We’ve all seen them – the parents who oversee every aspect of every activity or milestone their children make. They are referred to as “helicopter parents.” I knew one a while back. Her son was 12 and she was unable to let him stay home sick from school by himself. She screamed at his soccer coach and teachers because she felt they were treating him differently by requiring him to do the minimum amount of work. Huh?
I’ve often wondered how to draw a balance between the now-idyllic childhood I had Growing Up OC and the over-scheduled, over-homeworked, over-supervised childhood I see my peers’ children experiencing.
We walked to school, often crossing major streets.
We waited at the bus stop alone until our friends showed up.
We drank unfiltered water from the hose and played in the dirt.
We sold Girl Scout cookies door to door.
We rode our bikes over to our friends houses, after school, and came home when it got dark.
We didn’t play organized sports from age 4.
We didn’t have homework in kindergarten. We didn’t even have homework until the 5th grade!
We walked or rode our bike to doctors appointments, the mall, and Mile Square Park.
ALL WITHOUT CELL PHONES.
Certainly, times are different, and I am sensitive to the changes wrought by a more cynical society with greater access to news media. There are more challenges that involve technology and there are more gangs in high schools. I never worried about getting hurt at school. Ever. A gang fight would have been between the surfers and the Mexicans and they would punch each other until the principal showed up. I wonder sometimes if child abductions were just as common back in the day, but we just didn’t hear about them. Yes, it’s scary out there these days.
But – and it’s a big but – I want Melody to enjoy her childhood. I don’t want her to feel like she has to play soccer, baseball, basketball, or any sport if she doesn’t want to. If she does want to, I want her to enjoy it without the pressures of having to win. I want her to feel the freedom to make some decisions based on good judgement – like visiting a friend after school – and understanding the consequence of not getting her homework done.
There’s a great article about parenting on Time.com, and that’s what got me thinking about this. The new “backlash” against helicopter parenting is called “slow parenting” and in true American form, you can take a class on how to be a slow parent. Read the article and then consider the irony in that. Anyway, slow parenting advocates allowing your kids to make mistakes in order to learn from them, letting them get stuck so they independently figure out their resources to get out of the bind. That sort of thing. You know, kind of like how my parents raised me.
I think I am a slow parent. I think that’s okay.