Time’s cover story this week hails a “new revolution” in parenting. It’s a revolution without a name, a banner or a clear leader, but with a lot of followers. Alternately called “free-range parenting”, “slow parenting”, “simple living” or a dozen other things, it’s the apparently radical idea that parents should just back off and let kids be kids.
Kids get hurt. They flunk tests. They get bullied at school and fall off of swings. That sucks. It sucked for us as children. It only makes sense to want to protect the children we love from life’s pains big and small. But sometimes we go too far.
As parents, we’ve spent the past decade or more living in a sea of messages telling us that all the evils that can befall a child are a) our fault, and b) fixable with the right parental intervention.
If we only buy this product, read this book, or sign up for this class, we can make everything right for Susie. We can save them from the moments of pain lurking in our own childhood memories. And it somehow our sacred obligation to do so.
Now the tide seems to be turning. More parents are blowing off Suzuki music lessons for their three-year-olds in favor of afternoons at the park. Websites, books and parenting groups devoted to “bad parenting” are popping up like mushrooms. Here are a few resources parents flock to for support as they disengage a little from the culture of perfect parenting:
- Free Range Kids – a blog written by Lenore Skenazy, the woman who became famous for letting her school-age son ride the New York subway alone. She’s written a book with the same title. On the blog, Lenore posts funny, angry and sometimes inspiring bits of news and stories from readers.
- Slow Family Living – this Austin-based project teaches parents how to slow down and make more time for smelling the flowers, with and without their kids. Written by Carrie Contey and Bernadette Noll, this site takes a look at what we do when we’re doing ‘nothing’. There’s a lot there.
- Mothering – both a print magazine and a website with a very active group of parenting forums, Mothering generally caters to attachment parents. Poke around and you’ll find other parents who are skipping ballet class (or even bowing out of schooling) in an effort to keep things simple for their kids.
- Finally, you can shut down the computer and go to your neighborhood playground. Look for the parents who are not playing with their kids, and chat them up.
You can also watch this space. Last month I had an article on Babble about things not to fear on Halloween. Babble’s eclectic: we’re not all equally committed to letting our kids scrape their knees or flunk a test. But we’ll keep talking about the edges between too much parenting and too little.
I encourage you to as well. Where do you draw the line with your kids? Are you more or less involved than you thought you’d be before you had them? What websites, books or