Part of the human condition is to believe in a more perfect place called the past. We are nostalgic creatures, convinced America was a safer place in the 1960s even though the statistics argue otherwise. We're sure people were more civil, despite all the assassinations, riots and cities literally burning. And in this mythic past, parenting was much easier than it is today.
Not distracted by all their devices and social media feeds, parents in the past could focus on their children. In the analog land of yore, there were wholesome family dinners and game nights, fathers and mothers spending tons of quality time with their kids.
Today's parents are a stressed bunch — not surprising since they're part of the "Anxious Generation." A recent American Psychological Association study found that millennials report more stress and anxiety than any other generation. If you're already anxious, wait till you add the duties of caring for a completely helpless little human. New parents are either worried that they are over-documenting their kids' lives or that they haven't downloaded the Baby Tracker app yet and so don't know how many ounces of formula their child consumed yesterday. They are pretty sure they're not living in the moment, even as they capture thousands of Instagram-worthy moments.
Dear parents of young children, I offer you this: You are way better parents than those mythical past parents, even on your worst days. You spend more quality time with your children. You feed them much better food. (And you don't blow cigarette smoke in their faces while they eat.) You keep them way safer. You read to them more. You stimulate their curiosity more. You rarely say, "Because I said so." You spank them less. And you don't wash their mouths out with actual bars of soap.
The reason you don't realize how much better you are is that you live in an age where you can never be a good enough parent. You are the collateral damage of a parenting arms race.
We had Dr. Spock. You have everybody: an army of friends on social media offering advice, a thousand apps and bloggers and websites, all devoted to making you the perfect parent. In fact, 58 percent of millennial parents report being overwhelmed by all the parenting information out there, according to a Time magazine poll. The result: Every fear, no matter how tiny, gets amplified until it's all you can hear. It's so easy to be convinced that you're a bad parent because you check your work email too much on your phone while you're with your kids. And you're pretty sure parents in the past didn't have this problem because they didn't have cellphones.
Well, my mother didn't have one phone — she had seven, mounted to walls and sitting atop counters and desks and nightstands. I know one cellphone is a lot more powerful than seven rotary phones. Today's phones can distract you from being present for your children at the park or playground. But at least you take your kids to the park. My mother didn't take us. She stayed home, tethered to those phones. My mother was what Malcolm Gladwell calls a connector: president of a large, national Jewish women's nonprofit called ORT, committee chair of you-name-it, thrower of dinner parties, organizer of surprise birthday celebrations and manager of a large advertising sales staff at a local paper.
She was simply always on the phone. When we needed something, my brother and I learned to pull the cord, yanking her back to the here and now.
My mother always lived in the moment, just not necessarily the same moment I was in. She had a life. Tons of friends. Endless distractions. And she never thought she wasn't a great parent. And she was.
But not as good a parent as you are. So please, stop apologizing for living your lives. Almost half of you, according to a Pew Research Center report, believe that you're not spending enough time with your school-age kids. Relax. Remember, your child needs you to be more than a parent. She needs to see you as a worker, a friend, a volunteer, a person with hobbies and interests. And to be all that, you'll have to ignore her sometimes. You'll have to send that text, check that email and post that post. While you're doing that, your kid will just have to entertain herself for a while. And that may be the best thing you can teach her.
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“Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family” is the newest exhibit at the Durham Museum, 801 St. 10th St. The exhibit opens Saturday and will run through Sept. 1. The exhibit will showcase the newly-revised tyrannosaur family tree and show how the group became the world’s top predators. The exhibit will feature more than 10 life-sized dinosaur specimens. More.
The Mutual 1st Federal Outdoor Movie Night will be held Friday from 7 to 10 p.m. The movie, “How to Train Your Dragon,” will begin at dusk. People are invited to bring their own chairs. There will be food trucks and kids activities. The event will take place at 14510 F St. More.
Grab the towels, sunscreen and inflatable toys because many pools, aquatic centers and splash pads are open for the season. Check out a list of area pools and splash pads here.
Come explore scientific concepts like trajectory projection, force and motion through the use of stomp rockets Thursday from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Sorensen Library, 4808 Cass St. The program is limited to teens in sixth through 12th grade. More.
The 45th annual Summer Arts Festival will take place in north downtown Omaha on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The festival will feature more than 130 visual artists and a stage of multicultural musical performances. On Saturday and Sunday, there will be a hands-on Children's Fair. There will also be food vendors. The Summer Arts Festival is a free event and will take place at a new location — alongside the baseball park on Mike Fahey Street between 10th and 14th Streets. More.
Come to the Florence Mill Farmers Market Sunday to shop local produce, do some crafts, bubbles and have some country school fun. The morning music will be performed by Dale Thornton and he invites kids up to sing karaoke. Afternoon music will be Ring of Flutes. This week’s Country School guest are some alpacas. Come feed and hear them hum. The fun goes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. More.
Come to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, 3701 S. 10th St., Saturday for World Oceans Day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Learn how your everyday actions impact inhabitants of the world’s oceans. More.
Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s will host a special kids’ fishing event Saturday and Sunday. The event will include catch-and-release ponds, fishing seminars, giveaways and crafts. Bass Pro Shops is located at 2901 Bass Pro Drive in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Cabela’s is at 12703 Westport Parkway in La Vista. More.
Kids can learn about how digestion works during STEM: Digestion Investigation Thursday at 1 p.m. at the Willa Cather Library, 1905 S. 44th St. Kids in third through sixth grade will dissect an owl pellet and determine what the owl ate and how it digests its food. Registration is required. More.
