His father and mother are a different sort of parents than we were, circa 1990. Finally, I have read a good description of how parenting has changed as dramatically as phones. A New York Times article, "The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting" by Claire Cain Miller lit many tiny nursery lights.
His mother had her first evening class last week. Our son picked up the little boy from daycare, and when they got home, discovered that she had left a surprise for Émile, a carefully-designed treasure hunt. The snapper ran about, happily following the hand-drawn visual clues to the grand finale, a treasure chest loaded with plastic "jewels".
As I said to our son, his Papa's and my idea of a treasure hunt was to take them to Swiss Chalet for a kid's menu dinner and a Shirley Temple. When the cheque came, the waitresses brought a treasure chest and invited them to pick a toy. He and his brother say they have happy memories of those dinners, which shows you our family's idea of a high point.
From the day of his birth, she has been an extraordinary mother, devoted, patient and skilled—and does that while a full-time, straight-A grad student. Le Duc and I reflect on our style, and hope there's a statute of limitations for child endangerment, given the lightly-supervised play we permitted at age three. (The ego-salving term for our more, uh, casual style is "free-range parenting". The State of Utah just passed a law affirming behaviours we always thought were permissible.)
At our house, if somebody cried in his junior bed, the other guy was going to start too, so we had a deep interest in fostering self-soothing. Oh, our twins got a full, snuggly routine: story, hugs and a lights-out song—but no one came back for a re-do. There was no family bed, except for the cat.
Another huge difference is toys: Émile got a fully-loaded, freestanding puppet theatre when he turned two; our kids were at least five by the time we found one at a garage sale. His parents engage him in science experiments, complete with goggles, beakers and fizzy compounds; our version: "Squirt in the soap and help Papa do the dishes".
The Times article says that anxiety about equipping children for a more competitive world is the driver of this hands-on, intensive model. I've never heard my son or daughter-in-law express that fear; their purpose seems to be stimulation of the little binker's burgeoning senses.
Some of that is supported, judiciously, by technology. He could perform iPad basics by two; our sons got a desktop computer with no Internet connection at seven. In fact, they had to move out to get the Internet.
Grandson has been to the Museum of Contemporary Art more times than I have, never mind Spain and Mexico! We too believed in exposing our toddlers to culture. For nine years, two sisters babysat nearly every Saturday late afternoon through early evening, and introduced them to wonders like Britney Spears, black nail polish and Burger King. Preschool travel was limited to a three-hour drive from home, a short enough car ride to maintain peace. Our logic was, "away is away".
Émile is part of a considerable cohort who receive this "child-centred, expert-guided and emotionally-absorbing" parenting. This is a worthy endeavour; the world needs more smart, well-adjusted women and men equipped to tackle a boggling array of complex problems, some predictable, others bound to be surprises—and probably not good ones.
Because the paramount principle is heightened attachment between parent and child, that modern style could create stronger inter-generational bonds both inside and outside the family.
Perhaps his generation—known as Gen Alpha—won't squawk about having to take care of their elders, the way some members of the preceding generations do now.
I've also noticed how warm he is with other kids, open and agreeable. (We felt proud if our sons didn't bite anybody.)
And yet, some things seem eternal. When asked what he would like for Christmas, Émile said, "Candy".