I’m going to eat some crow here. A year and a half ago I posted a blog on raising children. In it, I attacked our generation of parenting, specifically the tendency to resort to helicopter parenting. I argued that we should allow children to take “reasonable risks to gain experience that builds confidence.” I still believe that. But how much risk is too much risk for a young child?
We moved to a lovely child-filled street in Houston. Each house has a kid under the age of eight. Mostly boys, but some girls too. To my astonishment, they play smack dab in the street with their scooters, bicycles, and whatever-the-new-electronic-fad-thingy is. And most days, they play unsupervised. There are two girls, both age five, who flock daily to our house, since we have the girl house now. They ring our doorbell and ask to play with our girls. I have never met their parents. I have never even SEEN their parents. I don’t even know where one girl lives. These children play on their scooters in the neighborhoods, often without shoes and helmets, for hours in the afternoon. And no, they are not sisters. They come from two different homes on two different ends of the street.
Lest you think we live in a bad part of town, let me debunk that theory. We live in one of the nicest areas of the city. And no, we don’t live on a cul-de-sac. We live on a quiet street, but still a cross street.
Do parents abdicate their responsibilities because they have a false sense of security about their neighborhood? Do they trust that all will be well because we have nicely groomed bushes and fancy cars? Because they think someone else will watch out for their five year old child when they shoot across the road without looking? Do parent think that schools will teach children responsibility? Social-emotional learning? How to deal with strangers, other adults or older children?
Is this true for your neighborhood?
I went out and got one of those bright green plastic “kids” to place in the middle of the road. If not for my kids sake, than for the sake of all the kids whose caregivers are not around. I hunker down and spend time outside the front of our house watching my daughters play. They plead with me to go just a little bit farther. Just a little bit longer. To push the boundaries just a little bit more. I’ve found myself becoming the parent I hoped I wouldn’t have to be. The one that hovers, that listens, that watches constantly. The helicopter parent. Because, precisely, other adults are not there.