-safe car compare to the risk of consuming alcoholic beverages or recreational drugs? I think I’m rare on this blog because I don’t drink. While I hope no one on this blog has a problem with alcohol, everyone who drinks chose to start at some point, hopefully cognizant of the risks of alcoholism. When is a small risk prudent?

  65. “boring middle aged mom drivers whose highest accident risk is backing up in the school parking lot (guilty as charged)?”

    Didn’t DD just address this issue?

  66. Off topic (though I think the topic is fascinating,and something Dh and I talk about a lot, in the context of, “how will our children rebel”): I had an extremely interesting hour-long conversation just now regarding management of arctic sewage. This is a huge health concern. The conversation also involved a discussion of the merits on engineering as a career. It provides a nice concrete example the next time I have a discussion about choosing social work over stem for “helping people”.

  67. I also wanted to add that having a kid/kids is a very big choice, very unlike the way my parents experienced it. Most people of their generation got married in their twenties then one child came along fairly quickly usually followed by one other one spaced after three of so years. People usually had the second child so that their first kid wouldn’t be the only child. Now, a lot of planning takes place (at least at among totebaggers) about whether to have kids, when to have them, etc. etc. We dedicate a lot of effort to bringing someone into the world hence I feel we are attached to a child before birth in a way my parents generation was not.

  68. Finn – I think safety standards, primarily, killed the front bench seat.

    WCE – I have a joke for your boys:

    What’s the difference between roast beef and pea soup?

    You can *roast* beef, but you can’t *pee* soup!

  69. It provides a nice concrete example the next time I have a discussion about choosing social work over stem for “helping people”.

    In developing countries in particular, building sanitation infrastructure does far more good than almost anything else. My dad went into civil engineering hoping to do a lot of good in 1950s America.

  70. Modern technology has improved the ability of all engines, but especially non commercial diesel engines, to start in cold weather. Below 40 degrees F diesel fuel starts to congeal. (My first three Swedish gasoline powered cars had a manual choke). During the mid 20th century years in which the US became a sprawling car based nation, gas was cheap, diesels were truly much harder to start in cold weather (and quickly gained that reputation, still hard to shake) so that US manufacturers would only be able to sell them to half of the country. European winter temperatures are much milder. And Europeans were much more sensitive to the price of fuel because of high taxes. Diesel was cheaper. It was not “lucky’ at all, but a combination of available technology, natural resource availability in Europe (alleviated late in the 20th century when North Sea oil was discovered and its extraction became economically and technologically viable), tax policy, climate, and the choices made by the US car manufacturing oligopoly in those key years.

    As for the choice to drink alcohol or not, I don’t think most people who choose not to drink alcohol for reasons other than religious strictures or medical reasons or strong cultural prohibition are considering risk/safety at all. Most teetotalers or once a year champagne toasters of my acquaintance don’t drink because they don’t like the way it alters them – they don’t like to lose the slightest bit of control and the let loose or relaxing feeling that most casual drinkers experience is actually disorienting or unpleasant for them.

  71. “I hover, but more like a little drone than a big noisy helicopter.”

    Perfectly said.

  72. Milo, my recollection is that front bucket seats killed front bench seats, and that started long before front air bags were required. I think the popularity of stick shifts contributed to the popularity of bucket seats.

    Do trucks with front bench seats have center air bags?

  73. Finn – probably both. I would say that the majority of customer preferences is responsible for the fact that automakers did not try very hard to keep the option available as safety standards have progressed. The airbag would be the easy part; then you have to get a three-point harness, so you’re adding a seatbelt dropping from the ceiling like minivans and SUVs have in their second and third rows, but that could limit your moonroof options. And then you need some sort of head rest to protect against whiplash. It all gets pretty awkward.

    But I don’t know to what degree safety standards are government-mandated or arise from market pressure to satisfy IIHS ratings.

    Some history of bench seats:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/automobiles/threes-a-crowd-the-bench-seat-is-benched.html?_r=0

  74. Rhett — My favorite line: “The groom’s father was the executive chairman of Rothschild Asset Management, a director of N.M. Rothschild & Sons and an apple farmer.”

  75. WCE – so sorry to hear about your mom. Thinking of you and your family.

  76. OT – my youth was similar to RMS’ (kind of a duh! thing, since we grew up in relatively the same area). Lived in a LMC-MC suburb till I was 13…memories of riding my bike all over town from age 10-13, really no restrictions, and, of course, no helmet. Moved to a decidedly UMC suburb before 8th grade, didn’t know anyone or where anything was, so got on my bike and found out. It was great, especially when I discovered I could get from my house to the center of Berkeley in about 45mins over the hills. I don’t think my kids have that sense of discovery in them.

