Free Range Kids


There was a thing on the TEE-vee the other night about hyper-parenting. It’s not the first time I’ve heard the term, but it kind of hit home this time.

Hyper-parenting is all about basically organizing and micro-managing the bee-jeezus out of your kids’ lives 24/7. For those of you who many not remember, once upon a time, when you were a kid and you’d finished your homework and your chores, you were free to run around outside with your friends until the streetlights came on.

There were no adults hovering over you. Your free time wasn’t completely filled with organized sports, music/dance lessons, tutors, etc., etc. Sure you did some of that stuff, but not all the time.

You saw your friends because you were all outside after supper. There was no need for your parents to plan “play-dates’ weeks in advance.

The first time I heard the term, “play-date”, I thought the woman was kidding. I laughed until she frowned at me and pulled out her Daytimer. She asked if we could schedule a play-date for our kids. Six-year-old Ashley was booked up with swimming and soccer (practice and games), piano, dance, violin, choir, other play-dates and birthday parties until the end of the month.

I’m all in favour of extra-curricular activities, but I always reckoned my kiddie being involved with skating and piano was enough. I also wanted her to help around the house and learn some life skills and to have some time to just play.

Other parents disagreed. They wanted to enrich their kids’ lives as much as possible. They said if kids were allowed to just sit around they’d get lazy and waste a lot of valuable time where they could be learning something.

There was only one kid in my daughter’s circle of school friends who was allowed to just play. She lived 3 houses down and the girls would meet half-way and take off until it started to get dark.

One of the best things about living in Halifax was that it still has some lovely older 1950s style neighbourhoods with sidewalks and houses with front porches, lots of green space and quiet, tree-lined streets rife with pedestrians. A kid can’t get into too much trouble in an infrastructure like that.

Nevertheless, I do confess that I’m probably guilty of organizing too much of my child’s life and/or doing too much for her. I do pretty much all of the cooking and cleaning and other domestic chores. (Except her room, which I never touch any more).

I did her resume for her, found her volunteer placement for her, funneled her into the job she has now, found summer day camps for her to attend, more or less did her summer job applications for her, organized the picking of her next year’s courses – with her input, of course. I’ve been researching universities; I find music teachers for her. She’s more than happy to let me do this all and I don’t mind admitting, it worries me.

She also seems to have no interest in learning basic life skills. Laundry for instance. I wouldn’t let my mum touch my clothes as soon as I was old enough to reach the dials on the washer. My kid rarely does laundry — mainly because I’m home more and it’s easier to do it altogether rather than wait for her to do her own. The other day she was about to toss her suede skirt in the washing machine. This stuff freaks me out.

I know part of it is her personality. She’s very easy going and likes to be pampered and taken care of. The complete opposite of me. She’s my mother, in fact. And I suppose that makes me the enabler in both cases.

Here’s what Carl Honoré, Canadian author of Under Pressure: Rescuing Childhood from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting, says:

We’re also starting to see the first children coming out the other end of the assembly line that is modern childhood and many of them struggled to stand on their own two feet. Every moment of their childhood has been so micromanaged, supervised, structured and measured by adults that they don’t know how to cope on their own. University counselling services are overwhelmed by students going to pieces. You hear of 19-year-olds handing the cellphone over to the professor and saying “Sort this out with my mum.” And the umbilical cord remains intact even after graduation: Parents are now turning up at job interviews to help negotiate salaries and vacation packages! And in all this striving and anxiety we’re also losing the simple joy of being a child, of seeing a world in a grain of sand and holding infinity in the palm of your hand. The joy has been squeezed out of parenthood, too.


38 responses to “Free Range Kids

  1. I have a friend who is a psychologist in a university counseling service, and she says it’s astounding how many parents act as their grown children’s advocates in all areas of their lives. They call professors to argue about marks on essays and that kind of thing. They’re known at the universities as “helicopter parents,” because they’re always hovering nearby.

    I think it’s bizarre. I can’t believe how much childhood and parenting have changed since I was a child. Maybe parents should go back to having 9 kids so they won’t have time to micro-manage each child’s life well into adulthood.

  2. I’ve always found it strange to watch friends parenting their kids these days. Why can’t they just let ’em be kids?

    if kids were allowed to just sit around they’d get lazy and waste a lot of valuable time where they could be learning something.

    We didn’t get lazy, we didn’t waste time, we played, we learned to negotiate, to defend ourselves, to make our voices heard.

