The Prison of Fearful Parenting

Hi Readers — This comment, inspired by the previous post, gets to the heart of the matter for me: Connecting. Free-Range Kids is about giving kids freedom, of course, but delve a little deeper and it is about trust: Trusting our kids, our neighbors, ourselves. And the more we trust and connect, the more safe and powerful we are. The more we distrust and disconnect, the more we look to the fear-mongering marketplace or draconian laws or plain old demagogues to protect us. Personally, I prefer connecting. — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: I love delving into the sociology of our collective hysteria about the dangers of current-day childhood.

I think in large part it is due to the death of community and interdependence brought on by wealth: a form of “affluenza.” …

These days, from birth on, your kid is yours, not the neighborhood’s. You live in near isolation in your little 4-bed, 2-bath prison and have to consciously ARRANGE interaction with other kids, sometimes weeks in advance.

Over time, since we don’t really know our neighbors and have so little shared history, we begin to buy into the media hype that there’s a serial killer on every corner and a molester in every bush.

There were bad actors back in the day; there are the same proportion of bad actors today. The only thing that has changed is our quality of life. It’s dismal, for now we are shackled together, parent and child, each of us growing more wary and less fulfilled by the minute.

I have to laugh about these affluence-driven, futile efforts to protect kids from each other and unforeseeable events. Wake up, people! The world might become really dangerous, on the level of boiling seas and unbreathable air and lack of foodstuffs. We may all be huddled together and interdependent again by necessity and not by choice. Then it will indeed seem outrageously silly that we ever had laws against leaving school-aged children unattended for half an hour.

For me, I am striving to equip myself and my kids with compassion. It seems to be a great gift in any circumstance, foreseen or not, and a return to interdependence is definitely on the horizon. Fear and judgement are always in long supply. Stock up on compassion now. — Mollie Kaye

75 Responses

  1. Ohhhhh…. I like “death of community due to affluenza.” This doesn’t just affect childrearing; it impacts all levels of urban life. For the last 25 years I’ve watched several neighborhoods near downtown Houston undergo “gentrification” or “revitalization” or whatever the developers are calling it this week and it has been a gradual but visible death of community. When you get rid of all the cute little bungalows with yards and porches (and busy-body grannies on every porch keeping an eye on things) and all the small affordable apartment complexes inhabitied by students, musicians, waiters, artists, immigrants, etc. who walk to the corner every day, and replace them with expensive four-to-a-lot townhouses or lot-line-to-lot-line McMansions whose busy executive residents have no interaction with their neighbors – in other words when you go from a front-porch pedestrian neighborhood to a garage-door-opener neighborhood – it might be good for property values but it is not good for quality of life.

  2. My son and I watched Down and Derby over the weekend. It’s about a bunch of dads who go crazy over building a derby car for the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. Definitely based in reality! But what hit me is that at one point the mom comes home and her son and 2 of his friends are sitting on the sidewalk and she casually asks them what they are doing today. It was as though she had gone to work or the store or wherever and it was just expected that they would roam around and set their own agendas. Like it should be! Now this movie can’t be more than a few years old. So that idea – that kids are self-thinking individuals – still has some credence somewhere!

    Sadly, I wish we lived in a neighborhood like that. We do in theory – but none of my son’s friends live close by.

  3. Excellent perspective, and so true.

  4. YES. Just, yes. I would say more, but Mollie said it all beautifully (as have you, Lenore, for a long time now).

  5. She is right about having to ARRANGE interaction with kids. People don’t believe in spontaneity of socializing anymore. I encountered much of this during my time in Tucson, AZ–sorry to badmouth that region, especially after the Giffords shooting, but during my time living there, I noticed people really frowned on you showing up at their house to socialize, if you hadn’t called first.

    The way they put it–and they were emphatically defensive of this point of view–“you don’t impose on my space by invading my house unannounced and expecting me to drop everything to entertain you. My time is MY TIME!! If friends & I get together, we have the consideration to arrange for it ahead in advance. We respect each other’s space that way.”

    This was the prevailing attitude even if no kids were involved. I noticed that the southwest, of which Tucson was a part, had this predominant attitude.

    So, now, people expect you to make an APPOINTMENT to see them, like they’re a doctor or dentist or like they’re some super-important and overly bothered person like a celebrity or the CEO of Exxon etc. Puh-leaze!

    I’ve seen much less of it in eastern Texas, thankfully, but I have seen it some just the same. If we stopped by and had the audacity to not call first, one some occasions (not as many) the person would look at us like we were the IRS and say things like “so, was there something you wanted?” I’m like–whatever happened to the wonder of spontaneous visits anymore?

    As for irrational fear of other people:

    As I mentioned before (email), we had an occasion to do otherwise recently. We were eating out at a Chinese buffet place, and for some reason the waitress took an exceptional liking to our (nearly) 2 year old son. She even tried to take his hand & walk him to the table herself (he pulled his hand back, it was kind of cute). At the table, she kept stopping by going on & on about how cute he was, and giving him probably a dozen fortune cookies.

    We took it as a GOOD thing, whereas I guarantee you many an other person would’ve taken offense and thought something was wrong with the waitress. Instead, it added an element of JOY to our life, and we even gave her a link to our site with photos of him so she could check out photos of him on her own time anytime she felt like it.

    And–if people on occasion stop by to say hi, we appreciate it. We don’t expect it to be pre-arranged, for them to make an appointment with us like we’re a doctor, or like we think we’re that important & busy with such important matters like the CEO of Exxxon.

    LRH

  6. I DO live in a neighborhood where these kinds of informal kid interactions happen. But it is a planned neighborhood — it’s called a “neo-traditional neighborhood” or “new urbanism.” And it really works. Just this past weekend, I sent my 7-year-old outside to “find neighbor kids” and play in the snow. She came back 1 1/2 hours later. They had built a sled snow hill down one of the house’s porch stairs. Classic! I didn’t worry about her. I didn’t check on her. I knew I’d find her if I just went out the front door and looked around the few houses nearby.

  7. Exactly–When neighbors were better aquainted, parents KNEW which 14 yr olds were responsible enough to be good babsitters and which ones to leave off the prospective sitter list. For example, my best friend sometimes babysat for my younger siblings if may parents and I all had something going on the same evening. One time she was also not available and suggested her sister as a substitute. My mom, knowing the sister, said thanks but no thanks and we made other arrangements.

  8. Larry, in defense of people wanting a phone call before someone drops by, I HATE droppers in. And not because I don’t want to socialize or whatever, but because I have 2 little kids, so my house gets pretty messy sometimes and I’d prefer a few minutes notice so I can straighten up before people come over.

    However, I do have some specific friends who could drop in at any time, because I know they won’t judge me for leaving a dirty diaper on the coffee table.