  77. I would like to ask a serious question of those who advocate backing into a parking space in a parking lot. How in that case do you get the groceries or other large items into the trunk or hatchback? If I back in, or even just pull through a double space, there is rarely sufficient room between the parked cars to maneuver the cart to reach the trunk, or enough clearance to raise the hatchback. If the space is an outside one, there is often no access to a backed in trunk.

    In my 60 odd years of experience, I have found a definite gender difference in the advocacy of backing in, which was anecdotally borne out by the comments.

    And as for safety, I was riding with a friend last week, and she has her garmin type thing up on the dash just to right of her normal field of view. I use my mobile phone and leave it on the seat – just use the audio feature. I asked her why, since they have improved the phone apps to include traffic and very detailed descriptions. She said, I don’t really pay much attention to the verbal cues, I need to refer to the map constantly to find my way. My eyes don’t change focus fast enough for me to imagine doing that, and she is my age. Shudder.

  78. Meme – I agree with you on parking rear-in when shopping. The only time I find doing so to be advantageous, which is both for safety and convenience, is when I go to e.g. a ballgame or a concert and there will be tons of people walking thru the lot to get to their cars. Then it’s a whole lot easier to be able to pull forward.

  79. I didn’t drive until quite late so I hardly ever venture to back into parking space or parallel park (I somehow passed my driving test). I always try to find a space where I can park front forward (so I don’t have to reverse).
    I have the sensors at the back that tell me when I too close to another car. That is the best feature for me. I don’t have a backup camera. People have mentioned that they have become very used to this feature and find it odd to drive a car without it.

  80. Louise, the backup camera is a feature that’s very easy to get used to. 2 of our cars have it and 2 don’t. My regular car does not, so all the beeping when I drive one of the others is sometimes startling at first.

  81. Isn’t it easier to back up out of a parking space instead of backing up into one? It seems that backing up from the space there is a lot more room to maneuver.

  82. Backing in parking is becoming more of the norm in our downtown area, but you are backin up to the side walk, so the truck access is less of an issue. It is also somewhat safer to be pulling things out of your trunk while standing on the sidewalk or next to the curb that in the traffic.

    With my minivan, I will often pull through a double space, but will put my purchases in the back seat vs the trunk. I agree with Milo about backing in/pulling through at events where the trunk is not needed. However, I also agree with Meme, if I know I need trunk access to get items in or out, I do not back in/pull through in a normal parking lot.

  83. The car we just bought has a back-up camera, but it is the only one of the four. I find it disconcerting because I’m not used to using it, so I just ignore it and back up the old-fashioned way.

    My husband works for a company that is very safety conscious, so they require not just their drivers in the field, but all employees to pass yearly driving tests (and passenger tests – don’t know how many divorces the trained back-seat driver has caused, but I’m betting dozens). As part of their training, they are taught to always back in to a parking spot. I’ve noticed that on my street of about 9 houses, about half of the drivers back in to their driveways. It certainly makes leaving more safe when the small kids are riding their bikes and stuff. I still rarely do it- don’t have enough confidence in my skills to back into my garage

  84. On backing in… The old Toyota RAV 4s have that barn door, which swings out instead of up. A middle aged woman pulled through the parking spot at the local S&S so that she was facing forward. I pull in behind her. After shopping, I return to my car to find her looking obviously confused and unsure what to do. She looks at me and asks “Can you please back your truck up so I can get to my trunk?” I respond politely, go on my merry way and leave. But my thoughts are screaming “You know you have a bloody barn door! Why the BLEEP would you pull through the spot?”

    So, unless we invent a workable model of a car that can be driven from either end (TG did do this, with some promise, until a steering wheel fell off), we need to pull forward. Or, reduce the amount of parking available by taking out one lane so that we can’t have two cars facing each other.

  85. LOL Rhode!

    I almost never back into parking spaces – I am always either getting something out of the trunk or putting something in (e.g. Costco, grocery store), and you can’t do that when the other car is like 2″ from your rear bumper. I do pull forward to be front-facing in my work parking lot though.

  86. At my old engineering firm, we had a fleet of company vehicles for business use (mostly Tauruses plus trucks for survey crews), and we were required to back them in to the parking spaces when we returned. The theory was that people were always in a hurry when they were leaving and therefore more likely to not pay close enough attention when backing out. I would have been OK if they had backup cameras, but I hated trying to back in with an unfamiliar vehicle and always tried to get into one of a few pull-through or parallel spaces.

