This post was influenced by:

http://www.rosemond.com/view/389/21753/Weekly-Column—101408.html  (READ THIS ONE IF ANYTHING)

http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/

as well as this amazing book I’m currently reading, and highly recommend:

http://www.amazon.com/Last-Child-Woods-Children-Nature-Deficit/dp/156512605X/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

I could not have stumbled upon all this at a more appropriate time…I have recently been struggling with this very issue of independence with my 10 year old, and reading all of the above resources has really given me a new perspective (and a bit more confidence too!) We just moved from a big metropolitan area to a very small town on the Jersey shore–in other words, from the land of helicopter parents (myself included in this category) to the land of free-range kids, and what I’d considered irresponsible parenting–until now that is. My daughter’s friends all ride their bikes everywhere around town. She somehow managed to convince me to allow her the same freedom, and while I was extremely reluctant, I finally gave in. I was a basket case the first time I let her go. In our old neighborhood I never let her out of my sight. Now, she rides 16 blocks away to a friend’s house or the corner store. I’m not sure how I made that leap of faith, but ultimately that’s what it was. It occurred to me that being a “helicopter” and hovering about her, I was no less worried and was in fact, more EXHAUSTED by it all. I spent all my time fretting over my kids. I couldn’t do my own thing because I had to be outside watching my kids like a hawk. I didn’t want to deny them playtime, especially in the great outdoors (yeah, how great could it be when it was kept to a 1/2 block radius?) so I was always out there with them.  Now I realize that by hovering, I was ultimately doing both of us a disservice. The kids were always frustrated by my restrictions, and I was frustrated by their inability to understand that I was only trying to keep them “safe”. I was also always frustrated that instead of being inside cleaning or making dinner, or having a cocktail, I was making myself a slave to my children’s “safety”.   It has finally occurred to me that as terrific as my eyes may be (as long as my glasses are on that is), they alone do not have to power to prevent my kids from getting hurt.  How long was I going to be standing over my kids while they (marginally) participated in outdoor activities?  I can’t imagine hanging out in the quad with Emma when she goes to Princeton (hah!), but at what point is it okay for me to let go and trust that she’ll be ok without my constant vigilance?

Part of the problem I think, besides the obvious media culture influence, is the fear parents have of being judged by others. We worry that if we aren’t out there with our kids or constantly watching them, we will be considered negligent. While I intuitively felt that my child was trustworthy enough and smart enough to play unsupervised, EVERYONE ELSE was out there supervising (and micromanaging) their kids. Therefore, I felt that if I was the only parent who stayed inside, to do the parenting from a distance, well, I would be seen as a bad mom. I believe it’s parental peer pressure that keeps so many of us hovering around our kids.  I kept imagining what would happen if my child was hurt, or worse, abducted(!) while I was inside whipping up a margarita…”Oh well, if she’d only been outside WATCHING her, she’d be okay right now.”  It’s not a stretch of the imagination.  Moms get blamed for everything anyway. 

Now I live in a place far removed from this generation of control-freak moms and dads. Parents in my new hometown seem remarkably laid back, or should I say, they are a THROW-back to another era? And after reading Skenazy and John Rosemond, and seeing my child’s joy as she earns her independence, I must say, I am learning to shed my helicopter ways and ease up a bit. I will still worry, but I’m pretty sure that’s an occupational hazard of parenting in general. Now I think that as long as I educate my child, and arm her with the tools she needs to navigate not only her town, but life itself, I think she’ll be better off for having her mom BACK off!

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