    I think that beats the hell out of soccer, piano, violin, dance and choir.

    But what do I know, I don’t have kids.

  3. Oy–I can’t imagine having my parents phone my prof in university. How ridiculous.

    Still, I don’t think that some scheduling of our kids lives is such a bad thing, as long as it’s done in moderation. I grew up in the country, in a rural area outside of town with no kids around other than my brothers. We mostly tromped around the bush around our home together, explored nature, alternated between playing games together and fighting with each other.

    That said, I don’t think my kids have such a different existence than what I had…most evenings they just play together, either in the house or in our backyard.

    As for scheduled activities, when I was young I took ballet, piano, and skating lessons at one time or another. I was in Brownies. My daughter is in swimming and has occasionally taken gymnastics, skating and dance. Not much different, really. I find most of my friends are limiting the number of things their kids are in because our lives are busy enough. Hana would love to be signed up for more classes, but I’m not willing to spend my life driving her around.

    I also had playdates with other friends when I was a kid…friends who I went to school with, but who lived driving-distance away from where we lived. Okay, maybe we didn’t call them playdates at the time, but that’s what they were. Maybe that’s why I don’t find it particularly weird to schedule playdates for my kids. The kids she knows…the ones in her daycare class…live all over town. None of them are on our street. When she starts going to the school around the corner in grade 1 then I suppose she’ll start just hanging out with friends nearby.

    One of the things that drives me nuts is how kids in school don’t lose marks for being late with assignments. How is that teaching kids responsibility. In the real world deadlines matter. I think that teaching kids to meet a deadline is far more important than the specific details of whatever assignment they’ve done.

  4. Childhood ended with the termination of the sale of “clackers”.
    Glass balls on a string – a very fun toy and was banned because of some BS about them shattering or something.
    I recently went back to the neighborhood that I grew up in to discover that a set that I had thrown up in the hydro wires – NEARLY 40 years ago was STILL hanging in the same spot.
    Now that was a QUALITY TOY.

  5. I found free range kids late last spring.
    I laughed because I pictured my kids outside eating their food off the ground like chickens.

    The Queen and I weren’t as bad as most, but we did involve ourselves in a lot of our kiddies affairs. In our defense, we did limit the number of activities (he was a scout, that was it). And we’ve always kept an emphasis on playing with friends and having fun.

    Hell, when I was my son’s age (9 1/2), my friends and I would ride our bike over 5 miles to a big park with a giant lake to go fishing. We’d leave in the a.m., pack snacks/lunch and cross highways and ride through woods to get there. We’d swim and fish and basically do what kids do, until DARK. These days, parents could get arrested for child endangerment for allowing this. (really, other parents intervening and deciding there was lack of proper supervision).

    Since finding free range, the Queen and I have started practicing it. I took my son to a minor league ball game and let him go to the bathroom BY HIMSELF. I even let him take his four year old sister off to go get ice cream (this time I followed them but hide so they didn’t know I was there). You know what? They came back safely. AND when my son was in charge of his sister, he was SO protective.

    It was very hard to do but worth it. My son’s personality changed. Changed for the better. He seemed so proud that we trust him to make the right decisions. He was very much aware that he valued him as a person. It was mind blowing. So I encourage all parents to give it a shot. You don’t have to do anything big, start small but let your kid be a kid and let them make some choices for themselves. You’ll be amazed at how responsive they are. But just as you open up their freedom, you make it clear that it can easily close back down if things are abused. Don’t forget who is in charge of who.

  6. Let kids be kids, they’ll have enough time to be grown ups when they hit their late teenage years.

  7. Hmmm, we do arrange playdates, mostly because of all the other kids’ schedules. My girls do swimming lessons in the winter, and soccer in the summer, and that’s all I’m willing to commit to. They play with each other a whole lot, and if they see the girls from next door outside, they’ll run out to play with them.

    The letting go is hard. The other day, they were playing out in the snow with 2 sisters who live 5 houses down and you have to cross a street to get there (we’re on a corner). The girls are the same ages as mine (9 and 6 right now) and they walked over by themselves. All four girls played a while in our yard, and then wanted to go to the other girls’ house. By Themselves. I called the other mom and let her know they were setting off. Then I peeked out from behind the blinds in the laundry room and watched them very concientiously cross the road and head to the other house. I got the heads up from the other mom when they were heading home. Letting go is hard.