  9. BeQui I hear you, SOMEWHAT, and I can imagine that if constant visits grew to a certain level it might get irritating. It’s just that I remember growing up, or even when I was a teenager, how we were able to drop-in on friends of ours and they didn’t look at us like we had done something so vile & nasty. Often-times–yes, this included parents of little kids, too.

    (What you mentioned with regards to your close-friends, that’s what I like to see myself–that is, people drop-in, you spend time enjoying each other, and there’s no judgment over a little mess.)

    Even if it meant that what you had planned on doing was now interrupted, rather than being hostile about it (they came over & interrupted me from what I was planning to do), you realized that the bigger picture was that you were able to spend time with a friend, and they with you–and you realized the life enrichment which came from that, rather than griping because “they interrupted me!!”

    I remember how fun it was to go around visiting other people, in a very spontaneous way, without having to make appointments with them. People LIKED it that way. But sometime between then & now, things changed–and I don’t care for it much.

    (And again, to some extent, different regions are that way, as in eastern Texas I’ve seen much less of it than I did in Tucson AZ, and while living in Tucson I did have people tell me that people in the southwest tended to be that way. I hate to stereotype, though.)

    As you might can tell, the excerpt of “[you] have to consciously ARRANGE interaction with other kids, sometimes weeks in advance” really spoke to me. I think a lot of the loss of sense of community comes from that very thing.

    LRH

  10. I live in suburbia outside Chicago. Most all the neighbors know each other on the block. We all moved in together over a two year period. There is quite a bit of play going on now in decent weather times.

    What is unfortunate is that my oldest isn’t doing as much as the other kids, but it isn’t totally her fault. It is more her circumstance. See my daughter is a competitive swimmer. She practices 1.5 hours a night 4 nights a week. With travel and whatnot it turns into almost a 2.5 hours excursion. You couple that with the girl across the street that is 1 year older, but she is a gymnast and those two haven’t grown real close. They just aren’t around during school time together. Summers are a bit different as there is more time.

    But swimming, homework and dinner pretty much eats up my daughter’s time during the school year. Some people might think we are taking away her childhood, but swimming has been by her choice. She wants to get better and we explained to her how much time it will take and she wanted to do it. She is real close with her swim teammates though because she sees them so much, but no one lives on our block.

    So to sum things up. There is spontaneous playingn happening in the burbs of Chicago, but not a ton by my children.

  11. I know exactly what this blog post is talking about!

  12. I just finished reading about a family in the 1860s. The wife (being of a “certain” class) published the dates and times that she would be “at home.”

    “At home” ment a specific thing… it ment that she was willing to accept ANY guests that stopped by, and would have entertainment and refreshment on hand.

    I am not a great fan of “drop in guests” – though my dd’s friends are always welcome to drop in🙂 – but this MAY be my solution. I’m thinking of telling everyone I know that the 2nd Sunday of the month I’ll be “at home” all day and they should stop in… just to see what happens!

  13. Larry, we go to this Korean place where my kids, 4 months and 2 years have spent more time in the kitchen and behind the counter than at the table with us. The owners just love my kids and I love being able to go out for dinner and eat in peace!

    As for stopping by unannounced I would never ever begrudge an unannounced visit and I would stop what I was doing gladlly to socialize However, with two little ones and working on my doctorate I love a few minutes notice to pick up the house a bit.

    When I was little (k-3 grade) I remember if I ever got home from school and my mom wasn’t there and I wanted I could go to the neighbors (i loved hanging out at my neighbors, an older couple who spoiled me) and if they weren’t home the people next to them. my best friend lived across the street ( and that was why he was my best friend) and my two baby sitters down the street. ( and that was why they were my baby sitters). I have nothing but fond memories from there.

  14. Great post.

    Our affluence has encouraged most of us to be more selfish with our time. But where did we get the idea that we had a “Right to Private Time?

    I don’t like people just “dropping by the house” either. But I remember a day when it was much more common and accepted. In fact people looked forward to friends dropping by.

  15. Kind of a long post, a heads-up for the “skimmers” (of which I myself sometimes am).

    Getting to the “we don’t know our neighbors and think there’s a molester behind every bush”–I have found that to be the case myself. To wit: if you only observe someone from afar, their habits can seem scary. But when you meet them & talk, you may find out they’re not as scary as you think they are.

    Of course, sometimes, you find out they’re maniacs after all, and retreat behind your walls again. But as they say–nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    In fact, I can speak for this–one neighbor’s place borders ours somewhat, if you trudge through the woods enough, and I had found myself in that region on occasion. I never talked to them, never saw them anyway, but at one point noticed they were digging a new pond, and I thought–I’d just LOVE to be able to swim in that pond.

    Well one time I actually knocked on their door & just explained “if you see me in the woods behind here, nothing to worry about–I live across the way & explore the woods sometimes & get lost and end up here, nothing to worry about.” They were totally cool about it, and so I took a chance–I asked them “if I’m hot and end up here that way, would you mind if I took a cool dip in your pond?”

    They were nervous, but it was mainly over the fear of being liable if I were hurt (as Lenore calls it, thinking like lawyers) but they nervously agreed to it, reiterating “it gets to 15 feet deep, be careful.” I assured them I swim in such all the time just fine, and that I wouldn’t bring around all my friends either–it would just be me, and I could handle the water fine.

    Over time, they’ve seen me swim across that thing back & forth several times each time I go there, no problem, I never bring any friends, they’ve learned I’m not a threat. They’ve even socialized with me a LITTLE bit here & there, once when their dog had puppies they asked me if I knew anyone who wanted any. I also asked them if they had a computer, they said no–I told them if they ever wanted to get one for going online, I’d help them find one on the cheap & even fix it for them (I have computer skills somewhat beyond the average person, although not quite at the “Geek Squad” level).

    Anytime I want to, when it’s warm, I can just go over there and enjoy a great swim, only a 15 minute walk from here. If they were to need a computer on the cheap or one they had purchased fixed, I’d gladly return the favor. No we don’t exchange Christmas gifts, but there is SOME sense of connecting & sharing going on there.

    That’s community, the long version.

    LRH

  16. Much quicker post (sorry if I’m making your “new message” beep go crazy, Lenore).

    View Point The last 2 sentences of your post–that is exactly what I’m saying. As for your 2nd paragraph–first-sentence, I couldn’t agree more. People are just so selfish with their time that any drop-ins are an “invasion of my space.”

    What may surprise you–second-sentence, I actually understand the “right to private time,” it’s just the EXTENT to which it’s taken, and people being so focused on that to the extent they fail to realize the benefits of allowing a little intrusion when it means friends can visit with you spontaneously without having to worry that they’re going to tick-off your overly sensitive boundaries. In my experience, you’ll still have plenty of private time even if you aren’t hostile to drop-ins, unless you’re a famous celebrity–and really, how many of us are “all that?”

