The Mind of Bluesleepy

It’s a boy’s world 30 September 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — bluesleepy @ 7:53 pm

I watched yesterday’s episode of “Dr Phil” this afternoon.  It featured varying parenting styles, from a mother portrayed as excessively permissive to a mother deemed a “helicopter parent” because of her hovering.

The “excessively permissive” mother got that designation because she allowed her son to ride the New York City subway by himself when he was nine years old.  She’s also gotten blasted throughout the blogosphere as the World’s Worst Mother because of it.  But here’s my take on it.  This kid lives in New York City.  He’s grown up there.  He’s spent his entire life there.  To him, navigating the subway is like suburban kids riding their bikes to their friends’ houses.  It’s not really that big of a deal.  It is to us, we non-denizens of the city, because we ourselves would never dream of tackling the subway in New York as grown adults.

I can remember watching “Diff’rent Strokes” as a kid and being amazed that someone would live in a New York City apartment that was two different levels!  Stairs!!  In an apartment!!  It just boggled the mind of this suburban kid whose only experience with NYC came from shows like “Sesame Street” and “The Cosby Show.”

New York City is completely and utterly unique, is my point.  And people that grow up there have different experiences from the rest of the country for that very reason.

Maybe I wouldn’t allow a nine-year-old to navigate the subways, but certainly a teen.  It would have to depend on the nine-year-old, as well.

You know, parents nowadays are encouraged to be over-protective.  Everything is dangerous; everything is scary.  Where is your kid?  What is he doing?  Who are his friends?  Where are they?!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t know where your kids are, and what they’re doing, and what kind of friends they associate with.  As a parent, that’s your job.  But you can let your kids breathe a little bit, explore something new, do something that is maybe a little out of the box.

I’m so not a “helicopter parent.”  That’s someone who hovers over his child for fear something is going to happen to him.  As I write this, Grace is in her room at the other end of my (small) house, with the door shut, playing happily.  I have no idea what she’s playing with, and every so often I can hear a loud thud.  My initial reaction is, “OH MY GOD, she’s knocked over the heavy changing table and she’s pinned underneath and now she’s going to die from blunt force trauma!” but then I realize that’s just crazy talk.  For one thing, I can still hear her giggling and talking to herself.  If she were pinned, she’d be hollering.  I also allow Grace to play out back by herself.  We have a fenced-in yard, and the only things out there are her toys.  She can’t wander off either.

I don’t see the payoff in being a helicopter parent either.  What makes people want to monitor their kids so closely that the poor child can’t even sigh without getting advance permission?  What happened to letting the kid explore a little bit and try spreading his wings in an age-appropriate fashion?

For example, we have a playground across the street.  I can’t see the whole thing from my house, but I can see bits of it.  It is maybe a hundred feet from my house.  I told Kurt that I would probably allow Grace to go over there by herself (or with friends) if she were six.  He felt that was reasonable and agreed.  She would be told that she could not leave the playground unless she were coming home.

Kids are usually very good at following rules.  I remember when I was a kid that I could only go to Mr Wood’s white station wagon on my bike.  And I tell you what, I never went past that station wagon, not without permission!  Kurt told me that as a child, he was given certain streets he could ride his bike down, but he had to stay within a certain distance of his house.  And he did exactly that.

Kids of our generation were thrown out of the house right after breakfast and told not to come home till the street lights came on.  We found things to do all day to keep us out of our parents’ hair.  I know I spent an entire summer when I was ten years old at a playground a block away from my house.  It wasn’t in sight of the house, and it was almost a ten-minute walk to get there, though I always rode my bike.  And there was a little wooded area that I would wander around in, never thinking about what could happen if I were careless and if the wrong kind of person followed me down there.

Kurt’s mother would take all three boys down to the neighborhood pool and drop them off after breakfast every morning, only to retrieve them come dinner time.  And this was before every mother slathered her children in sunscreen before a stray sunbeam could contaminate her children’s porcelain skin!

Did I mention Kurt grew up in Tucson, Arizona???

Here in housing there are a few children that wander the neighborhood without a whole lot of supervision.  I saw two boys today zooming around on bicycles, making laps around the loop that is my street.  The sad part, though, is it is obvious that they are foreigners, their father(s) being stationed at the War College here.  It’s not so much their skin color or that they speak in another language that gives them away, but rather the lack of supervision and their ability to roam the streets of military housing of their own free will.  Children in other countries have far more free rein, while American children are kept close to their mothers’ skirts.

