At points I realize how different my children’s childhoods will be different then my own…
On the Mothering boards recently there was a post that made me think about the liberties we had as children that many children may no longer experience. The original post was a mom that was outraged by a child playing alone at the park without any adult supervision. At one point the boy’s mom checks in with the boy and he comes back saying he has another 20 min… the boy was about 7 years old.
Some other parents were also outraged on the thread… however, some it was for the fact that the boy was left alone saying that the mom saying that she is irresponsible and “depending on other parents” to watch over her son, “what if something happened?” etc , others was for the fact that we are so much in a fear based society that we see it as “criminal” for a 7 year old to be playing in the park by himself.
I was lucky living in the mountains, able to run, walk and hide in the forest, leave for hours at a time checking in with mom for lunch and then for supper. Even when we lived in the city I was able to leave home and have adventures as long as I didn’t cross any major street, at 5 I was taking the city bus to school alone. With one place we lived, with a slight detour under the bridge that housed the highway that went through town, I could go to the park, the beach, the mall and basically cross the whole town by crossing only one small street… My mom had no problem that I did such.
I was a child in the early 80’s. At that time there was not less crime or less dangers then there are today… there was however, less fear.
When I was a child, it was normal for a 7 year old to go to the park by themselves. It was normal to ride your bike to your friends house even blocks away. It was normal to go to the store to pick up milk and other things for your mom, or go buy candies and treats even though it was a good walk to the store. Now however, it seems what is normal has changed. Parents seem to be scared to let their children explore since they have been fed horror stories and fear based news. The “what if’s” seem to overrule the trust in the child. I do understand that there are some kids that at 7 and not as mature as other, however, I really think that the problem is based in the fear that parents have.
Now it is the norm to have scheduled play dates and activities. Have a full schedule with a parent bringing them everywhere or staying at home and doing nothing but play video games or ride their bikes in the driveway. Children are taught to fear the world and are not taught to take care of them selves. They are not given the independence they need and crave in order to grow. It seems so contradictory especially since most of these parents believe that children must be forced into independence as babies.
I really think that if you teach a child that they are always safe at home and give them strong and trusting foundation, that in turn you teach a child how to take care of themselves and they know when to come back home in a situation that may not feel right. I think that we must talk to them about our fears (not in a way to scare them but to make them aware and make sure that they will know what to do in situations), show them that we trust them to make the right decisions because they will then want to keep that trust and will do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. I refuse to teach my children to not talk to strangers (how will they learn to make friends?) however I will teach them limits.
I refuse to shelter my children from the world and I will not hide things from them. However, I will not teach then with fear and instead show them how to deal with situations that may arise.
Though my children’s childhoods will be different from my own, I do not want it to be as different as others are making it. I think the major difference will be in the way that others perceive the independence instead of the independence itself.