    LRH

  17. I get so frustrated in the line to drop my daughter off at school. The kid gets out of the car in front of me and the parent SITS there in the car, WATCHING dear Suzy walk to the gate. As if something terrible might happen from the car to the gate. There are 8 cars behind you, so move! Forget letting kids walk or ride their bikes to school, these parents don’t even trust their kids to make it the 50 feet from the parking lot to the playground.

  18. I’m trying hard right now to make it easier for my kids to have time with friends right now. Haven’t had any luck getting neighborhood kids to be allowed to come play, although my kids can sometimes play at their houses, so I’m focusing on my son’s fellow kindergarteners.

    I’ve been talking to as many of the other parents as possible, telling them that I want to arrange a regular park day with the kids, whoever shows up, shows up. I’ve gotten some good interest, although we don’t have a regular day. I tell them they can invite any other kids they know – this isn’t for one on one play, this is for kids playing wildly at the park.

    I’m making some progress. Got a group going to the park on Friday, the exact number depending on who’s over the current bug going around the class. A few of us are discussing which day of the week would be best for a regular park day.

    I like this because no one has to host, and if only one family shows, hey, the kids are still at the park and can still have fun. With any luck it will lead to kids going to friends’ houses and having more play time together.

  19. Thanks for sharing that comment. It is so true. I will have to spread it around.

  20. What a nice article. She talks about how we might be driven together by problems soon enough. I work forty plus hours a week as a teacher and my husband works 50 hours a week and has a 2hr round trip commute each day. We also live 3 hrs away from our nearest family. I am often parenting alone, and I find that I have been forced to trust my neighbors and friends because of this. And it has been a good thing. I often have the two neighbor girls (8 and 9) play with and sometimes watch my daughter in the yard for a while. I called the neighbors to watch my daughter when I had to run to the mechanic and didn’t have a carseat available. My neighbors know that during snow storms my husband gets trapped out of town and now they help me by snowblowing my front sidewalk. When I was ill with the stomach flu last week, I very nearly called my neighbors to stay home with my sleeping daughter while I ran to the doctor (though I ended up not needing to go). The point is, I am GLAD I have been forced to get to know my neighbors. I try to help them out too! It’s nice, especially when you don’t have family.

  21. Again, I’ll iterate that I live in a PLANNED community. So, people who live here were LOOKING to know their neighbors, but we really do have lots of informal interaction. The summers are better than the winter, and we have a park across the street from my house that is the center of kid play. I’ve even opened up my house to several random kids in desperate need of a bathroom when home was too many blocks away! I’ve also left my first grader at the park for a few minutes, while I helped my younger one (usually a bathroom break again!) I just let another parent know, and they say they’ll keep an eye on her.

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  23. Yes and no Jim. I live in a GA neighborhood that is certainly undergoing “gentrification”. We live in your so called “four to a lot townhomes”. We chose the neighborhood for it’s diversity and walkability. We chose the townhome because it allowed us to live on one income so that one of us could be a stay-at-home parent that is VERY active in our community. Many friends live in the “mcmansion” style homes and they have stay-at-home parents that add so much to the quality of life in our community — volunteering at local events, schools etc. Not every executive is anti–community. Not every grannie on our street is pro-community either.

  24. “I think in large part it is due to the death of community and interdependence brought on by wealth: a form of “affluenza.” …”

    Don’t discount the media hyperventilating everyday about some “fears.” Some parents lap that up, making them paranoid of their own neighborhood.

  25. When you said “affuenza,” I was envisioning death from bird flu as a result of working with the Aflak duck😉

  26. This article spoke to me in a way that few “parenting” articles. I’m probably on the uptight border of the free-range end of the spectrum (nowhere near helicopter status, but I’m a worrier by nature, and not just when it comes to my kids), but I’ve been kind of lamenting this very social shift as my kids have gotten older.

    When I was a young child, if my sister and I were bored and wanted to do something with someone other than each other, we knocked on our next-door neighbor’s door. If their parents said they could play, we played. If not (one set of neighbors was very religious/family-oriented so they often had to politely decline), we tried the neighbors on the other side. No one thought it was weird, no one thought our parents were neglectful or “pawning their kids off on someone else,” because it was just the social norm. No one was obligated to feed anyone’s kids, and it was a RARE treat to play inside our friends’ houses. We were outside pets, so to speak. No one’s space was invaded because, when it came to kids anyway, saying “no, not right now,” was no big deal.

    BUT, if someone fell and got hurt, any number of clucking mother hens and roaring papa bears swept in and applied band-aids and a popsicle. When some neighborhood bullies had taken over the bike trails through the woods behind the local park, you can bet that a few big ol’ beer-drinking Wisconsin fathers accompanied us out the next few Saturdays and explained to them exactly what would happen if any more seven year-old girls ended up knocked off of their bikes and tied to trees. Far from roaming unsupervised, we had an entire neighborhood’s worth of eyes on us. Looking back, I realize what a special thing we had, by today’s standards. I got yelled at by a whole pack of mothers.

    I’m not sure I will be able to do the same with my own boys, not because the country or town are any less safe than they were back then, but because the climate has shifted away from that community responsibility. Because no one’s letting their kids play unsupervised in the false belief that it’s unsafe to do so, it is actually becoming unsafe to do so.

    Free-range parenting in an isolated, nose-in-your-own-business community is, quite frankly, a little terrifying. Who runs home to get an adult if someone is seriously hurt? Where is the safety-in-numbers that is so effective against bullying?

    It makes perfect sense, really. As we (and by “we,” I mean “we, as a society, on average, in most places”) have drawn inward, away from anyone with whom we don’t share a last name or a meticulously researched and selected parenting philosophy, we have by that very action made necessary more supervision and less freedom.

    Man, that’s depressing.

  27. Eight million paragraphs, and I’ve got a typo in the first sentence. Insert the word “do” at the end of the sentence.

    *bangs head on desk*

  28. I really think this is an affluenza thing we had to move suddenly due to my husbands job, our house never sold and due to a lot of circumstances and my unwillingness to go back to work we wound in a mobile home park. This has been suprisingly amazing, it is a very nice park and almost everyone in it is either retired or a young family, There is a park and a pool. All the kids play outside all the time and its accepted even expected that kids 5+ will be running free. My 2 year old escaped our fenced backyard and went for a walk by herself she was brought back within a few minutes by a neighbor and they did not call CPS, they told her to bring her mom next time she wanted to visit. I don’t miss our old fancy neighborhood at all.

