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Just Because It’s the Norm Does Not Mean It is Right

It is a big mistake to think that just because everyone else is doing something that we need to jump on the bandwagon too. Ironically, if you disagree with the latest socially accepted trend, you’re automatically the one that is in the wrong in the eyes of the “trendsetters.” We live in an age where morality and ethics seem to lie on a bed of shifting sands; a world where what is convenient or enjoyable takes the place of what is just and right.

Rarely is the right thing to do the easy thing to do, yet it IS still right. Today’s “experts” justify their choices with flimsy and unproven internet research or by simply saying they “read it somewhere” or heard that some Ph.D in some obscure town once said it. Never mind that the doctor’s Ph.D was in early Shakespearean literature with a minor in African dance.

Facebook and Twitter also take high priority on their list of supporting evidence for the “norm.” No longer are decisions based upon fact and logic. Instead long-established and proven techniques and lifestyle skills are abandoned in favor of the new “norm.” People cite many reasons as to why they’ve chosen this new way, but the bottom line is most people follow what they consider to be the “norm” for one reason and one reason alone. They do it because it works for them. It isn’t better; it’s simply more convenient.

The Problem of Change for Convenience

Though in today’s world we have better knowledge of high quality nutritional choices, our forefathers ate and fed their families far better than what we put on our tables today. It is not because they had easier access to better food. In fact, education and the push to support local, organic materials has ensured that all homeowners can easily source high quality, healthy foods to feed their families. However, due to overscheduling and a change in family roles in the home, it has become necessary to learn to prepare family meals in an extremely abbreviated amount of time in order to accommodate an overly busy lifestyle.

Sadly, the new societal “norm” of an overscheduled lifestyle has now affected the way that we eat. It’s starting to become the “norm” to simply open a box, toss the contents in a dish, add a cup of water, and bake at 400 for 30 minutes, and voila! There you have it. A nutritious meal. Except…it’s not nutritious. It’s food, and it will provide necessary calories for the energy required to get through the day. But there should be so much more to mealtimes than simply filling bellies. Many parents believe that they are providing all the nourishment their children need to grow their minds and bodies on pre-packaged, preservative-filled, not nutritionally balanced convenience foods.

What is the advantage to this?

It enables us to continue to live our “busy” lives. The reality is the food is not the problem; it’s the symptom of a bigger problem. We place a lot of valor on living a busy life when in truth, being overly busy is not really living. It’s not enhancing the quality of our lives or our children’s; it’s destroying it. Perhaps we need to take a step back to unburden our schedules of unnecessary activities. Our kids don’t need to be involved in events seven nights a week to have a great life, and there is no honor in feeling as though you live in your car since you spend so much time there transporting kids from activity to activity. Less really is more. Less activity and more quality family time is the key to a well-balanced, happy life. 

The Problem of Disengagement

While technology has increased office productivity and improved communication efforts with families who live at a distance from one another, it has also been instrumental in creating barriers. Sadly, non-stop device interaction has stunted the development of the necessary social skills required to successfully navigate life. It has also started to erode the fabric of the family.

Many families report their children are engrossed in their iPhones for up to four hours a day. The “norm” is for their children to pick up their phones the minute they arrive home and not put them down until they run out of battery, or their bedtime is announced. It becomes all too easy for families to feel that this is now acceptable. Many parents compare their child’s device usage to that of other families who permit even more screen time. When weighed and measured against the permissive behaviors of others, they begin to feel morally superior for the “limits” they have placed upon their children. But their limits aren’t really limits at all. Four hours of screen time is not healthy for the cognitive or emotional development of any child. Yet devices make for easy babysitters; a convenient option for families with a busy lifestyle.

Yet children must learn this behavior from somewhere. They don’t pop out of the womb with an Iphone attached to their hand. Where do they learn this dependence upon internet-enabled devices?

In most cases, they learn it from their parents who are modelling poor social behavior for their children. It becomes all too easy to forget the boundaries our parents placed upon us during our formative years. Though we did not have smartphones, we did have the telephone, the television, and video games. While our parents did not discourage the use of any of these items, most were quick to teach balance. Twenty minutes of a video game or a one half hour favorite TV show a night was sufficient. There still needed to be time for homework, baths, and racing around outdoors with our best pals. Our lives were about balance and a life connected to family and friends. We had to learn to share and to enjoy the pleasurable things in life but to limit them to allow us to experience all that life had to offer and to provide the necessary time for fulfilling our commitments as well.

After all, life isn’t just about play. The “norm” shows no regard for the balance required for a productive, fulfilled life. The emphasis on disengagement and solitary activities leads to children unable to establish meaningful relationships with real people. But the truth is we have also fallen into this trap. Many of us have forgotten the important lessons of our youth. Adults can easily become embroiled in online activities to the detriment of real life relationships including with their own families. We have to do better. The future of our children rests upon it.

