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Random Gloats: Memo to Parents - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

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Random Gloats: Memo to Parents [May. 6th, 2008|09:58 pm]
Young Geoffrey
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Don't protect your children too much.

Yesterday, I dropped a 28 ounce (796 ml) tin of pea soup. It landed about 60 centimetres (about two feet) from where my cat was, contentedly, chowing down on kibble.

A couple of feet over, and it would probably have killed him.

What did he do? He leapt away. Maybe a metre.

I rushed over to him, ready to offer up every ounce of empathy I had, but he wasn't scared at all. He'd been startled, but he held no post-startle fear. He accepted my caress for a moment, then made a beeline for the food-bowl.

Chet lives in a world he believes is benign. If ever (as seems increasingly likely) we move to a place in which he might get outside, he will fall victim to the first con-artistic or psychopathic cat who stumbles upon him.

He has no sense of danger.

Folks, let your kids fall down. Let them get bruised and cut and socked in the mouth. Let them walk to school and take the subway when all their friends are still being chauffeured like so many junior Russian oligarchs. Let them ride their bikes on un-kept paths and explore dangerous ruins.

Yes, they'll be at a somewhat higher risk of running into a paedophile or a collapsing building. But - if they don't (as is probable) - they will have learned a great deal about their own limitations, about the difference between a good risk and a bad.

You can't protect them forever. So it is your job to teach them to protect themselves, as soon as possible.

Ahem.

All of that un-asked for advice is predicated on the assumption that you also pay one hell of a lot of attention to them at individuals. I was seven the first time I took a commuter train from the suburbs of Montreal, into town and then spent an afternoon riding the subway; not every seven-year-old is ready for that.

"Don't over-protect" doesn't by any stretch mean "let them do anything they want".
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: shara
2008-05-07 12:01 pm (UTC)
AMEN!
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2008-05-10 12:01 am (UTC)

Thanks

Nice to have positive reinforcement from a mum-to-be (I've been reading about your progress with considerable interest).
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[User Picture]From: shara
2008-05-10 02:36 am (UTC)

Re: Thanks

I guess as a mom-to-be I'm the only one with a passionate opinion on this subject at the moment. 0_o

We were talking to some friends on this exact subject just the other day, though. When I was a kid, we had a "gang", you know? My parents threw us outside on weekends and wouldn't let us back in until dinner. We spent our days wandering the streets, building forts, organizing parades, fishing, getting lost in ravines.... whatever we could do. We got into *lots* of situations which, in hindsight, were not 100% safe... but that was a good thing. We learned a lot about solving problems and being self-sufficient. I have very good coping skills now.

It makes me crazy that I live in a neighbourhood now which is rich, safe and chock-a-block with kids and yet I never see them outside without adults at a 1-1 ratio. It just seems absurd to me. Why do you need to stare at your nine-year-old while they run around a designated park with other nine-year-olds? Jebuz H. Christ, at nine they should be able to bike half way across the neighbourhood to meet friends and get into trouble. And take the TTC alone. And go to the store when they want to.

I don't buy this hysteria that there are somehow more pedophiles around than there used to be. The only thing less safe about the world today than the world I grew up in is that there are now fewer kids on the streets. Nobody kidnaps three kids. And in any situation, kids in groups have the capacity to run for help or, I dunno, stage rescues. Solitary kids might be in some danger: gangs of kids are not.

If my kids can't manage to find a friend or two to spend unsupervised time with, I'll just have them myself, dammit. "You and your sister go outside and don't come back until dinner".

I grieve for the lost world of outdoor and street-wise children. :P
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2008-05-12 10:36 pm (UTC)

Re: Thanks

It makes me crazy that I live in a neighbourhood now which is rich, safe and chock-a-block with kids and yet I never see them outside without adults at a 1-1 ratio.

It's funny. A bit more than 10 years ago I shared a house with a friend and his son. It was a lower-working class immigrant neighbourhood, primarily Portuguese. All of the houses on our street had porches and half of those had (usually) older folks hanging out on them. And the kids ran wild, from yard-to-yard and house to house (well, some houses; ours was a favourite. There were constantly a half-dozen kids around).

There were eyes out, but the kids were essentially one their own, making and breaking friendships, figuring things out, etc. I liked it a lot.

I don't buy this hysteria that there are somehow more pedophiles around than there used to be. The only thing less safe about the world today than the world I grew up in is that there are now fewer kids on the streets.

I agree entirely. I think you're going to be one hell of a mum! :)
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From: myriad_flowers
2008-05-30 03:05 pm (UTC)

One mom at a time, we can bring that world back!

Oooh, don't get me started.

I have three kids, eleven, seven and almost-six, and when I moved to our neighbourhood, a distant suburb of TO, four years ago now, my husband and I were pleased that there was a park full of brand-new playground equipment that they could walk to in under a minute, and the French-immersion school was merely a five minute walk away.

It took most of the first summer we lived here for some of the kids' new friends' parents to accustom themselves to the apparently-radical concept we had, which in a nutshell was, a gang of kids at the park makes it SAFER, and that it didn't make us bad parents to say, "Sure, you can go to the park by yourselves. Have fun!".

I have an ongoing war with my mother-in-law about what she considers a bizarre lack of concern about pedophiles accosting and kidnapping all three of my kids...or perhaps a group of pedophiles kidnapping them separately according to their individual preferences, I'm not sure. *grin* Myself, I'm more concerned that they are capable of crossing the street safely, as that would seem to be a more likely kind of danger.

One of my older daughter's friends, her mom hovering, asked me whether we were perhaps too poor to own a vehicle, and the Stepford mom explained that they wondered why I didn't drive my kids to school every day like everyone else. I responded that we live five minutes away, we dress for the weather, enjoy the exercise and the time together, and there's always something neat to look at. She was genuinely puzzled. "You walk in the rain and the snow? You let them get wet, or cold? Really?!?!?" *rolls eyes*

Over-protectiveness teaches our children nothing about privilege, responsibility, self-reliance or good judgment. Without reserve, I concur with everything you've said. Trust your gut as a mom...your kids will thank you for it.
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