Friday, April 11, 2014

Childhood Managed

Today's post is inspired by this article: The Overprotected Kid. It is a long read, but I found it fascinating. I am mostly referring to the first section of it today anyway, but do yourself a favor and look through all the photos of The Land all the way through.

The article made me kind of sad... a bit reminiscent... and maybe even a little hopeful that perhaps I can still salvage some free childhood for my kids! We most definitely roamed free when I was a kid. In my dad's neighborhood, the rule for our house was that when the sunset touched a particular building, it was time to be home! No watches, no mobile phones, no checking in - and often no one home to check in with anyway! We had our packs. We even built our own tree house on a piece of land my dad owned... but that was several blocks away from our home. We also had a clubhouse of sorts in the woods and a back route to get to the local convenience store. We roamed. And never did any of us wind up in the ER for it. or abducted. Are things so much more risky now? Statistics say that they're really not. What changed? Fear mongering. The news. I am quite prone to worry and have a "heal the world" issue so I don't watch the news. At all. And yet...

I'm terrified of losing my children and we've moved quite a bit since my littles were born... so I'm not comfortable with letting them freely explore the neighborhood alone (at 4 and 2yo). But... I love the idea of "The Land" in this article. I want to find a way to make risks available to my daughter (and my son)... in a safe enough way to comfort Dad's worry (and mine, though mine doesn't seem to be as strong).

I find myself wondering what sort of "junk" I might be able to find for free on Craigslist or Freecycle.. tires? pallets? We have some boards back there... When I was a kid we rode our bikes down to a carpet place in the neighborhood and raided their dumpster for scraps. We had a carpeted tree-house! What random stuff could you imagine stocking in your yard for more exploratory play?

I will say (and almost "in my defense," as if such a thing is necessary) that since we moved Sasha gets SO much more outdoor time. We have a fenced back yard now so she is allowed to go out there and explore and play to her heart's content. I prefer to keep a door open where I can hear her, especially since the door is stiff and she can't open it herself. I've relaxed more and more, though, and don't feel the need to have my eyes on her at all times. I even caught my teenager telling her not to go behind the shed. Um... why? I told her to go ahead if she wanted. She's been back there before. There are no extra risks back there, its just out of sight. What have I done to my oldest? She worries over her siblings far too much.

How free do you allow your children to be? How free is too free? And I'm totally serious about suggestions for "junk" to put in our back yard! I only wonder if I can refrain from showing my children what can be done with some pallets, boards and sheets... and just let them discover on their own! I've really been wanting a mud hole for them out there, too!


  1. I have always been more comfortable than most of the moms I know about letting my kids out of sight in stores, malls, amusement parks, playing at the park, etc. Because the world isn't actually any less safe than it was when we were kids and I want them to be independent. So far so good on that and no one has come to any harm. They don't roam the neighborhood, but that's by their choice, not mine, they've always been free to, they're just more indoorsy kind of people. Davey does like to take off at the park and build things out of sticks and branches with his friends though. I like the Land playground they describe, it sounds pretty bomb-diggity. My cousin had a patio filled with junk when I was growing up, and we built tunnels and houses through that, and took boards and built over the fence into the tree over her bad doberman. I'm sorry my kids aren't interested in that, although our yard is large and has things to build with.

    As to why your teen is overprotective, I wonder if it's not your feeling that your kids can't be with anyone but you 24/7 that has left her feeling like they need to be in sight. In her mind, if they aren't safe with a babysitter, or the dentist, or at a class, then they definitely aren't safe by themselves out behind the shed where you can't see them. I can see where she'd think you want them in sight at all times, particularly if being allowed to play by themselves is new. Knowing how very protective you are of the little ones, I myself am actually surprised that it's ok for her to go behind the shed out of your sight.

    1. I'm trying not to get defensive, but I will say 1 issue I've had with sitters is that I didn't know anyone local who practiced Elimination Communication and then even then - my littles have not been REALLY clear with their signals, so you have to be around them enough to learn them. Or be ready to deal with messes. Well, not so much with Sasha NOW.

      That was only one thing, though. I've had an issue where a teacher (or other some such authority figure) refused to let Tyler call home and I felt that she should be permitted to do so. Honestly there are lots of little things that bug the crap out of me about trusting others and they add up to... what is apparently an ISSUE (of my own).

      That said, I was overprotective with Tyler about her getting hurt and I've relaxed a LOT on that one. I think some bumps and bruises along the way help us learn. I get that. And I feel that our yard is a safe space - I've inspected it and picked up scraps of garbage (including shredded bits of plastic).

    2. You certainly don't owe me any explanation of why you don't let the kids go with anyone else, I assumed you had reasons, but it still may partly explain why Tyler worries over the little ones.

  2. Since Sofi was about 2.5 years old, whenever the weather is warm enough, the doors are opened as soon as everyone is dressed and fed. They are closed at bedtime (sometimes the kids', sometimes the parents'). The kids come and go as they please. I poke my head out here and there to be certain that they aren't getting into things that I don't want ruined. Other than that, they are on their own. Oh, I have the dog for a babysitter. If anyone or anything aggressive came along, he'd eat them. If anyone gets hurt, somebody lets me know. We've never had a major incident!

    We live pretty far from other families here in the country, but I would love for the kids to eventually make some other friends close by that they can hang out with, too.


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