    I tell my girls that by the time they leave home, they’ll have to know how to cook a meal, do laundry and figure out a budget. We’re starting to do that kind of stuff together right now.

  8. EEK!!! That sounds scary!! Making your prof talk to your mother?!?!
    I have never heard of this term but it is so true. Where I am you can start football and cheerleading at age 3. For football there are 3 practices a week plus a game on the weekend. Cheerleading can be every day during the week. It’s crazy! Luckily we are on a street where the children go out and play. Out of the hundred houses in our subdivision you only ever see approximately 10 children outside playing.

    Growing up I was a bit of both. My laundry was done by my mother until I got married and moved out (age 23). I never really had to deal with regular money matters until that age as well. I (think) I turned out okay. Okay, I hope I turned out okay!! 😉

  9. Zoom – Ya. On the other hand, it’s a much more competitive world out there now – whether the competitiveness came first or the helicopter parenting, I don’t know. I do know that when mine was in elementary school, when projects were done at home it was expected that parents would do most of the project. The kid who did his on his own either failed or got a low grade because it wasn’t up to the standards of the other “kids’” work. The kids whose parents are there fighting for every grade and enrolling their kids in lessons and tutors have a much better chance of getting a place a university than the kids with fewer extracurricular activities and marks that aren’t in the 90s.

    Jazz – Very true. In fact, I think the kids whose time is always organized end up having no initiative or ideas of their own.

    Mary Lynn – How did that happen that kids live all over the place instead of in the same neighbourhood as their school? Maybe when they started to close and amalgamate schools? I find the same thing here. We’ve always lived near the school, but there are always at least 75% of the kids who get driven in from afar.

    Lebowski – Clackers WERE pretty dangerous. I can’t imagine what they were thinking back then. We had bruised arms and more than one set of clackers shatter. No one I knew lost an eye or anything, but we came damn close.

    Reeky – It’s funny that they have to create and name a new movement for something that was just normal a few decades ago. Before my daughter was born, I read the book, “A Continuum Concept” by Jean Liedloff. It’s kind of free-range parenting to the max. A great book, if you get a chance to read it. I always give it to everyone I know who’s expecting.

    Dr. Monkey – Is that when we were supposed to become grown-ups? I thought it was once our hair turned completely white. Damn.

    Alison – You really can’t win. If you protect and organize your kids, it’s called hovering. If you loosen their leash a little, right away you’re neglectful. It’s especially difficult when you’re a single parent. Teachers and neighbours are forever expecting the worst. Your kids forgets her lunch one day and right away they’re on the phone asking if she should be enrolled in the lunch program (with phony sympathetic voices)

    Helen – Cheerleading at 3??? OMG.

  10. Our daughter and son-in-law live in wonderful new neighborhood in Wisconsin that reminds me a lot of old fashioned neighborhoods when I grew up. While we were there visiting I saw an impromptu game of kickball where kids just kind of showed up and started playing. It had started with my wife, son-in-law and grandkids. While I’m a little concerned about them buying a new house in the current economic uncertainties, it looks like it’ll be a good place for kids to just be kids sometimes.

  11. I saw the free range woman on tv recently! I didn’t know she had been raked in absentia over the coals by The View. Good grief. The first chapter of her book makes for some fun reading. (Go to her blog and click around from there.)

  12. don’t u worry. i was a spoiiiiilt child. didnt know how washing machine worked or how to make an egg. then, university and living away frm home happened. now has dealt with laundry to cooking to renting an apartment and doing all the paperwork alone.

    can pretty well survive d world. though it freaks out mom dat havent found any ‘boys’.

    just wait till your child moves to a different place. one day you will stay in her apartment and find it clean and nice and she every bit of a superwoman:-

  13. I have a wonderful situation with my son whose best pal lives across the road. The two of them have been going between each other’s houses and further afield for years with no organisation or worries. With my daughter it’s different- other Mums are all about organisation and yes, one even used the term (and issued a paper invitation) for a”playdate” which is such a horribly American phrase. I was the first parent in my daughter’s class to let her walk to school without me (she goes with older bro) and I could sense the disapproval of other mums (teacher applauded me, though-she has already issued a letter asking mothers to stop coming down to school at playttimes and lunchbreaks!)

    I do seem to live in an area where a lot of mothers have nothing else to do other than fret about their children.

  14. Mike – Your wife and son-in-law were playing kick-ball? That’s not exactly “kids spontaneously starting a game”, but I get the general idea. And from all accounts this is the best time to be buying a house if you have a reasonably secure job. It sounds like a lovely neighbourhood.