  87. Do any cars come with a voice system that tells you what do when you are caught in a tight parking situation ? I could have done with such instruction. when I had just learnt to drive, I scraped my car badly and scraped someone else’s car trying to back up. I guess that would be one step away from a self drive car.

  88. Do any cars come with a voice system that tells you what do when you are caught in a tight parking situation ?

    Many cars come with a 360 degree video system that renders an image that looks as if you’re looking down from above your car. This sounds like what you’d need:

  89. My great-uncle’s 1985 Crown Victoria had these two flexible, springy metal rods that extended about 10 inches downward from the passenger-side wheel wells. The idea was that, when parallel parking, they would hit the curb and audibly bounce back and forth.

  90. My new car beeps if I am close to any object, or curb. It is helpful because I did scrape the front of my old car on a high curb. I have to parallel park in the city, and I find that it is much easier with the cameras that are built into my new car.

  91. I just need to vent because I am losing my mind from this renovation. It is only the second week that they are in my house, and I just wish I could disappear for the whole summer. I obviously have to leave for the days that I have meetings, and work….but there are a lot of times that I have to be here. I am glad that we are doing everything at once because I don’t want to go through this again for a very long time.

  92. I can live here because our house is multi level. they are clean.

    The issue is what goes on during the day. I can deal with the noise because I can go to my basement. I was in the city last week, and I came back and one guy was running his engine for an hour and the car was almost in my garage! The exhaust came right into my house.

    Today – it is that they put ALL of their wood and materials on my new grass. It took us weeks to baby that grass so it would grow and they just threw all of their crap there even though my garage and driveway are empty. I can’t even talk about the damage to walls on my staircase that I know they will eventually fix when they are done. I came home at 10PM from the city one day last week, and my garage was wide open – so essentially my house was wide open to anyone for six hours because they forgot to close the garage door when they left.

    If I completely leave and go to a hotel or even to the work or pool all day – I have no idea what i will find when I come back. It is easy for me to be out of here for most of the day, but then I wouldn’t be able to deal with some of these issues.

  93. and my garage was wide open – so essentially my house was wide open to anyone for six hours because they forgot to close the garage door when they left.

    Did anything happen? Seems like the less you know the happier you’d be.

  94. Lauren, I feel your pain. I don’t have any advice, just take deep breaths. Our renovation was supposed to take 6 months, and it ended up taking almost a year. We lived here the whole time, mainly because of the added cost. I did feel that I had to keep an eye on their work, and of course things frequently came up that needed my attention. When we took a week’s vacation while they redid the stairs, they somehow forgot to do the stairs and they screwed up the placement of the kids’ bathtub fixtures.

  95. CoC, thanks. I just have to get through this and hope that it will be worth it when I don’t have to look at large bulbs and brass from my 1980s bathrooms.

  96. “my garage was wide open – so essentially my house was wide open to anyone for six hours because they forgot to close the garage door when they left. ”

    We had a similar problem. On one of the first days of our reno, the construction crew left a sliding door wide open and went to lunch.

  97. “The old Toyota RAV 4s have that barn door, which swings out instead of up.”

    It’s also hinged on the right, so if you parallel part on the right side of the road, the door gets in the way of loading/unloading from the sidewalk. It’s as if the car was originally designed for someplace where they drive on the left side of the road, like Japan.

  98. I would have been OK if they had backup cameras, but I hated trying to back in with an unfamiliar vehicle and always tried to get into one of a few pull-through or parallel spaces.

    You parallel park head first? Of course not. You back in, and that’s harder than backing into a spot in a parking lot.

    As for the trunk space, you just don’t go all the way up to the opposing car, you leave a little space. Of course if someone comes into the other spot after you and pulls all the way up, then you’ll need to maneuver a little.

    The bottom line is it is much safer to pull out head first into moving traffic than to back out into moving traffic.

  99. “It’s also hinged on the right, so if you parallel part on the right side of the road, the door gets in the way of loading/unloading from the sidewalk”

    My CR-V is the same way. But it really has never been a big problem for me, although I don’t do a lot of sidewalk loading. I’m also one of the last drivers on the road with a full-size spare mounted on the back. I’ve even used it once.

  100. Having a good set of mirrors makes reversing into a parking stall a lot easier. I have a couple of small convex mirrors stuck onto my outside mirrors which allow me to see the lines and any adjacent cars.

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