I Was Told I Parent Like the 80's. I Took It As A Compliment.
I was on the phone yesterday while driving (yes I can still bluetooth/speakerphone, people) with one of my very best and oldest friends who FINALLY called me back after I have been refusing to respond to her texts she sends me after she red buttons me :) Sorry, friend, but it worked!
As we were mid gab I turned around and said to my son "I'll be right back, ok?", nonchalantly as I prepared to run in and grab my caffeine jolt.
Friend: Aghast, "You're leaving him in the car?!"
Me: "Yeah, I'll just be a sec."
Friend: "You can't leave him in the car."
Me: "Yes I can. I googled it."
Friend: Laughing "You parent like you're in the eighties!"
Me: "I take that as a compliment."
Now before all the parents get their panties in a bunch, hear me out.
I am blessed to live in a sleepy little crime free town just north of NYC on the Hudson River, own a safe heated car the locks while running and has an alarm and an emergency break that works, a coffee shop that never has a line and windows overlooking the parking spot out front, a kid that likes to listen to rock n' roll and just be, live in a state that hasn't mandated laws YET on if my kid can stay in the car unattended for a quick second, and the knowledge that we are as safe if not safer now than we were decades ago.
When I started Folk Rebellion it was for many reasons but one of the biggest driving factors was that I was scared for the world in which my son is being forced into (and not by my doing). My career has allowed me to meet some really smart folks who are studying what all this technology is doing to us and our kids. The problem is that the major shift didn't happen until 7 years ago. It's like the way they couldn't really prove how badly you were poisoned when you took that brand of birth control in 1998 but decades later they can thus the 1-800-CALL-IF-YOU-TOOK-THIS-PILL-WHILE-YOU-WERE-HAVING-UNPROTECTED-SEX phone number commercials.
Its only been 7 years since iAnything came out. We don't know the effects. Its too soon. But the early guesses are that all the screens, constant communication, tapping instead of writing, social media, waterfalls of data, living virtually....it ain't good. Yet we are literally sprinting forward to "stay on the forefront" thanks to Obama. iPads replacing text books in school? I mean I am a full blown adult, though some would argue that, and look what it's done to me. Look around you and see what its done to the adults in your lives. No bueno I bet. Now imagine being a kid, toddler, or baby. Never having known any different. Any idea where they will be when they are our age? Thats the problem. WE. DONT. KNOW.
BUT, there is something they do know. Because it started happening in the 80's and we can see the results unfolding right now. A'la the Reagan Years. 1981 to be exact. It was like the perfect storm. News media was really starting down the path of fear mongering, paired with Nancy Reagans Say No To Drugs campaign, and the 1984 release of missing children on milk cartons in every home in the US and moms (and dads) everywhere really began shaking in their boots. Yes, ALL were helpful platforms but it brought extreme doubt, of the world we live in and the people we live near, directly into our homes. Parents were flat out told to be scared for their kids safety. And just like that houses were built to move the kitchen, which used to look out onto the street, to the back of the house where mom could hold court over the kiddies while she washed dishes and they played within the confines of the newly erected fence.
Even though as the Free Thought Project states:
When looking at the most recent statistics, there is roughly a 1 in a million chance of your child being abducted in a ‘stereotypical’ manner; meaning the nightmare-caliber crime involving a stranger or slight acquaintance who whisks away a child with the intention of holding him for ransom, keeping him or killing him.
Your child is more likely to be killed in an equestrian accident. (Odds in one year for people who ride horses: 1 in 297,000.) Or better yet, pull him off the football team. (Yearly odds of dying for youth football players: 1 in 78,260.) And if you really want to protect them, sell your car. (Lifetime odds of dying as a passenger: 1 in 228. Odds of dying this year alone: 1 in 17,625.)
Or, to put another spin on it, your child is 700 times more likely to get into Harvard than to be the victim of such an abduction.
