So I'm sitting here at work and I should be finishing up a project for my dean. But I just took a break to catch up on some blog reading (there isn't much of that going on lately) when I came across a link to a TIME article on overparenting. I don't recall which blog had this posted so I'm linking to the article itself.
I've always understood the concept of overparenting and I've long been against helicopter parents. I've worked in higher education long enough that I have many stories in which perfectly smart parents appear stupid in their actions. (This is my own opinion of course.) At Purdue alone, I learned of a parent who called a professor arguing the grade his daughter received on a paper (that the parent admitting to writing himself). Then there was the mom who was upset with the dining hall at a dorm for not giving her the semester's menu for lunches. When the dining hall explained that menus are only made two or three weeks out, she became irrate because she had to prepare her son for his meal time by circling all the food he was supposed to eat. She wanted to do the entire semester gosh darn it. Finally, I myself experienced helicoptor parenting when I witnessed a mom WALKING HER DAUGHTER to each of her classes the first day of the semester. The daughter looked like a lamb being led to slaughter. Many of you maight think that's not a big deal but really, if an 18 year old can't find her own classes, how is she going to survive once her mom leaves? Don't answer that - I'm sure she'll have several phone conversations a day getting advice and suggestions for how to deal with every minute detail of her life.
I myself have been accused of, shall we say, relaxed parenting. I don't keep as close an eye on my kids as others think I should. There was the neighbor who always made sure she stayed outside when Nicklas was out playing. (Mind you, I was inside, happily sewing away on a quilt or something.) And when he wanted to walk around the block himself at age 6 and gasp, I allowed him to. She decided that she would go ahead and walk with him. Another time, I was letting the kids run around the bleachers at a baseball game and an older gentleman informed me that they were going to get hurt and that they needed to sit by me at all times. My reaction? Let them get hurt - at least they're up and being active and playing. (And no, they weren't bothering him. He had been watching them from the other side of the stadium.)
Some people will say I'm naive but I don't believe in banning my kids from talking to strangers. I'm a social person. I want my kids to be social. I want them to be comfortable talking to all types of people. Of course, I warn them about accepting gifts, or getting into cars but I'm not going to whisk them away from someone who is just trying to make conversation. I set parameters at the park - they must stay within certain areas. And then I bury my head in a book. I don't always know where they are but if I find out they've left the boundaries I've established, they will have to suffer the consequences. I know there are parents that don't let their eyes leave their child. And while maybe I should be up and actually playing with them at the park, well sometimes, I just don't feel like it. Besides, they need to learn to play on their own and not count on me to entertain them.
More than once, I've let the boys hang out in the toy section of the store while I did my shopping. And at least twice, I've come to get them and found a store employee staying with them, waiting for a parent to show up. At the high school football and basketball games, we let Nicklas run around. He's been doing it since second grade but I have a friend that wouldn't allow her son to do this until he was in sixth grade. Maybe she was afraid he'd get hurt. Or hear profane language from the high schoolers. Or wander off. And I suppose that could happen. But I guess I feel the trade off is worth it for Nicklas. He gets to explore. And be responsible for himself. And learn new things. That's more important to me than keeping him safe and sound and tucked up next to me at all times.
You might think I'm right or wrong but this is the way I've chosen to parent my children. The Polack is a little more protective which is probably good because it balances my - what did I call it? - my relaxed parenting. Although I can promise you that he'll be there with me, pushing them out the car door when it's time to drop them off at campus their freshman year.
I'm off now to finish my project but then I'm going to google free-range parenting and celebrate that there are others out there that don't think I'm too horrible of a person. This isn't my most eloquent writing and I know I'm not doing the best job at making my point. But obviously, the article hit home with me.
And for the record, I think there are definitely nine-year-olds out there that can ride the NYC subway on their own.