  29. I do agree that fear has gripped many parents. But let’s not rewrite history. Just because you knew your neighbors or were part of a community didn’t mean that bad things didn’t happen. Most child molestation cases are perpetrated by someone the child knows (likely the parents too). I’m not advocating we become paranoid of everyone, but that we listen to our guts, our instincts, and our kids. You can take in info but you don’t have to act on it. You can be aware without being paranoid.

  30. Living in an area that has experienced devastating floods this is so true.

    Thousands of strangers helping people ’empty out’ their destroyed homes, people baking food to give away, people walking streets giving away free bottles of water,

    the electricity goes out so you can’t stay in your aircon house so people are chatting to the neighbours.

    Sometimes disasters will give you what you should be doing.

    I have a funny story about not knowing your neighbours. Our house is on a skinny peice of land with garage around the side/back of our house. When I first moved here and had a car I never used the front entrance of my house. One day at the shops my daughter is talking to a friend from her daycare. As I am a SAHM I often pick my kids up earlier than working mums and rarely met any of them. So I introduce myself to the lady and we chat about where we live.

    Awkwardness when we mention the street.. um same street, and house numbers… we are diagonal across the road neighbours. FOR TWO YEARS!!

    To be fair I did introduce myself to her when I first moved in, but as she worked full time and had lived here for 20 years (so already knew alot of locals and didnt ‘need’ anymore friends) we had just never seen eachother again or ran in the same circles and didnt recognise eachother.

    NOW our kids are inseperable and I swear there is a rut ground into the path between our two houses!!

    And lenore as a follower for about a year or so now ( I started with letting my kids play at the park alone at around 6 and 8, they more usually play out on the street/lane though and now they are almost 10 and 8 there 4 year old sisters often tags along now

    I finally let my kids walk home alone (the 10 and 8) from school this week. They were a litle late but very happy. I was worried about the several streets (without walking lights) they would have to cross and the busy intercity traffic around here, but as we have been walking/riding for years I knew they would be ok. I also wanted to start this year as it will be the last year to be able to do so as next year I will have to sign my 5 year old in and out of prep so will HAVE to go to the school anyway.

  31. I live “out in the country” so I have to drive just about everywhere, but I usually take the same 2 or 3 routes everywhere I go. I’ve gotten the urge on many an occasion to stop at certain houses and complement them on their sunflowers, ask what type of perennials are growing under the maple tree, or just say that I really like the new color they chose for their front porch. They are not neighbors, exactly, but I live in the littlest big town in Ohio, so I certainly wouldn’t regard them as strangers, either!
    I have yet to develop the nerve to do this, but if someone else dropped by to talk about my daisies, I would be thrilled! What a way to make a new friend!

  32. Yes! Community = homeland security. One of my favorite memories is of the big four day power outage the midwest had a few years ago. Our whole little street gathered around a couple of grills in a backyard, shared food, and talked about how we’d help each other if it went on much longer. To this day I feel so much closer to all of them because we were brought together out of necessity.

  33. My children (8, 4) play together for hours outside unsupervised. Our yard is not fenced and we live on beach front property. If they are going to leave our property, they come upstairs and let me know where they are going. Unfortunately, we live in a neighborhood with no other children nearby😦 or else Miss 8 would be allowed to bike/walk over to a house to play.

  34. She has the problem but not the cause. Isolation brought on by wealth? All I see in the gossip columns or reality TV is rich kids partying, socializing, and doing just too much together. Money has nothing to do with it because you see the same problem of isolation in poor neighborhoods. Sounds like an attack on society as a whole, more anti-capitalism uber-environmental nonsense to me. The next to last paragraph proves the weird agenda. (Of course 2012 will be soon be upon us, right?) Cute word though.

  35. Beautiful!

  36. I love my neighborhood. I live on a double-cul-de-sac so there’s always (more in the summer) kids outside playing. Before I had my son, I’d actually go outside sometimes and play basketball with them, or the kid next door would ask me to throw the baseball around with him, or something. Now that my son is over 2, I love being able to just go outside with him, and he has kids to play with. Sometimes the older kids (10-12) will offer to watch him so I can do something else (well, probably more so there isn’t an adult around!), and they all get along great.

    Now for my other friends with kids (not in my neighborhood), yes I’ve definitely found I have to schedule stuff with them. It’s rare I can call them up and say “hey, you guys want to bring so-and-so over this afternoon?” They’re usually already scheduled. Sometimes I feel like we’re the only parents who don’t schedule our kid 24×7 around here.

  37. Yes, Cora. Bad things happened in the good old days. Children were molested in the good old days.

    Parents didn’t take their older kids into opposite gender bathrooms with them in the good old days, however.

    They didn’t block traffic around the school bus stop keeping warm and watchful in their mini vans so their children wouldn’t get kidnapped in the good old days.

    Mothers didn’t attack Mayors for rescuing their children from burning vehicles in the good old days.

    Children weren’t afraid to answer rescue volunteers calling for them when they were lost in the woods in the good old days.

    That’s why they were the good old days.

    I once heard the Turner network host mentioning how New York street scenes in the movies drastically changed almost overnight during the late 1940’s.

    Neighbors literally once sat out on “the stoop” socializing and visiting up until that year, then scenes like that disappeared – forever after.

    What caused the disappearance of thronging neighbors?

    T.V.

    I Love Lucy replaced Love Thy Neighbor.

    Friends and neighbors were replaced by television sets.

    The same television sets that now tell us to avoid strangers, avoid our neighbors, to distrust our own friends and families, teachers and ministers.

    The same television sets that bring murder, mayhem and dismembering into our lives.

    Let’s all give Nancy Grace a call tonight to tell her what an “angel from heaven” she is, and thank her for “being there” for us.

  38. I can’t take credit for the word “affluenza;” I think there’s even a book with that title.

    What Becca O mentions about living in the trailer park is EXACTLY what I’m talking about. I have come to understand that the worst of my own discontent as a person and a parent comes directly from my acute desire for community and interdependence. We evolved to live that way, and most of us are suffering greatly but can’t quite identify what’s missing.

    Larger houses, more security systems and ever-more-draconian limitations on kids’ freedom to navigate their own neighbourhoods is NOT making anyone safer, and it certainly doesn’t seem to be improving anyone’s quality of life. The basic necessities are met in the trailer park as well as the McMansion. But when we “arrive” and “make it” to that coveted “every family for themselves” life in our lovely little suburban dream home, we find out what that dream actually does to families—causes them to implode with resentment, anger, and frustration, for no tiny group of people, no matter how loving, can always meet each other’s needs. That’s where community comes in.

    I would also hazard that about 90% of the prescriptions for SUIs and benzodiazepines (anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs) could be traced directly to the lack of community and interdependence as well. Hell, it’s scary and boring trying to do all of this on your own! We all think the experiences we’re having in our little boxes are unique! They’re not! We aren’t alone, we’ve just arranged it that way.