Good news! But the results of the 80's fear movement? Crime went down, way down. YAY! Guess what else, it gave birth to a generation of kids who are scared, have never been offered the chance to take a risk (and learn from it), hand-held everywhere by their parents...even into their job interviews. Not kidding. The fact is there are more overprotective parents at a time when children are safer than ever. Read more about the helicopter parenting effects over at HuffPo. But here's a juicy lil' tidbit:
This trend isn't necessarily a good thing. Recent research shows that parents’ over-involvement in their children’s lives can actually result in worse grades and decreased satisfaction for their kids. Still, employers are catering to that tendency by hosting “Take Your Parents To Work” days and inviting them to open houses, the WSJ reports.
Or this snippet from the AMAZING long read you all should spend time with over on the Atlantic, The Overprotected Kid:
When my daughter was about 10, my husband suddenly realized that in her whole life, she had probably not spent more than 10 minutes unsupervised by an adult. Not 10 minutes in 10 years.
It’s hard to absorb how much childhood norms have shifted in just one generation. Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the ’70s—walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap—are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting. One very thorough study of “children’s independent mobility,” conducted in urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods in the U.K., shows that in 1971, 80 percent of third-graders walked to school alone. By 1990, that measure had dropped to 9 percent, and now it’s even lower. When you ask parents why they are more protective than their parents were, they might answer that the world is more dangerous than it was when they were growing up. But this isn’t true, or at least not in the way that we think. For example, parents now routinely tell their children never to talk to strangers, even though all available evidence suggests that children have about the same (very slim) chance of being abducted by a stranger as they did a generation ago. Maybe the real question is, how did these fears come to have such a hold over us? And what have our children lost—and gained—as we’ve succumbed to them?
I am sure some of you are like "yeahhhhhh, but its different" or "I wouldn't do that". And maybe you won't. What is MOST FEARFUL (and the actual point of this whole article )is how quickly the scales are sliding in a direction where you won't have that choice anymore.
Cue the article on the homepage of Yahoo this am:
"The world is actually even safer than when I was a child, and I just want to give them the same freedom and independence that I had — basically an old-fashioned childhood," she said. "I think it's absolutely critical for their development — to learn responsibility, to experience the world, to gain confidence and competency. I think what CPS considered neglect, we felt was an essential part of growing up and maturing. We feel we're being bullied into a point of view about child-rearing that we strongly disagree with."
Or this one:
Or this one:
Or this one:
I could continue, but I won't. You get the picture. What if we take that wasted worry and use it to fear the liberties that are being taken away from us as parents? And because of that, the liberties that will be taken away from our children?
What if we turn the tables and trust in ourselves again? What if this decade and generation is the one that is no longer afraid because we were told to be even when the facts didn't match up?
By all means be smart. Follow your gut and intuition. Be a parent.
But what if we let these kids be kids the old fashioned way? What if we let them be alone? Doesn't a plant in the shade grows much less than a plant with a clear view of the sun? What if we tried for partly shady/sunny?
What if we stop shading them from everything? And trust them to grow?
It's hard. I fail more times than I succeed. But I am trying to step outside comfort zones of norms we've been instructed are normal. Hopefully with time and age I get better and his place to roam gets larger.
And if we're reallyyyyyy nervous, buy one of these little lifesavers and let'em go and feel free while you play big brother in the sky knowing your kid is safe.
I'm not saying moms and dads everywhere should start leaving their kids locked in cars every time they can. All I am saying is lets SHIFT the way we see our world.
********UPDATE AFTER PHONE CALL FROM MY UPSET MOTHER******************
Mom: "I heard about your article. YOU CAN'T DO THAT JESS!"
Jess: "Mom, yes I can. It was 4 feet away."
Mom: "Its not safe."
Jess: "I could see him."
Mom: "No, but you can't, these are different times now. What if a stranger came up and punched the window and smashed it before you could get to him and grabbed him and ran away?"
Jess: "Mom, read my article."