I’m not saying it’s not a good idea to be careful.  I’m just saying that some parents nowadays can be overly cautious, and it breeds children who don’t know what to do with themselves.  They can’t entertain themselves, they are lost without Mommy holding their hands, and they cannot do anything without asking how it’s supposed to be done.  Mommy has always taken care of it before; why should they be reliant upon their own brainpower to get them out of a jam?

And these are our leaders of tomorrow!!!


11 Responses to “It’s a boy’s world”

  1. Shippie Says:

    I could never be a parent these days. Seems like everything you do now is grounds for CPS to be called and scrutinize you. It’s awful. Too, I’d probably be one of those WAY overly protective moms that wouldn’t let her kid out of her sight! In fact I’d probably have them on leashes at all times, which would no doubt predicate the call to CPS. Sigh.

  2. Blue Opal Says:

    I have lived a whole lot of guilt trips because I was effectively an absentee parent. I had no choice. I had to work nonstop in a failing effort to keep us alive, to keep us from being homeless. But for the most part my kids are capable of handling themselves in all sorts of situations. The only exception to that is my oldest daughter – and she’s finally getting there too.

  3. becca Says:

    And I still dont think America is quite as bad for it as the UK for over protectiveness.

  4. Sleepyjane Says:

    Kudos. I agree! What also bothers me is that even though some parents are over protective, some let their kids get away with anything.

  5. michele Says:

    kids definitely need to breathe and learn how to deal with real-life situations.

  6. purple chai Says:

    I agree, but sometimes it can be very hard to find the balance. I let my kids do their own homework, for example, and ask for help if they needed it, but they rarely did. I didn’t go over every paper with them every night, and one of them made a high school career of only doing the assignments that piqued her interest. She was going to live with the consequences, not I. It can be a very confusing world to live in, but let’s remember that 50 years ago, kids out on their own all day still broke arms and had accidents. They just accepted it as a normal part of childhood, instead of freaking out and, as you say, someone making a call to children’s services.

  7. art Says:

    9, hells bells! i was traversing the NYC subways when i was SEVEN! it was no big deal either! the subway was a DIME and i could see all 5 boroughs, took the staten island ferry too, that was a nickle! went to yankee stadium, that was a buck 25, and basically ran roughshod all over manhattan, brooklyn, queens, and the bronx, and looked at the rich folks houses in staten island! shined shoes in bars, and hung out with the thugs on the corner! what would dr. phil (take a chill pill) would think?

  8. Kids are SO pampered these days they need an MRI if they fall off their sit-upon toys! You are a great mom. I know you let Gracie create a lot of her own fun, and it will be fabulous for Mary Ellen too. You rock!

  9. Aimee Says:

    I think fostering independence is good. Both my parents worked so I was pretty free to go where I wanted and do as I pleased. I teach my children self defense and have taught them how to handle situations. In order for kids to grow they have to be allowed to grow. No, I wouldn’t allow my 9 year-old to go on the subway alone, but that’s because of the other people I don’t trust. I do however, allow my 11 year-old to walk to the ice cream place now. He is as safe as I can make him without babying him and locking him in a bubble.

  10. Kym Says:

    Just becoming a parent of three little girls, we are really strict but then again these kids never had any discipline or rules. We made a rule board and they follow the rules or get a time out.

    We have two parks very close to our house but none are visible from our house. They are within shouting distance but nonetheless…we walk the children to the parks and watch them.

    I’m sure as the girls get older, we might allow them more “freedom” but for now since they are going through this foster care stuff, we are watching them. Does that make sense?

    P.S. I did see that Dr. Phil show too. We watch everyday.

  11. terri t. Says:

    I shuddered at first when I heard about the subway but as you said, if I lived in NYC, I would probably have a different viewpoint. I think it must be very difficult these days to know how much to let your child do out of your sight..because of all the strangers around. Most of the kids around us don’t ever play outside. It is rare to see them other than walking to and from school in our little neighborhood of homes. I remember playing outside all day until dark. So did my son, I had a police whistle that I blew when it was time for him to come home. It was funny to hear the kids down the street yelling…Dan…your mother blew the whistle!!!!!

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