Hi all! The Deputy here…I have the distinct honor of being Lenore’s guest blogger for several days because Lenore will be jetting off to Spain to promote the Free-Range Kid movement! Hopefully she’ll be sending in a few posts in between talk shows and tapas. ☺ I have been reading this blog for quite a while and am a big fan of Lenore’s message. I am also impressed with the thoughtful, compassionate, and often wonderfully funny responses from all of you. I’m rather new to the blogging world and your feedback during the next several days would be very much appreciated. Here goes:
Lenore’s trip to Spain has got me thinking. In fact it is all becoming clear to me now and I have finally figured out what has gone wrong with parenting today. I do believe it all started at the beginning of the 1980’s. When I was 20 I flew to Europe by myself (no email, no cell-phone, no atm card, no big deal). The trip was uneventful until the youngster behind me started banging the back of my seat with her feet. I turned around, peered between the backrests, and gently said, “Would you stop hitting my seat, please?” She gave me a sweet smile—a real one—and replied, “Ok!” And then before I could even take down my tray table, her father loomed over the back of my seat and the top of my head, and said, practically spitting because he was so angry, “Don’t…you…tell…my…daughter…what…to…do. I will decide if she is doing something wrong. She is MY daughter!” Weird! Scary! Creepy! However, because cute boys on Vespas and gelato on every corner awaited me I managed to forget all about it. Until now, that is. The reason that we even need a Free-Range Kids movement—that the idea of a free-range kid has to be reinvented–is because parents today see children as THEIRS. Their possessions, their projects, their private accomplishment. It’s all about “my” child which really means it’s all about “me”. The following incident, sent in to Lenore by a reader in Ontario, Canada, illustrates this perfectly. It’s a weird, scary, and creepy story about shockingly self-centered parents. After you finish reading, please post a comment so that she doesn’t feel alone…like she’s the only sane one on the plane having to deal with a psycho dad—or psycho playground moms.
From Sara in Ontario: Here is the skinny. There had been issues with older and younger kids having conflicts on the playground. When, say, the grade four kids and the grade one kids were trying to play a game of basketball or soccer together, there were multiple occasions each recess where the kids would be running to the teachers with complaints of the older kids being bossy and the younger kids following the older kids around even when the game had stopped. Understandably, the teachers on duty thought it needed to be addressed and a guideline was made that if kids were more than a grade apart, they were not to play together. This was only a guideline and only to be used as a tool for the teachers to be able to say to the kids that were complaining that they need to stop playing together because of this rule. The principal is very reluctant to designate certain areas of the yard to only certain grades. She likes that kids can intermingle, but wants a definite line that teachers can tell kids they’ve crossed if needed.
This, to me, is a symptom of the overprotective parenting so prevalent today. Had these kids (the younger and older ones) been left to defend themselves and think up solutions outside of the school, they would not have turned to the teachers so frequently to solve their problems. These are kids who are incapable of compromise because all of the compromising has been done for them. I can’t blame the teachers for becoming exasperated with it all.
Had the issue ended there, I would be ending this email on a more positive note. However, there is a group of parents who support this and want it enforced on the most strict way possible by designating an area of the yard for each grade. I had the opportunity to talk to one of these parents and her attitude scared me. She was adamant that the only reason a twelve year old would ever associate with a seven year old would be to prey on him. After I got over the shock and was able to talk again I told her about three real life occurrences at that very school: 1 – siblings have been playing together for years without incident; 2 – a grade seven soccer guru student has been giving “lessons” to his grade four brother and his brother’s friend; 3 – when my oldest was in grade two, she and her friends had a group of grade eight students help them make snowmen. This is what this group of parents are willing to sacrifice. The fact that they are perfectly willing to turn innocent TWELVE YEAR OLDS into potential predators is one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever encountered.
For me, the issue is over. I am not against the guideline for the teachers to use as needed. A note is going home to parents to explain exactly what the guideline is and how and when it will be used. I have a feeling that the issue is not over for the principal and the psycho group of parents. I will keep on top of it for sure. I have joined the Home and School Committee for the first time this year and hope to keep brining sanity to the insanity that can happen. I am happy to inform you, though, that we are planning not only a bake sale but a cake raffle. Long live the cupcake! And long live free play!