Thursday, September 17, 2009

Taking a page from Atrios' book

It's always fraught to comment on contemporary parenting when a) I don't have kids and b) I know how the moment you have kids, everybody knows more than you and is eager to share, but like Atrios I too read this piece in the Times from last weekend and shook my head. Kids not being allowed to walk home, three houses away on the same street, "just in case"? Insanity. But, an understandable form of madness I think: children, and especially young girls, are assumed to be victims-in-waiting in our culture. It doesn't agree with the data, but then again there's all sorts of things that don't agree with the data, including our use of the word "sunrise".

So I'm not going to get all self-righteous about people over-parenting their young kids (though I did flip through Lenore Skenazy's book and enjoyed it.) What I think is really far less understandable, and far more damaging, is that this over-parenting seems to now extend into the late teens and even, in some cases, early 20s. Any university staff will tell you their favourite story about helicopter parents, I'm sure, but I was listening to Hara Estroff Morano on a rerun of CBC's The Current last week and one story in particular dropped my jaw: a father who moved in to a hotel room closer to his son's university campus to help him through the trauma of changing his major.

As it turns out, I changed my major in the 2nd year of my BA. I think I told my father sometime before I graduated, but couldn't swear to it. He may have learned about it when he saw my diploma for the first time.

The hyper-careful parenting of pre-teen children may be illogical (driving your child to school exposes them to more risk, not less) but the hyper-parenting of teens and young adults is unreasonable. I don't know if there's a straight line running through both concepts -- they don't seem directly related to me -- but they do seem like two different categories: one is regrettable if understandable, the other is harmful to everyone involved.


celestialspeedster said...

My parents were early proponents of current trends: the childhood obesity, never letting your child out of sight line, the military planning of my medical career without my input, enforced weekly visits right up until my mid-20s. I would point to immigrant offspring guilt as part of the reason this situation went on as long as it did, but once I broke out, I destroyed all of my parents' hopes and dreams by attending virtual clown college with a comparable level of practicality and safety. Let that be a lesson to all hyper-careful parents.

Catelli said...

I'm currently stuck in the middle of this hyper-parenting schtick.

I don't get it.

But I do it anyway. As the rest of the article goes on to explain, social norms are such that you are viewed as an uncaring freak if you don't supervise your kids 24/7.

I'll probably be arrested someday for child abandonment, my patience for this shit as my sons age will thin fairly quick.

Zack said...

"Do not cripple your children by making their lives too easy"
-Robert A. Heinlein, I think it was in Time Enough for Love?