One of my favourite quotations is one from Roald Dahl, in which he tells his children readers that when they grow up and have children they must remember that “a stodgy parent is no fun at all! What a child wants—and DESERVES—is a parent who is SPARKY!” I was one of those loyal readers (and still am), and so decided very early on to be that kind of sparky parent. The only trouble with being sparky is deciding where the buck stops, and I’m afraid my generation—us newish parents of a few still-young children—have not been very good at it. I find our kids are easily bored, perpetually wanting something new to do and being pestilential about getting/doing said new thing. I don’t remember being this single-minded about anything when I was small, except maybe finding new and ingenious ways to pinch Mitchell’s fruit bon-bons from my mother’s candy drawer without her noticing. We never had play-dates the way our children do and most of our entertainment came either from the cartoon tapes our grandmother got us from Radio City in Karachi, playing outside, doing puzzles or reading. There were many long summer afternoons that stretched endlessly on, muggy and utterly boring, and we mooched around being utterly bored. Our parents didn’t take responsibility for filling every waking moment of our lives with fun and educational activities for us to do; most of the time we just got along like everyone else with school, a bit of homework and unsupervised cycling around the neighbourhood. I don’t think any of us felt particularly deprived or were intellectually underdeveloped because we didn’t have Monkey Preschool Lunchbox on our iPads to hone our analytical and shape-sorting skills. And yet I am the parent who, despite banning television completely for the first year of my eldest daughter’s life, caved and bought a DVD of ‘Frozen’ last week, where it joins a library of every Peppa Pig episode ever aired, some Sesame Street, a few other Disney films and, o horror, some taped Doraemon.

What happened along the way? Of course there is that very valid argument of things just being different when we were children. There was nothing on television for the longest time other than PTV and after five, NTM, and a treat was having mango milkshakes at teatime, or going to Salt and Pepper once in a while. Our treats were, quite simply, dictated by market availability and whatever one’s mother let you pick at Al Fatah, so we were happy to eat Jubilee bars and dig pits in corners of our gardens to trap any hapless person in because that was what we had, or at least it was what we were given. Things changed, of course, and by the time we were adults there were cell phones in every hand and not just internet via a noisy modem, but lightning-fast wi-fi floating around and cheap air tickets and foreign brands galore. And when it’s there, you’ll buy it, and slowly the children who had rather simple childhoods became the ones with iPads and smartphones who wear Levis and eat gelato. That’s us. We are the ones with the ABC apps on our iPhones and we are the generation that buys babyccinos and tiny Converse sneakers for our infants. That also makes us hipster parents, which is another conversation altogether, but there used to be grown-up world and kiddie-world, and the line between them is becoming increasingly blurred.

Perhaps it’s because we are slowly moving away from the more traditional, authoritarian model of parenting. We are more democratic, either from wanting to be deliberately different from what we grew up with or perhaps just less focused on our children as the sole reason for everything we do. We have relaxed the rules, and in doing so have allowed many things our parents probably would not have. Many of us don’t mind when our child addresses us by name instead of proper title. Many of us allow argumentativeness (and later shake our heads ruefully at how we would never have dreamed of doing the same to our parents) and when our children sass us they get a time out, not a whack on the bottom. Maybe we’re busy in ways our parents were not, and we feel guiltier than they did, but many of us go with our children’s flow, as opposed to their obediently following our lead. That sees us stopping for ice cream treats far too often, going to every single birthday party they are ever invited to and generally humoring them nearly all the time.

With all that said, I don’t think it’s all entirely our fault. We inhabit a universal culture now, what with our exposure to books, television, films and travels all over the world, and all over the world, parenting culture is more and more geared towards a singular focus on our children and their needs. It isn’t enough for your child to recognize a circle and a square, they should know trapezoid and rhombus too. It isn’t enough to just read whatever book you like to your ten month old, you should have a Baby Einstein DVD on in the background and the book should be a vivid, high-contrast baby book geared to encourage recognition and hand-eye coordination. The world is complicated for us in ways our parents never imagined, and it’s all to do with people wanting to sell us more things we really don’t need, but without which we are told we’re bad parents. Use glass bottles! Organic cotton t-shirts! No parabens, no dyes, no gluten, no dairy! Vaccinate separately or else! The world is, without a doubt, growing more and more polluted, vicious and treeless. It is a real problem protecting our children from things our parents didn’t have to, either because yet another study hadn’t been conducted then or people just didn’t feed the chicken so many dubious, disgusting things. But we need to take a breath and try to sift the wheat from the chaff here. The vaccination debate may be one you want to take seriously, but it’s really all right for our children to not do half the things we feel they should. They won’t be developmentally delayed if they don’t start learning the tabla at three. They will still do well in school without you perpetually waving flashcards at them. They will want to read without you playing audio books in the car. And above all, if they’re bored, that’s all right too. It isn’t a judgment on your parenting skills if you cannot fill all their days with constructive activities and organic carrot sticks. Sometimes it’s okay to give them a bag of Super Crisp and turn them out of the house to mooch around doing whatever it is children do when we aren’t hovering, anxious we’re ruining them in some inexplicable way. They have the right to be bored and annoying, and if you don’t believe me, there’s a study to prove it!

n    The writer is based in Lahore and considering the summer holidays with some trepidation.