“Would you allow your child to play unsupervised in Central Park?” My answer is “Not under any circumstances.” Not on a boat, not on a plane, not a train… et cetera.
According to Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids, I’m a negative symptom of the stranger danger campaigns of the early and mid-eighties and am hindering my children’s developing self reliance and their independent social maturity. Parents who won’t let their children ride the subway alone or play in Central Park unattended are control freaks — obsessed with their own sense of security rather than their children’s good, don’t you know?
I have to be honest, I do envy the simplicity of that belief system. Luckily, it’s been years since I cared what any expert thought about how I should raise my kids. Like most people who operate under the guise of expertise when it comes to matters of a most subjective nature, Lenore Skenazy makes loads of assumptions about people which require her to dismiss unique circumstance.
Ms. Skenazy does not know, I presume, that my three year old can make his own breakfast or that my daughter can read chapter books without being forced. She doesn’t know that my children bathe and dress themselves daily — mostly without being told to do so. She will not consider that they can cut their own snacks with actual knives. She thrusts them into a sad state of dependence without considering that because of the guidance provided by the adults in their lives, they’re able to resolve conflicts with their peers in a manner that would make most international diplomats stop and take notice.
I’ve been assisting in a Montessori elementary classroom for about four weeks with the children’s ages ranging from seven to eleven. An interesting thing about being around a bunch of seven year olds, as opposed to one, is that one begins to realize what behavior is unique to a specific child and what is a pattern present in their age group.
For example, I’ve noticed in these past few weeks that seven year olds think everything is either this way or it’s that way. Things are either good or they are bad. The ten and eleven year olds, however, are slightly different. They seem more philosophical about right and wrong. They’re beginning to realize that right or wrong is often affected by the unique situations of the individuals involved. I like the way eleven year olds think. I’m wondering what happens between eleven and thirty seven that makes one forget that the world makes more sense when you think about it that way.
Excuse me for seeming completely non-sequitar here, but I read that Thomas Aquinas, the notable and often cited Christian theological scholar of the Middle Ages, wrote a treatise on whether or not people took dumps in Paradise. When I read arguments about whether or not you should leave your child at the park or if Honey-Boo-Boo child’s mom is a good mom or not, I feel like what I imagine one of the non-famous theologians of the Middle Ages must have felt like when he or she read the treatise on heavenly dumps. Like, you know, why are we even listening to these people?! And less noble, why am I not as famous as that person?
There’s something intellectually unchallenging in working within the paradigm of “this or that” and parents of the twenty first century and beyond have got to stop letting ourselves off the hook in the brain department when it comes to seeing the finer points of distinction that lie in between. The biggest dilemma in parenting is not this idea of the helicopter parent versus the free range parent. Or pageants versus piano practice.
The biggest dilemma we face as a parents is fighting the visceral urge that resides in having to identify uniquely, specifically and solely to one parenting label. In fact, let’s get macro up in here and say that this is not only the parenting dilemma, it’s the damned human dilemma. I think the most important question in any debate is whether it’s worth having in the first place or not.
Incidentally? I really want to say here that I assume that there are no dumps in heaven, only the feeling one has after having taken one. Take that, Aquinas.
Faiqa Khan has been blogging for nearly five years, but has been planning world domination since she was three. A writer, teacher, wife and mother, she maintains her personal blog at Native Born. She also produces and hosts an interfaith podcast with her Abrahamic homey, Mike Scheinberg, at Hey! That’s My Hummus!. Faiqa is also trying to get her mediocre on as the Managing Editor for the popular humor site Aiming Low. Connect with Faiqa on Facebook or Twitter.