We all know times have changed as far as parenting is concerned. Some of what used to be acceptable for our parents to do is now frowned upon if we do it with our own children, and perhaps rightfully so.
We live in a dangerous world. Everywhere you turn, there they are: predators and ne’er-do-wells, lurking behind bushes and inside oddly windowless conversion vans, scouring neighborhood parks and playgrounds and plotting their next assaults on our innocent offspring.
It’s not safe to leave our children in the locked car, not even for the brief moment it takes to run into the gas station and pay the cashier for our fuel on a balmy weekday afternoon.
It’s not safe to let our children take off on their bikes unsupervised, free to traverse the perilous wasteland that is the sidewalks of sleepy suburban blocks.
It’s not safe to permit our children to run wild and unrestrained in our own back yards or in those of seemingly harmless neighbors, playing hide-and-seek or freeze tag with their peers and using the inventions of their minds to build robots or forts or lemonade stands or snowmen, unprotected against the unnatural whims of sexual predators and Tentanus-infested playground equipment.
It’s not safe to trust our children’s instincts — to trust that the direction and expectations we bestow upon them will help shape their choices and behavior or that the mistakes they do make will serve as hard-won lessons for their futures.
It’s not safe, parents. The world is simply not safe.
Whereas our parents shoved us outside for the day and told us not to come back until dinner time, we must schedule our children’s every move, ushering them from karate class to soccer practice, from piano lessons to ballet recitals, from this activity to that one, taking care not to expose them to the seedy underbelly of free range childhood.
Whereas our parents required us to fill our time with nature and imagination, we must fill our children’s time with things — electronic things and sporting things and organized things and material things.
Whereas our parents expected us to learn about and navigate our worlds independently, we must structure and guide our children through their worlds, keeping them at arm’s length always, sheltered from the Bad Things — the name-calling and the knee-scraping and the mischief-seeking and the boundary-testing — for as long as the umbilical cord will hold.
Whereas our parents encouraged us to explore without anyone batting an eyelash, we must protect — always protect — lest we be arrested for letting our nine-year-olds walk to school or interrogated by Child Protective Services for allowing our seven-year-olds to snooze in the SUV while we drop a letter in the mail slot at the post office.
Our world is not the same as that of our parents’ generation when they were raising children. And sadly, I know this from personal experience.
I made a mistake, fellow parents. I embraced ’80s parenting philosophies. And this is what happened:
My children had fun.
They ran around the subdivision until their lungs burned. They dug in the dirt and got mud on their clothes. They swung on the neighborhood swing set until their toes almost touched the sky. They counted clouds and named trees. They made new friends and learned how to compromise. They created. They problem-solved.
They lived — openly and unrestricted by the dictum of a clock or a strategically crafted agenda.
I embraced ’80s parenting, folks. And my children will never be the same.