I was at my daughter's school the other day to pick her up from after school Spanish and I felt like all the other moms were judging me. Well, okay, so I did look like a silly teenager, hair all over the shop, scuffed trainers and flared jeans (I know they went out two years ago but if I wore skinny jeans I'd look like a sausage). So I was shying away from them like, "Who are you with your double garage two minivans full time professional mommy who likes to bake cupcakes and is as dull as dishwater, who are you to judge me? I, who is oh so radical...."
When it began to dawn on me, out of the blue, that I am actually not as rad as I was. Or maybe I never was. And it made me wonder if I am part of a trend. A trend of messed up children of hippies who have now become conservative even though they fight it, kicking and screaming. Why else such a swing in American politics to the right? Are not so many right wing politicians in their forties the poor disillusioned hippie kids, expressing their pain, and trying to turn off, tune out and drop in?
How many kids, I began to wonder, were a victim of the hippie experiment, where adults were all about self fulfillment, sexual experimentation and smashing social constructs? And of course, our moms and dads were told, if you got divorced and found a new partner, of course the kids would understand, because you were happy, so your kids would be happy. Only invariably you weren't any happier in the new marriage and the kids were often not happier either.
This dawned on me this weekend when I realized I had become a conservative. What happened was that my four year old, Sausage, went on a sleepover with her friend Sally, at her mom Tiffany's house. Now Tiffany is wild, crazy and free and I love her, but when I picked up Sausage the following day, I said, "Well, she seems awfully tired." Tiffany said, "Yes, well, I put them in a tent in the sitting room in front of the TV and I guess they must have watched DVDs all night. I was woken by them fighting at 3 am and I finally went down and turned off the lights and told them it was time to go to sleep."
Before I had kids, I would have thought, what a wonderfully forward thinking way to deal with kids, to let them camp in the front room and police themselves. But now I just caught myself thinking "What were you thinking, letting two four year olds decide when to go to sleep?"
I was rather shocked at my attitude. Because I knew so many kids when I was small (I lived with my mom, my dad wasn't really around), who danced around to pan pipes all evening, naked or semi-clothed, who sat around chatting with adults until the early hours. Later the kids became teenagers and smoked dope with their parents. The parents were mostly divorced, mostly very liberal, and yet many of the children seemed lost.
And I started to think about how maybe the whole hippie business was a giant mistake. I mean, yeah, it was good that society was shaken up, but it just created a me society. Also, feminism created a me society. Yeah, it has some benefits of course, but didn't it mainly make women more selfish? The funny thing about it too is that I would argue that it hasn't made women happier than when they were tied to the kitchen stove. Freer, yes. Happier, no.
All I'm saying is I think our generation was done something of a disservice. For our parents it was all about, please yourself, find yourself. Only no one thought about what happens when you find yourself and you don't like yourself, as is so often the case.... and what your responsibilities were to the children.
Who am I? Displaced Londoner now living in the States with my two little girlies and long suffering husband. Co-author of hilarious parenting book Cocktails at Naptime www.cocktailsatnaptime.com
My mom's an Austrian, my dad's a Brit, which makes me a Britaustrian, or possibly an Austrish?