The Cat’s in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon: Slow Down, Parents

Posted on November 19, 2012

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Andrea Petersen recently wrote a Wall Street Journal article, “A Nanny Who’s Always On Vacation.”  Far from being on vacation, these specialized nannies make their livings by accompanying families on their vacations, to attend to the children while traveling and to give the parents their “adult time” sans kids.

I’m not sure what I think of this.  We lament the necessity of bringing in two salaries, which keeps us apart from our kids, but then some of us spend our extra cash on getting away from the kids when we do finally have time to spend with them.

Between working couples and single parents, we have seen a steep decline in the number of stay-at-home parents and a corresponding generational explosion in the number of kids being raised by sitters, nannies, and daycare centers; being shuttled around after school to organized kid activities; coming home late in the evening, with just enough time for dinner and homework, then off to bed to start the whole impersonal, harried cycle again in the morning,  with a flurry of activity to get up, dressed, fed, and onto the school bus.  What real time is left for families?  Just weekends, holidays, and vacations.  Precious little time to spend with your kids.  One might think parents would treasure it before it’s gone.  Cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon, and all that.

But some parents are jettisoning their kids during vacations, too.  Oh, they take the kids along, at considerable expense; but then they pay for a travel nanny’s expenses and salary on top of that, and they choose resorts that have planned children’s programs day and night so parents can get their much-craved “alone time.”  Heck, why not just send the kids to a two-week summer camp and get them out of your hair entirely?

I understand wanting “adult time,” believe me, I do.  My own very low tolerance for kiddie stuff is one of the many reasons I am child-free by choice.  But I can’t help but wonder why these parents had kids at all, if the thing they look forward to every year – for a few fleeting years, mind –  is to just spend time with each other, while passing the kids off to paid caregivers.

Thankfully, there are still families who plan their vacations according to their children’s ages and interests.  They seem to recognize that childhood is fleeting, that in today’s world there is not a lot of free time to share with them, and if you want to really see your kids grow up, then the thing to do is plan activities according to their developmental level.  Beaches, Disney World, camping.  Maybe hunting or fishing trips, national parks, hands-on museums, theme parks.  It’s bonding, it’s memories, it’s a personal history that helps to make a family, that contributes to kids’ feelings of belonging, of tradition, of roots, of security.

Would we rather have our kids remember all those trips with Dad showing them how to fly-fish?  Or… would we rather have our kids remember all the fun they had with the travel nanny at Club Med before she handed them off to their parents late into the night, and then that other travel nanny who went with them to the Sandals resort the following year?

Kids need love, constancy, guidance, and security from… somebody.  It should be the parents, not a rotating cast of sitters, nannies and coaches and a hectic background of constantly changing scenery.  Slow down, parents!  Pay attention to your kids.  Do stuff with them.   Build traditions and memories together.

My child arrived just the other day
He came into the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away…

Cat’s in the Cradle     Lyrics by Harry Chapin, 1974

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