The Problem of Disposable Relationships

Prior to the 1970’s, divorce was exceedingly rare. Many kids grew up not knowing a single friend whose parents no longer lived together. Sadly, today, broken homes is the “norm”. In any given school in North America, up to 50 percent or more of children are from broken homes. Many parents justify the end of a marriage by saying they fell out of love, or they just weren’t into the person they committed to love forever, any more. It has become the norm to cast aside vows sworn to last eternity as the dream of a wedding fades, and the reality of a marriage takes over. The wedding is the easy part, but marriage is hard, and few people want to work to keep a marriage going.

Today’s society has made it all too easy to find someone new to rekindle those “first blush” feelings of romance with. With a few clicks of a computer mouse, it is anyone can find someone new to “love.” But it’s not just love that people seek on the internet. The World Wide Web also affords people the opportunity to engage in both emotional and sexual affairs, placing already shaky marriages on extremely tenuous ground.

Hollywood paints a glamourous picture of love, life, and sex, yet few people realize that it is an illusion. True life is not the highlight reel you see on Facebook. Walking into a marriage expecting what you see on TV is a recipe for disaster. No one feels loving one hundred percent of the time. We choose to be loving in spite of how we feel because we made a commitment to love someone until death do us part. No marriage is perfect, and all of them are work, but our honor, our commitment, and our word compel us to do the work our marriages deserve. Relationships are not disposable. People are not disposable. Life is hard, but we must be strong enough to face it and work through its challenges to reap the greater rewards. 

The Problem of Instant Gratification

There was a time not that long ago that if you didn’t make an effort in school, you failed. There was established criteria that all children must meet in order to be advanced into the next grade. This system was not designed to punish children. It simply worked on a tiered system which provided a foundation that must be fully comprehended before the next layer of education could be attained. It was designed with the best of intentions and to equip children with the necessary skills to function well in the real world. To fail to understand the subject material in one grade simply meant the child would have even greater difficulty mastering the next level. Mastery of one year’s lessons was necessary for success. However, today, it seems immaterial whether or not subject matter is properly comprehended as children are passed through the system regardless of outcomes. This new “norm” was intended to spare feelings; however, it simply sets children up for future failure. Sadly, under this new system, gaps in education become dramatically apparent, and lives are impacted negatively when progress is halted entirely due to a lack of a proper educational foundation upon which to build.

But lack of progress is not the only problem with this system. Work ethic is also at stake. Kids who receive rewards without any expectation of effort on their part easily become entitled, thinking the world owes them something. The truth is the world is based on working to achieve outcomes. No effort on the job is equal to no pay cheque. These are the harsh realities of the world. Isn’t it far kinder for children to learn these lessons in the cushioned setting of an elementary school instead of a real world job setting where their survival is dependent upon making a living?

Work ethic also teaches that you get out of something what you put into it. A system which equally rewards extra effort and no effort at all is simply unfair and discourages kids who would work hard to excel from making any effort at all. Thus great potential is wasted by a system which does not properly reward effort, talent, and ingenuity. We are all unique, and we are all special; however, we are not all created equally when it comes to skills and abilities. Each of us has our own role to fulfil in life, and it is important. However, the reality is we cannot all be what we want to be in life. Not all of us were born to be doctors or lawyers. Not all of us can be electricians or hairdressers. But that is part of the great beauty of life. We are all intricate parts of a puzzle. Each of us is needed and valuable. Extra effort should be rewarded, and each child should be encouraged and shaped to reach his greatest potential. 

The Problem of the “Wanties”

Today, we replace our furniture, cars, homes, and phones every few years, and we don’t replace them because they are worn out. It has simply become the “norm” to want the latest and greatest. Keeping up with Joneses is wearing us out financially, physically, and emotionally. We easily become caught up in a  consumeristic culture which bases our worth not on who and what we are inside but on what we can own and accumulate. This system leads to crushingly low and misplaced self-esteem issues and devastating debt loads. We end up with far more than we need or could ever use, and we become crippled trying to work the necessary hours to pay for all of it.

The truth is that many of these new “norms” are destroying our families, our work ethic, and relationships. Raising kids today is, in many ways, akin to a walk in the park compared to what our forefathers faced generations ago. It’s sad that we believe it is so difficult. 

The Crux of the Matter

Perhaps if we put down the IPhone and the latte and stopped posting “perfect” pictures of our lives on every social media platform we belong to, we’d have time to make a loaf of bread or a batch of cookies. We’d have the luxury to sit with our families and really talk. If we bought less stuff, we’d have the freedom to work fewer hours and could devote the extra time to the people we love. Perhaps if we actually spent more time with our kids and spouse, there would be fewer kids in counselling, on prescription drugs, and even fewer divorces.

The “norm” is killing society. Never in our history has there ever been so many self-help books written, so many people on anti-depressants, so much obesity, depression, divorce, struggles with allergies, and pollution. It’s time to get back to our roots and to stop following the “norm.” Our families depend upon it.

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