My eldest is bummed out. And I don’t blame her. Now that she is ten, we told her that she could go Trick-or-Treating in our uber-safe, well-lit, child-friendly neighbourhood with a group of her friends. She was so excited. At school she asked all her friends if they could go. They all live nearby. They were all responsible, good kids. But no….not even with a parent tagging along.
This really makes me sad.
Most kids I see are so cloistered, you’d think they were in an invisible compound. I sometimes think those few terrible, evil child-snatchers have committed the additional crime of convincing parents that they need to steal their children’s freedoms to keep them safe. But what is the cost of their safety? So many kids are never without an adult supervising them. They go from car to school, to car, to after-school activity, to dinner, to after-dinner activity, to bed, day after day after day. They never get a chance to try out the skills they need to be successful adults for themselves.
If anything I think this is making our kids un-safer. Case in point: I sent my older girls to the convenience store down the road to buy some kind of treat. I gave the 8 year old at $20 bill. Back they came, and all I can say is thank God for honest store clerks. “Did you have enough money?” I asked.
“Yeah, but she kept giving me money back. I tried to shove it toward her, but she just kept pushing it back.” Yep you guessed it — it was the change.
Just stop and consider if by over-protecting our kids from a few, rare bad things, we are actually exposing them to a lot more common bad things in the future. Those who work with young people today complain constantly: they lack initiative, they require incessant direction and praise, they are stunningly self-entitled. Young people are so narcissistic that psychiatrists are considering it the new “normal,” and contemplating not treating it anymore. But if every activity you were involved in ended with a trophy, if adults mediated and supervised most of your personal relationships, and if you were protected from the world of hard-knocks way too long, how would you be any different?
If allowing my tween to walk with a group on a well-lit sidewalk, surrounded by other kids and adults, in a safe neighbourhood where nearly everyone is home and answering their door, makes me a Bad Mother, then so be it. Childhood is not a prison sentence.