The Millard Airport is hosting its second annual Fly-In Breakfast and Aviation STEM Day on Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. There’s no admission to attend the event, but breakfast is $7 for adults and $5 for children 12 and younger. This kid-centered event is designed to show children the diverse possibilities within aviation, including professional and recreational opportunity for flight, maintenance, avionics, aeromedical, drones, airport management and more. The Millard Airport is at 12916 Millard Airport Plaza. More.
The Union Pacific Museum, 200 Pearl St. in Council Bluffs, will host a family night Friday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. During the event, which is free, enjoy an evening of games, a storytime, a sidewalk chalk party, ice cream and more. Plus, learn how to have your safest and best summer yet. The event is free and open to the public. More.
Test your driving skills using a variety of Sphero robots during robot tag Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Abrahams Library, 5111 N. 90th St. Snacks and drinks will be provided. The event is for kids ages 12 to 18. More.
Come to Carter Lake on Saturday, for a parade, family fun, fireworks and much more.
The community celebration will be held Friday through Sunday, and will include a parade, a family festival, hot air balloon rides, fireworks and more. The parade will take place Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on Main Street. More.
Come have some summer fan and learn about birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians during Joslyn Castle’s Summer Fun Series. The free event, which is presented in partnership with Papio-Missouri River National Resources District, will take place on Thursday in June at 6:30 p.m. This Thursday’s topic will be about birds (“Taloned Teachers”). It’s perfect for the entire family and will include hands-on activities. More.
Bennington Daze will take place Friday through Sunday. The event will include food, games, a street dance and a parade. More.
Celebrate National Doughnut Day on Friday at the following locations: At Dunkin Donuts, get a free doughnut with any beverage purchase. Find Dunkin Donuts locations here. At Krispy Kreme, get a free doughnut of any variety while supplies last. To find Krispy Kreme locations, click here. Visit LaMar's Donuts at 17202 Audrey St. and get a free glazed doughnut.
Regency Court will host a kid’s Funfare Thursday at 10 a.m. The event will feature the Omaha Children’s Museum: The Tinker Box in Center Court. Regency Court is located at 120 Regency Parkway. More.
Curious George will visit the Willa Cather Library on Saturday from 10:30 to 11 a.m. Come listen to a story and then take a photo with him. More.
The four-day festival will take place Thursday through Sunday and will include Taste of Blair, a parade, a craft fair, a carnival and much more.
The two-day festival on Friday and Saturday will include a parade, a free family dance and karaoke, a hotdog feed, an outdoor movie, vendors, games, fireworks, a parade and more. The parade will take place Saturday at 2 p.m. on Main Street in Springfield, Nebraska. More.
Omaha is home to more than 200 parks, and many include playgrounds, trails and other attractions. Check out the list here, and explore a new park with your kids.
The Omaha metro area has several indoor play areas for families to enjoy. They include Pump It Up, Backyard Playworld and BounceU in Omaha, and Jumpin Jax in Papillion. Oak View Mall and Westroads Mall also have fun indoor play areas. Check out Approach Climbing Gym at 4923 S. 72nd St. It offers day passes, instructional classes, youth programs and more. Several local gymnastic places also have open gym time, including Metro Stars Gymnastics, Premier Gymnastics, Airborne Academy, Go! Kids Gym and Kid's Body Shop. Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, 28500 W. Park Highway in Ashland, Nebraska, features an on-site indoor activity center.
Take an afternoon to go roller skating with your kids. You can laugh at each other while you fall down again and again. Check out Skate City, 1220 S. Fort Crook Road in Bellevue.
Do Space, Omaha's community tech space, is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Plus it's free. Check out five things to do at Do Space here.
There are tons of organizations that host weekday and weekend storytimes.
Join the Omaha Public Library at Lauritzen Gardens on Friday for stories that celebrate gardens, plants, insects and more. Kids will also discover the joys of nature, movement, music and literature. The event is geared toward preschool-aged kids, but all ages are welcome. The program is free. Lauritzen Gardens is at 100 Bancroft St. Register here. Other storytimes include Barnes and Noble (Oak View and Crossroads), Pottery Barn Kids, Leader Reader at the Omaha Children's Museum, the Omaha Public Library branches, the Gretna Public Library, the Bellevue Public Library, the La Vista Public Library, the Sump Memorial Library in Papillion, the Baright Public Library in Ralston and the Plattsmouth Public Library.
Are your kids animal lovers? If so, there are several ways they can help the animals at the Nebraska Humane Society, including reading to them during adoption hours. Check out more fun ways here.
The Omaha, Bellevue and Council Bluffs Public Libraries are currently offering free day passes to Fontenelle Forest. Each pass admits two adults and children from their household. More information can be found at each library.
Community centers offer something for every member of your family — from infants to senior citizens. For a full list of community centers, click here.
Several area organizations host craft time for children every weekend. Kids can create a free craft Saturday at Lakeshore Learning Store from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Finally, kids 3 and older can make paper flowers for mom Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon with the Michaels Kids Club. Sign up online or drop in. The cost ranges from $2 to $5 per project, supplies included.
The Ralston Arena offers public ice skating for $5, with free ice skate rental. The Motto McLean Ice Arena inside Hitchcock Park near 45th and Q Streets offers Family Skate time Sunday from 4 to 6:15 p.m.
We put together a list of must-see spots across the state. How many of these destinations can you cross off your Cornhusker bucket list?