We spaced the adoption of our two kids, unintentionally I hasten to add, in a way that has allowed our parenting efforts — always sincere, sometimes mixed — to span the quarter century that now marks the milestone of Chicago Parent’s history.
Our son Ben is now 25 and was born in 1984, the very year that this magazine was founded. His mom, my wife, Mary, became editor of Chicago Parent when Ben was about 5 and our company bought the magazine from its founding partners, the inestimable Natalie Goodman and Carolyn Jacobs. Mary wrote about Ben all the time in her column and he turned up on the cover twice (1992 and 1994). It’s good to be editor, though Ben may have thought otherwise as he was pondered over regularly and made into a metaphor more than once.
Mariah turned 14 last month. Her mom, my wife, Mary, retired as editor shortly after Mariah’s arrival, perhaps knowing that parenting Mariah was going to be a full-time project. And how, girl. (However, with nepotism never going out of fashion, Mariah did her cover turn in 2000.)
These kids and this magazine – with its Web incarnations, events and spin-off pubs – have kept our attentions future-focused. It’s the only way to go.
But when asked to contribute a 25th anniversary column to a magazine you love, it does call for a little reflection. Don’t worry, I’m not going to thank every person who ever worked here, though there were and are some pips. And I’m not going to write about publishing technology and its impact on the world.
This is the parenting magazine in Chicago. So let’s talk about that.
Parenting never changes and yet, honest to God, I’m pretty certain that parenting is getting harder. More on that in a bit.
Here’s my take: Parenting is about loving a child completely. Yes, it’s true, unconditionally. It is about getting over yourself. It is about learning that some days you are going to really screw things up but that if you skip back to the point about unconditional, that the damage you cause will be limited.
Parenting is about staying focused, except when you are totally distracted, on the simple goal of getting your kids to independence. Independent. Happy. Productive. That’s different than, say: Brilliant. Beautiful. Popular.
Parenting is about pushing your kids to do their best, not, necessarily, to be the best. It’s about accepting them exactly as they were last night at bedtime when they made you entirely crazy.
If the goal is to get them to independence, part of the strategy is to maintain our influence over them long enough to count and that’s where parenting in this second decade of a still-young century seems so much harder. Or maybe it is just having a 14-year-old girl. But technology and society are conspiring to minimize the hold of parents, of family, at an ever earlier age. We just don’t know, can’t yet know, the impact of texting, Facebook, the Web overall on our kids. But it separates them from us sooner, it elevates the prominence of peers sooner, and it opens their worlds to anonymous influence beyond our reach.
I’m no Luddite, and the tech genie is long out of the bottle, but the caution is real.
What does it mean to be a Chicago parenting magazine? Sure parenting is universal. But it is also particular to people and to place. Chicago people. A Midwestern place. So we are certainly the essential guide to six counties for anyone with kids. Each moment online, each month in print we have hundreds of ideas and details on what to do locally.
More than that, though, we are proud and sometimes critical Chicagoans. We advocate journalistically for children, for parents, for the institutions which try to do right for our families. And we offer space and a platform in print and online for the rich and varied voices of our readers: Small moments of the sheer bliss of being a parent, reality checks when things go haywire, comfort in grief and worry.
A quarter century is a long time and it’s the blink of an eye. We’re honored that you make us a part of the adventure of raising your family in Chicagoland. We’re here. We’ll be here.