    As far as being anti-capitalism, well, I guess you got me there, as fear (of judgement as well as physical danger) seems to be the main motivator for most purchases in the US and I’m not too crazy about that. And yeah, I guess you could say I’m über-environmentalist, too—although I don’t necessarily think shrinking down the scale of our lifestyle footprint will save the planet at this point. It might save us some heartache, though, in whatever time we do have to enjoy our lives on this planet.

    Quality of life is not measured in square feet, and yet we put this buffer of indoor air around ourselves, call it wonderful, then wonder why so many kids and adults are depressed and anxious!

    Give me the simple life. Not so simple to find these days.

  39. I’m going to catch some flack for what I’m about to say here, but affluenza and suburban dreams have been around a lot longer than helicopter parenting and our fear factor mindset.

    “Super Mom” stuff started right around the same time as “I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan” started.

    It’s the daycare dilema.

    It’s the old “Quality vs. quanity” conundrum.

    Everyone pretends it’s anything and everything BUT that – but what else is this but a big public show of PROVING to yourself and the whole wide world how MUCH you REALLY REALLY REALLY love your child.

    I love my kid so much I’m going moonbat nutty showing the world I’m the world’s greatest mom.

    It takes TWO to achieve and maintain the McMansion lifestyle for the most part these days. It takes TWO to achieve and maintain the trailer park lifestyle, come to think of it.

    It’s guilt packaged and presented as “love”.

  40. The book “Affluenza” is by Oliver James, a British psychotherapist who also has a number of very interesting titles re parenting, relationships, etc.

  41. Some perspective – from the book ‘Three Cups of Tea’ (highly recommend) – about a Western woman who spent 18 years living in a remote Himalayan village :

    “Norberg-Hodge continues to argue not only that Western development workers should not blindly impose modern ‘improvements’ on ancient cultures, but that industrialized countries had lessons to learn from people like Ladahkis about building sustainable societies.”

    In my own experiences, I have seen village upon village from the Middle East to Africa to India to Asia where the kids are still raised ‘by the village’. You know in your heart and soul that they are more in touch with humanity than we are….. Affluenza is a disease, and a deceptively clever one at that. Two year after our amazing world trip and I’ve caught a case of it again already.

  42. Tried to get my 9 year old to just “go out and play” today. He came back in, said there was nothing but grass and birds singing out there. I said, “Well just go run up the street, get some exercise!” He replies, “MOM, I can’t just go running up the street without a grown up or someone else-that is just WEIRD!”
    Sigh. I will keep at it.

  43. I don’t like to base assumptions on socioeconomic class. But it is true around me that the wealthier neighborhoods are empty of kids in the afternoon or evening. Not b/c they have helicopter moms who do not allow them outside. But b/c their time is filled with prepaid extracurricular activities like sports, dance, etc. I’m not saying those are bad things at all. I’m just saying that is true that when there is not household money for those types of activities you see more kids hanging around and playing outside.

    What I think is odd about extracurricular activities is that in my generation they were generally linked to school (school sports teams or school chorus, etc) so we were involved in them with our neighbors and they didn’t start until we were school age children—sometimes not even until we were in middle school. Now scheduled activities tend to private club or groups instead of through the school and also begin at preschool age.

    Again I’m not saying this is good or bad but I’ve noticed the result is fewer kids playing at home in wealthier neighborhoods and more kids running loose in those places where parents can’t afford the alternative.

    As an example, I responded with a local fire dept to a call for a “child stuck on balcony” a few weeks ago in the late afternoon. We arrived in a lower middle class minority neighborhood. A young boy had forgotten his key and, with the help of friends, climbed up a side post to the balcony of his family’s townhouse, hoping to get in through the upstairs sliding door. (This actually seems like a reasonable thing to try to me, although you’ll have to take my word from the scene that it wasn’t that dangerous) Unfortunately, that door was locked, too,and then he was afraid (rightly so) to jump down. The firemen used the truck ladder to get him down. We were surrounded by tons (and I mean tons) of school aged children—walking, on bikes, on scooters—who arrived to check out the action. There were plenty of middle school aged children with the hand of a younger sibling or cousin in tow. One of the teens was the one who called for assistance on her cell phone. There was not an adult in sight!

    And, imagine this—every child looked happy, healthy, and connected to the children around him/her. They obviously all knew each other well and were joking and teasing the whole time. BUT they also knew when someone needed help, encouraged him to stay where he was safe and not risk jumping and called for help when they needed it.

    Maybe those children would rather be in a fancy dance studio taking tap or at after school baseball camp. I don’t know. But as someone who grew up in the country and whose kids are living in the country now, it sure looked like fun to live in that neighborhood with all those kids around!!!

  44. While affluence may have some affect, I think the real culprit is media. If a child is abducted and killed in Fresno, everyone in the US knows about it in 5 minutes and it is then reported on for 5 months. People then deduce bad things happen way more often than they do.

    Around 50 people die from lightning strike every year in the US. Based on last count, 115 kids go missing to never be found or be killed. 37,000 people were killed in car accidents in 2008. We have real risks, but weighing them can be a challenge.

  45. I saw some quotes on an unrelated topic, but those quotes are absolutely relevant:

    *Too often we…enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. John F. Kennedy*

    In other words, it’s easy to think we have a serial killer or child molester on every block if we don’t bother to look at any data, or to MEET THE NEIGHBORS.

    *People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe. Andy Rooney*

    The random story about a child being kidnapped from the bus stop feeds my fear that my child is a target and will never be safe unless I keep them clutched to me at all times.

    *A great many people mistake opinions for thought.
    Herbert Prochnow*

    Chicken Little…

    *Opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than plagues or earthquakes. Voltaire*

    …and neighborhoods vacant of all activity….

  46. There have always been national news stories of kidnapped or murdered children riveting the nation. Who here has never heard of the Lindburgh baby?

    Disappeared children are not just on TV, but on milk cartons and flyers in every grocery store.

    There has always been affluential neighborhoods and rich kids that don’t associate with the unwashed masses.

    Nothing new there.

    Single parenting as commonplace, “Latch key kids” daycare centers and Nanny Cams? All relatively new. Unheard of from the early ’70’s and back.

    At no other time in history have BOTH parents relinquished their children on a full time, lifetime, basis to the care of complete strangers.

    It’s an unatural arrangement that has ushered in an era of daycare witch hunt debacles and “preditors under every rock” fears that grow with each passing year.

    What came first? Nancy Grace’s nightly fear mongering or helicoptering parenthood looking for a new outlet?

    It’s not neighbors not being around and in touch with kids – it’s PARENTS not being around their own kids much and letting their guilt and imaginations run wild to make up the void.

