I really want to apologize to my kids. I fucked up and completely miscalculated. Not a big surprise, knowing how much I suck at math and science. I totally meant to raise them in 1979, not 2015. When I thought about having kids, I thought about them growing up riding their bikes without a helmet, playing kickball or hide and seek, whenever and wherever, without fear of someone texting and driving or having an opinion about them not wearing a helmet and having a bottle of water within arm’s reach. I assumed they would play with their friends, not their friends and their parents who would micromanage every argument or move they made. I thought they would learn to fight their own battles among other children and learn how one minute they could be so pissed at their best friend and how unconditional love worked when they forgot all about it 15 minutes later. I planned on letting them spend their free time running off to the park or wherever they wanted to go, just knowing to be home by dinner. In my miscalculation, I now need to be the one to coordinate a scheduled ‘play date’ for a specified amount of time with proper supervision. My children don’t need to be concerned with such responsibilities as using a phone to call a friend and ask them to play, risk hearing “no”, or letting their creativity and natural sense of wonder drive the events of the day. It’s still important though, so in 2015, I have vetted and arranged time for them to ‘be creative’ and ‘curious’ every Tuesday afternoon in a class I found. I will drive them, pay for it, watch from the waiting gallery to supervise. I will ensure that they are doing it right and not being too curious, not making it uncomfortable for others or deviating too far from the assigned curriculum. We will then drive home and I will give them my assessment of their experience.
How in the hell did this happen? How did we advance in so many ways as a society in the last 36 years and yet, as a parent, I’ve completely retreated into control and fear in my attempt to raise them? You see, these young ones in 2015 are believed to be too immature to be trusted with such things as self-control, responsibility, having instincts, and natural consequences. I don’t know if there is any hard data to support this, but our collective fear has made this our new way of raising kids. Had I raised them in 1979, they would have had a chance to just learn these things, without my interference. In 1979, children were automatically ‘free-range’, but in 2015, I can get arrested for adopting this belief, so instead we are stuck together. I want them to have freedom and to grow and develop as they will, but I don’t know how to let go when I’m sitting right there. I watch them grow with eyes that have seen too much. In 1979, I wouldn’t have to supervise every step of their growth and development. Instead, I would ask about their day at dinner and I would listen to their experiences and you know what? I would be really interested and I would want to hear everything. But here in 2015, I am always right there experiencing it with them, so not only do they not have the freedom to figure it all out, but I don’t even have a chance to be curious about what they think or what they’ve experienced.
In 1979, I was 8. I went to day camp on a bus over the summer, I called friends to make plans, told (not asked) my mom that I would back later, played a little and then came home for a snack. I remember one time, in 1979, being in the park and doing flips off of the monkey bars. A wood chip landed in my knee and I was bleeding. It hurt a lot. After a little crying, I walked to the house across from the park, because I knew a girl from school lived there. I was smart enough at 8 years old to figure out a solution to my problem. In case you missed it, I was BY MYSELF in the park doing flips off the monkey bars. If you are a parent today, I ask you to stop and think about that. My son is going to be 9 next week and I know that most of us wouldn’t let our kids do that today. We have a million reasons- many are justified too- about why we can’t and won’t let them do that, but my point is that I was NO SMARTER than my son is. The difference? I had the opportunity to experience life and figure out how to handle 8 year old problems. I was able to do that because I had the chance to experience 5 year old problems. And 6 year old problems. And 7 year old problems. And that was how I grew up in 1979. So how do I let my kids figure out their 6 and 9 year old problems? Maybe I need to stop looking at their lives with my 40-something eyes which are getting close to needing help seeing things up close. Maybe I need to stop trying to see their lives up close, let them experience things and just be there when they need me. Let them ASK for things, call a friend, have a fight and learn that they are better at solving their problems than I ever thought. With all that free time I might just be able to refocus on things that are important to me. I love to cook. Maybe I can spend time making a great dinner so I can hear what my kids did today in 2015.