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Our Chaotic Parenting Times Have Given Birth to a New Syndrome – HPS

By Allan Shedlin

Grampsy and Founder, DADvocacy Consulting Group

PHOTO: Adobestock

I hear it in my conversations with parents of kids from nursery school to college, I see it at the supermarket and at stadiums, I talk about it with my daughters and sons-in-law in conversation about their children and their friends' kids, I observe it when I look around my neighborhood and in the various areas of the country I travel, and I’m exposed to it when I’m at a mall. It seems to be pervasive wherever there are parents and children together.


The name I give it is "Hurtling Parent Syndrome," or HPS. It’s a condition that occurs when the rate and intensity of circumstances that impact childhood, youth, and parenting evolve at a pace that overwhelms our capacity to adapt to it. It often results in a type of autopilot parenting devoid of intentionality.


Growing up and involved parenting have always been demanding and complex – as a former elementary school principal and as a parent of three I have lived it during an earlier generation. But during that time, my HPS was sometimes intermittent. I occasionally had a chance to catch my breath. Now, as a grandparent and during the current programs I conduct with parents, HPS seems acute and unrelenting.


Not only are children (and adults) consistently exposed to constant new "must-have" electronic devices and social media programs, but all these "upgrades" seem to "downgrade" our opportunities for focused, intentional parenting. The condition is exacerbated by the fact that we do not have a solid frame of reference to help us. And our elders can only be of limited help because their experiences are not directly relevant and they are also trying to adapt.

The name I give it is "Hurtling Parent Syndrome," or HPS. It’s a condition that occurs when the rate and intensity of circumstances that impact childhood, youth, and parenting evolve at a pace that overwhelms our capacity to adapt to it. It often results in a type of autopilot parenting devoid of intentionality.

Alas, this condition is occurring during a time when our world feels to be constantly on the brink due to manmade and natural catastrophes, when we increasingly feel we can’t "catch a break." Ralph Waldo Emerson once poetically referred to a time when "things are in the saddle, and ride mankind." One can only wonder how he might have described it today – perhaps something akin to "a burr is under the saddle and rides a bucking mankind."


Although a degree of HPS is inevitable, there are some ways parents might try to tame acute HPS:

  • Make time for regular individual and collective reflection.

  • Adapt a mindfulness practice that works for you/your child.

  • Get out into nature.

  • Create set times when all social media is turned off (for children AND parents alike).

  • Agree on acts of kindness – small and large – for others.

  • Remember what comforted, calmed, or upset us when we were the age of our child and utilize those memories as we interact with our kids.

  • Take our children as seriously as they take themselves – what may seem like a minor issue or slight to us, may be huge to our child.

  • Remember Robert Fulghum’s admonition from his aptly-titled book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten, "Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you."

To paraphrase and slightly contradict Dylan Thomas’s most famous poem, let us parents go gently into our good nights, with our finest intentions and commitments. And may we daddy on and mommy on as if our lives and our children’s lives depend on it – because they just might.


 

Allan Shedlin has devoted his life’s work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, and five grandchildren, as well as numerous "bonus" sons/daughters and grandchildren. Trained as an educator, Allan has alternated between classroom service, school leadership, parenting coaching, policy development, and advising at the local, state, and national levels. After eight years as an elementary school principal, Allan founded and headed the National Elementary School Center for 10 years. In the 1980s, he began writing about education and parenting for major news outlets and education trade publications, as well as appearing on radio and TV. In 2008, he was honored as a "Living Treasure" by Mothering Magazine and founded REEL Fathers in Santa Fe, NM, where he now serves as president emeritus. In 2017, he founded the DADvocacy Consulting Group. In 2018, he launched the DADDY Wishes Fund and Daddy Appleseed Fund. In 2019, he co-created and began co-facilitating the Armor Down/Daddy Up! and Mommy Up! programs. He has conducted daddying workshops in such diverse settings as Native American pueblos, veterans groups, nursery schools, penitentiaries, Head Start centers, corporate boardrooms, and various elementary schools, signifying the widespread interest in men in becoming the best possible dad. In 2022, Allan founded and co-directed the inaugural Daddying Film Festival to enable students, dads, and other indie filmmakers to use film as a vehicle to communicate the importance of fathers or father figures in each others' lives. Allan earned his elementary and high school diplomas from NYC’s Ethical Culture Schools, BA at Colgate University, MA at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an ABD at Fordham University. But he considers his D-A-D and GRAND D-A-D the most important “degrees” of all.