  47. So true, it’s not in the kids. It is how the parents raised their kids. The value inside their home reflects to kids
    attitude and how they interact to other kids.
    Great post!

  48. My nine year old stays home after school. We tried ridiculously overpriced after care and he was miserable. These days, his homework gets done. He is happier. He has friends in the neighborhood that he didn’t have before. Last night, I got questions about which stores he could visit on his own. He keeps hacking at those apron strings and I let him. I want my son to be self-sufficient. Besides, I trust him to make good decisions.

    I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again, THANK YOU, LENORE for sending your nine year old out on the subway. Free Range is the way to raise children.

  49. I think part of it is a backlash against women entering the workforce. When women began to assert that they could be good moms AND good doctors, lawyers, pastors, etc. society responded by escalating the standards of what constitutes being a “good mom”. Fearmongering has raised the bar so high in terms of the level of attention and safety you have to provide for your children that only a totally focused stay-at-home parent could possibly attain it. Even the traditional at home parents of previous generations wouldn’t have passed this test.

  50. SgtMom said “At no other time in history have BOTH parents relinquished their children on a full time, lifetime, basis to the care of complete strangers.”

    Actually (and not picking on SgtMom here), nobles way back in the Middle ages and such used to send their kids out at age 9 to say, be a page at the court of some knight, so they could learn eventually to be knights themselves. Kids used to be sent to boarding school, full time, as young as 9 or 10. (Remember the book Prince Caspian? All 4 of our heroes were en route to boarding school). Kids were apprenticed to this trade or that, and they had to go live with the glassblower, blacksmith, or what have you. Letting ‘strangers’ raise your kids is nothing particularly new. And even those kids in daycare full time still see more of their folks than kids in a boarding school would. It’s just that our expectations for parent/child contact are much higher now.

    Not that I am advocating sending all kids to boarding school. Just mine, if they don’t pick up their blasted legos…

  51. BMS – Military school is always an option!:)

  52. Talk about prison! If I could never leave my kids home alone (11, 10 and 7) I would certainly feel as if I lived in a prison.

    And yes, I leave the 7 yr old home alone for up to an hour or two when all he is doing is listening to a really long book and I *know* he is not going to budge from the couch.

  53. Follow up to “kcs”. I agree to a certain extent — I work full-time and find it very difficult to get all my hours in. If I had to either stay home or find a sitter every time I walked out the door to work, I’d be utterly broke.

    What’s a single Mom supposed to do when you can’t afford to stay home AND you can’t afford to pay for babysitting?! AND you know your kids will be fine if left home alone!?

  54. Actually, by the time kids were 12, if they were not in apprenticeship programs, they were working in the family business/home, expected to pull their own weight. Many started years earlier.

    We have infantilized our children so much that they do not know what to do unless they are sitting in front of the tube. Parents are not their servants, there to cater their every need. Children have responsibilities in the house and home even today. All school is for is to teach the children how to stay infantile for that much longer.

  55. Sometimes I wonder what the difference is between where I live now and where I lived 13 years ago. In fact I dream of the openness of what I had before moving, people DID Drop in without calling first, and they knew if someone was at the house they’d be welcomed in. I don’t remember ever having an empty house during the weekends, and we often had a stray or two drop in during the week.

    Then we moved and in about 15 years I’ve had maybe 10 people drop in without pre-planning and even most of them called on their cell phones just before they showed up to make sure it was ok.

    One of the difference is almost everyone has a cell phone where even 10 years ago this wasn’t the case.

  56. “Actually, by the time kids were 12, if they were not in apprenticeship programs, they were working in the family business/home, expected to pull their own weight. Many started years earlier.”

    It depends what time/place in history you’re talking about. In 18th century America non-farming families, 12 was the normal age to begin apprenticeship or service outside or within the family, and no “formal” vocational training really occurred before that — though daily life required a fairly complex set of skills they would have started acquiring much earlier. In medieval European town life, and throughout history among farming families, it was more as you say — kids usually stayed within the family business or farm, gradually learning necessary skills from a very young age and being qualified to do a great deal of the work by their early teens.

    But the point remains the same. There are families now where teen-aged kids are not expected to do basic household chores because “their job is getting good grades so they can go to a good college.” One would THINK that learning how to manage work life (in their case education) vs. home life would be as necessary a skill to later life as formal education, but we seem to live in a society where people think domestic duties can just be wished away in favor of paid work and/or academic life — and then when that doesn’t work, we’re allowed to just complain about how we have to do them anyway, as if that makes it better.

  57. Gahh. I hate that. “Oh, little McBratleigh doesn’t do chores. We just don’t have time between homework and soccer and elocution lessons and she whines so much anyways it is easier to just do it myself.”

    No way. My kids have learned that you pay for fun things (extracurriculars, extra computer time, mom’s undivided attention with regards to lego construction, etc) by finishing homework, chores, and instrument practice, every day, very few exceptions. If you were sick, fine. If a cub scout activity went until 6:30 and we didn’t eat until 7, you might get to put off the chores until morning. But if it’s 8pm and your chores aren’t finished because you decided not to get things done before kung fu? Too bad. You still have to empty your hamper and drag all the stuff to the basement. Suck it up.

  58. Kt moxie- where do you live, if you don’t mind my asking? How do you find one of those intentional neighborhoods?

    This comment:

    “Far from roaming unsupervised, we had an entire neighborhood’s worth of eyes on us.”

    This is what its like here (Baja, Mexico). You may THINK you’re minding your own business, but everyone knows everything that goes on around here. The neighborhood I grew up in was like this too.

  59. BMS,- Not to “pick on” you, I don’t recall that the average American is cnsidered a “noble”.

    Aprentice programs at age 12 are VERY different from leaving a 6 week old newborn to the care of a total stranger.

    I challenge anyone to come up with a time in history where Average persons -as a majority group – left their children – from newborn infant to independant age in the care of virtual strangers.

    This isn’t a “backlash” against women working.

    This is women themselves imposing outlandishly impossible standards to “prove” they have not forsaken their children while proving they are wonderful Doctors, Lawyers and Indian Chiefs too.

    Those women who don’t play along will pay the price…

    …until one flies over the Cuckoo’s nest and starts a blog called Free Range Kids…

    (which could also be known as The Empress Isn’t Wearing Any Clothes….)

  60. I’m just saying that having kids raised by someone not the biological parent isn’t particularly new.

    Besides, my kids went to foster care the day after they were born, where they remained until 5 or 6 months of age and came to us. They lived.

  61. […] read a letter posted at Free Range Kids called The Prison of Fearful Parenting. I think our society has built a prison of fearful living. I was afraid of the other cars, the […]

  62. BMS,- Not to “pick on” you, I don’t recall that the average American is considered a “noble”.

    Why not? We have more comfort than they did. Smaller houses, sure, but look at all the STUFF. And fresh food in the middle of winter! Exotic spices at affordable prices! More clothes than we can wear out – and we don’t keep wearing them once they’re dirty, either, because washing them is ludicrously simple.

    We can all of us read, and any of us can, in theory, get an excellent and prestigious job.

    Apprentice programs at age 12 are VERY different from leaving a 6 week old newborn to the care of a total stranger.

    Well, since we started off comparing ourselves to nobles, might I mention… wetnurses? Historically speaking, anybody with the money to outsource their parenting did. If they could hire somebody to change diapers and deal with tantrums and teach their kids to read, they were more than willing to do so. If they had to send their kids away at 8 to get a good education – well, at least their kids were out of their hair, right?

    I challenge anyone to come up with a time in history where Average persons -as a majority group – left their children – from newborn infant to independent age in the care of virtual strangers.

    The average person in the past didn’t have the opportunities to do so. It’s not a fair question.

  63. BS and Uly –

    This isn’t something to get defensive about.

    Your denial is pretty much the problem I am talking about.

    Instead of facing it for what it is, you are pulling a shuck and jive to “justify”.

    I am not attacking working mothers. I am merely stating our current state of affairs is unique – 51% of the work force is now women -which is not something that has been addressed or dealt with effectively in our recent history.

    BS -Children are more likely to die in foster care than not, but that is an unrelated matter to the topic at hand.

    Are saying you adopted children from foster care and “they lived”? Or are you saying your children were taken from you to foster care and later returned to you and “they lived”? Your statement is rather apalling either way. “They lived” isn’t much of an endorsement.

    Uly -Women who engaged wet nurses did not drop their children off at a wet nurse’s home for the entire day. The wet nurse came to HER home, where she supervised her child’s care immediately and directly.

    “Relatively speaking” the poorest of the poor of us lives far more ‘noble-ly” than nobles did.

    That’s not the point.

    A nobleman’s lifestyle was rarified – not the average citizen’s lifestyle. Disenfranchised Noblemen’s children did not end up in gangs or addicted to drugs in over whelming numbers as is the undeniable trend in today’s “noblemen’s” children.

    My point is – the hyper over protectiveness and elevated fear factor is the result of guilt – not an enhanced sense of “love”.

    My question is not a matter of “fairness” or not. It is simply a reality check. This is a unique situation in our remembered history, and quite frankly – we aren’t dealing with it very well.

  64. “My point is – the hyper over protectiveness and elevated fear factor is the result of guilt – not an enhanced sense of “love”.”

    However, under your theory, working mothers should be overprotective while SAHMs should be free range, after all, they have no guilt of letting others raise their children. That is certainly not the reality in my world. Some of the most helicopter parents I know are SAHMs. I’m not saying that helicopter parenting is caused by SAHMs or knocking SAHMs in any way since I know working mothers who are helicopter too, just stating that overprotectiveness is not solely a result of guilt over not being home with your children.

    Overprotectiveness is just the irrational fear of the day. Whether it’s the McCarthy hearings, the Cold War, Swine Flu, fear of AIDS, crime, gangs, affluent societies live in an extreme level of irrational fear because we have no real fears of survival. During the evolutionary period, healthy fear was bread into the population because life was downright dangerous and living to adulthood was a crap shoot. Today, absent some freak accident, illness or criminal act, you will live to 80+ years if you take decent care of yourself. There is no longer a real threat to our survival so humans have been focusing on irrational fears. It’s been happening for generations, it has just been different fears.

    Why we are focused on this particular fear at this time is a number of things that have been mentioned. Lack of community, highly mobile population that doesn’t raise their children in the same place they were raised anymore or even in the same place for very long, the media, war between SAHMs and working moms, etc. Whether any particular individual is helicopter or free range is a function of that person’s personality and their own unique reasons. Some may be helicopter because of guilt over working all day but others are helicoptering for completely different reasons.

    “Women who engaged wet nurses did not drop their children off at a wet nurse’s home for the entire day. The wet nurse came to HER home, where she supervised her child’s care immediately and directly.”

    That is partially true, the wet nurse did come to the mother’s home. However, there was little to no immediate and direct supervision. The mother lived her life – out of the house or in another part of the house – while the wet nurse/nanny/governess/tutor cared for the children in the nursery. The mother occasionally VISITED her children but was not an active participant in parenting. And this was 24/7, not simply 9 to 5.

  65. This isn’t a discussion of SAHM vs. working moms.

    ALLLL moms are getting swept up into the hysteria and foolishness.

    SAHMs certainly aren’t immune from guilt, either.

    “Why aren’t you helping out”? “How can you just…sit around all day doing nothing”? “I’d go nuts if I had “nothing” to do”.

    God forbid something should happen to your child under your watch.

    Some of the nuttiest mothers you find are SAHMs. Watching Oprah’s breathless fear mongering is enough to send anyone over the edge.

    Maybe oneupmanship is a factor here, as well, but that was not what I was angling for. I have no doubt the demand that no home baked cookies should be passed out at school because of possible unsanitary kitchens was a SAHM initiative.

    You can’t just be a Mom anymore – you have to prove and justify staying home or working, and everyone is questioning the choice they make.

    Either choice seems to foster guilt and over compensating behavior.

  66. You’re also ignoring the bulk of human history in which most people outsourced parenting and focusing on the very brief post-industrial – mostly post WWI – time. The fact is that the SAHM who tends to the house and children while dad works is 100% a construct of the middle class, predominantly in the post-WWI period.

    Prior to that time period, there were 3 classes of people – rich, poor and slave. The rich outsourced parenting to wet nurses, nannies and boarding schools while the mothers – and sometimes fathers depending on nature of the wealth – did nothing. In poor and slave families, everyone worked. It may just be in their own fields, but mom was not focused on child rearing. The mother would take the children to work when they were still nursing, but after that care was left in other members of the community – grandmothers, elders, someone incapable of working, older siblings – until the child was old enough to work him or herself.

  67. Greay post, Mollie.

    I couldn’t agree more – worry yourself sick about a scratch or imagined boogeyman, but try not to think at all about what’s really happening to the world our kids will inherit.
    But there is it: a bunch of parents can apply silly laws that smother their kids quite easily. They can’t haul the fools out of Afghanistan, though. (or squeeze more cheap oil into that soft squishy noughat earth center so we can go back to the Leave it to Beaver ’50’s .
    Strange psychology in that.

    I still think a lot of this stuff is born in suburbia – ironically enough. Not the kind of suburbia I grew up in….but the new “improved” one – the one with the houses 500 feet apart, big enough to hold 32 related people, but only 2 point 5 people live there.

    Meanwhile downtown, where all the “scary” stuff is supposed to be, explosions of kids swarm my neighborhood daily, all piling into tiny perfect houses after they’ve exhausted themselves conquering the community.

    And on the idea of spontaneous visiting and carrousing around the neighborhood….kids are by nature spontaneous – it’s adults who are “formal.”
    (let’s just plan that playdate for 2pm following Saturday the 23rd, shall we? – just have your people, contact mine…RSVP)

    Sad thing is….I often think many suburbanites don’t really want to live that way, but that’s the nature of the beast they’ve bought into. Only it was “never for the kids, honey.”
    That’s just a godawful lie, top down. The $5 gallon of gas is going to produce a lot of real immobilized kids… (pedal cars, anyone?)
    Yabba, dabba, doo.

  68. “I have no doubt the demand that no home baked cookies should be passed out at school because of possible unsanitary kitchens was a SAHM initiative.”

    Actually, I would think this was more a working mother initiative. This smacks of guilt over not having the time to bake for the bake sale so coming up with a “real” reason that store-bought goods are better.

    I’m not saying that guilt doesn’t play a part; it’s just not the full picture. For every single helicopter parent, you have a different reason for being helicopter. Some is guilt. Some is not knowing what to do now that we don’t live near extended family to teach us how to parent. Some is difficulty in conceiving. Some is actual experience of yourself or someone close to you. Mostly, it’s just we need something to fear and pedophiles is the fear of the day.

    But to say that the phenomenon is caused by the rise of working parents when the SAHM was actually a very brief part of history and unique to the middle class, I believe is wrong.

  69. Both parents have to work to get by nowadays, unfortunately. That’s the reality of the world.

    Personally, I don’t like most of the other moms I have met. Judgemental as hell and I can go on ranting about it but I won’t.

  70. Sgtmom, do NOT pull this “oh, you’re being defensive, that proves you’re wrong” nonsense. You’re better than that. If you can’t disprove what we’re arguing find another method of attack than pretending to psychoanalyze us. Mindreading? Doesn’t work, and is rude besides.

    (Among other things, I can’t be defensive for being a working mom when I’m not a mom. I’m the maiden aunt (technical term, but roughly accurate), and with the nieces after school through dinnertime.)

    Disenfranchised Noblemen’s children did not end up in gangs or addicted to drugs in over whelming numbers as is the undeniable trend in today’s “noblemen’s” children.

    Wait, wait, wait – where are your statistics here? I wasn’t aware that the number of teens addicted to drugs today was *that* overwhelming, nor that there was no drug addiction and no drunkards 400 years ago.

    I am merely stating our current state of affairs is unique – 51% of the work force is now women -which is not something that has been addressed or dealt with effectively in our recent history.

    I don’t think this number is that unique. To have the money for half the adult population to be unemployed, THAT is what was unusual. The aforementioned wetnurses, for example, were working mothers.

  71. Uly – I AM one of the “Us”s.

    I’m not “psycho-analyzing” – I’m stating the obvious.

    If you have some proof that children ( we WERE talking about children, remember?) 400 years ago were drunkards and drug addicts, I’d like to see it.

    “The aforementioned wetnurses, for example, were working mothers.”

    …huh?

    The rest of your ramble makes no sense.

  72. @ SgtMom — I get what your saying. I tried to make the same point in another post, but got lost in my own fog of blah blah blah. I think you articulated it well.

    The SAHMs (just that says it all, no longer “housewife” — being a mother is the “job description”) can most definitely be more hyped-up than the “working” mothers. I believe they keenly feel the need to justify not making bringing in money (everyone seems to forget the money that can be/used to be SAVED by economizing — one of the things a housewife understood to be part of her job description). I think an argument can be made that sahms want to make parenting “highly visible”, so everyone can recognize they are spending their time in a meaningful way (and not just cheating the economy out of another full-on consumer). Of course, this has a knock-on effect on the mothers who work outside the home, making them feel like they aren’t able to offer their child the “full time parenting experience” and try to make up for it with even more hyper-vigilant nonsense: nannycams, et. al. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Who knows? Let’s discuss and get to the bottom of the issue, says I.

    It’s a shame an honest discussion can’t get going, without everyone suspecting mean-spiritedness on the part of the other. Where’s the community spirit here? A little trust in our fellow man. A friendly, albeit naturally heated, discussion in the interest of sociological science without finger pointing. I will say, respectfully, that it may be hyperbolic to talk of this never being the case in all of history: Why not say that it was the way (generally! There will always be exceptions to the rule!) things were done when we were kids and leave it there. So we can move on to the interesting part: What’s changed?

    The economy making it impossible for one parent of a married couple to stay home? Refusal of the government (read: society) to continue to recognize that a parent staying home should receive benefits (i.e. welfare reform)? Choice? The desire for personal fulfillment? The desire for more material comfort? Would hyper-parenting have happened anyway, even if more and more women weren’t working outside the home? This maybe isn’t the forum for all this. But you’re on to something here.

  73. Thank you, Tuppence. To think someone actually “gets it”.

    Conversations like this ALWAYS get shot down, with everyone taking sides and getting defensive.

    Wouldn’t it be NICE if we actually opened up this discussion in a positive way, and found viable solutions, instead of shooting the messenger and continuing the out of control “How Much Crazier Can We Get With All This” discussions?

    What if…what if…what if we spent as much time discussing how to improve the circumstance, rather than hyperventilating about ways to further alienate ourselves -and our children – from humanity and common sense?

  74. Oh, no, Tuppence. There is no honest discussion when one person insists on claiming – on the basis of no evidence – that other people are “defensive” or “not being nice”.

    You want to know, Sgtmom, why this discussion isn’t going anywhere? It is because YOU are unwilling to stay off the topic of what you think other people are feeling. You don’t know what I am feeling, nor anybody else in this conversation. You assume that because somebody disagrees with you, they’re being defensive? Or is that just a convenient way to assert “I’m right!” without having to actually, you know, prove that you’re right?

    If you have some proof that children ( we WERE talking about children, remember?) 400 years ago were drunkards and drug addicts, I’d like to see it.

    There certainly were some children addicted to drugs for as long as drugs have been around. And to alcohol and whatnot. The real question is if there are proportionately more of them today than in the past. You’re the one who asserted that, and that they’re more likely to be in violent gangs and so on. YOU prove it.

  75. Uly,uly,uly…goodness. You ARE being defensive.

    Never said anything about anyone being “nice” or not.

    Just defensive…and in denial.

    I can’t prove a negative, my dear.

    I’ve never seen, read or heard of wet nursed noble’s children 400 years ago being drug addicts.

    It’s certainly been history’s best kept secret if that is true.

    So there. I can’t prove people weren’t abducted by aliens 400 years ago, either.

    Therefore, it must be true.

    You win.

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