    Julia – Ya, I’ve been to her website and other websites of parents doing the “free range” thing. I’m not totally in favour. It’s a whole different world out there than it was 50 years ago, so I’m not sure it’s for the best to try and raise our children as if those 50 years didn’t exist. It’s more dangerous and, as I said to Zoom, more competitive, more social pressures on parents and children. I know at least one parent who totally subscribed to the free range thing whose child is the same age as mine. Her kid is now totally out of control. She stays out all night, she has no sense of discipline or responsibility at home or at school, no respect for authority and a pretty dim future ahead of her going by her lack of progress in school. Sure, there are probably other issues at play, but it’s a little scary. Perhaps everything in moderation is the key – as always.

    Lost – I don’t think my daughter is even planning on moving out. When she talks about university it’s always in the context that she’s still living with me – which is okay because it would save us all a lot of money – but a little yearning for independence now and then might be good.

    MisssyM – You’re lucky you haven’t had the children’s services at your door!! Those helicopter mums used to drive me nuts. They were always at the school for everything, went on every field trip, volunteered for every fund-raiser, organized everything at the school, knew everybody’s business and stuck their nose into everything. A single mum friend of mine actually had the children’s services sent to her house by the helicopter mums because one of their precious offspring had been over to play at the single mum’s house and reported back that it was very messy. This turned into a report of “children being raised in squalor”. I’d been to her place plenty of times and it was a perfectly normal home with 2 kids in it. Add to this, another time, she had the audacity of taking her kids on a trip which ran into one school day and she forgot to call in their absence. She eventually took her kids out of the school.

  15. first, great post xup! as i have always said, i love your posts cause they are thought provoking. this issue is something that i think of often! too often probably …

    my PERSONAL OPINION on why parents organize and overstimulate kids nowadays comes down to health.

    it used to be that, as you correctly pointed out, kids came home from school, did their homework (which i might add there was a LOT less of back then) and got outside until bathtime.

    things, i’m afraid, are much different now.

    kids are simply not as safe as they used to be, to run the streets and have FREE play time. there is much more homework which for the most part entails sedentary activities. also more tv and video games choices. even lying or sitting around reading is not always a good option.

    so yes, i tend to plan some stuff for my kids to do, like they are doing this week. pottery class from 9-12 and then public skating from 1-3 if they want. i see this as a happy medium; bit of relaxing, creative time and some activity.

    even for us adults, there are major health concerns for us that there were not years ago. i work f/t and as much as i try to feed my family healthy dinners, working f/t coupled with the time i spend commuting sometimes = prepared food.

    i sit in a car for at least 2 hours of my day equaling back issues and fumes from other cars.

    when i get home, we rush to some activity or another, which does not allow for built in time to walk to the activity.

    even in the small town that i live there is very little that i can realistically do that does not require a vehicle. unless i am only going to the grocery story for a bag of milk, walking won’t happen.

    i suppose i could have an excuse for everything but i believe that we overstimulate and plan a lot for our kids because we haven’t got a whole lot of choice.

    i also feel that because we have been doing all of this for our kids, they no longer KNOW how to keep themselves busy, research universities, apply for high shool courses, apply for a job. these are important skills that kids are missing out on.

    i feel another reason why parents may enroll their kids in so many things is to MAKE UP for the ‘time’ they are not able to spend with their kid. i could be right off base with this last point, but there could be a little truth in it.

    i have a colleague who is constantly planning her sons life and i mean effin’ CONSTANTLY to the point where i could pick his university courses! he’s 15 and she still calls the school when she feels he has been treated unfairly, when she felt he deserved better grades etc, etc, etc. she has consulted with everyone and their effin dog about what university courses he should take. sometimes i feel like asking, have you ever asked HIM?! i am sure that he isn’t even part of the discussions.

    anyhoooo, at some point, kids need to be given the tools to work out their own problems, negotiate and deal with the real world. this will NOT happen with us holding their hands and babying them every step of the way.

    sorry for the ramble folks.

  16. A friend told me yesterday that he needed to get busy finding a job for his daughter . . . who is finishing her second year of college. I could not believe what my ears were hearing. I won’t tell you all the things I have ‘allowed’ our three daughters to do but it has allowed them to jump out of helicopters for days alone on the tundra, hike into a rainforest or, in the case of two out of three, manage a life-threatening medical condition without constant hovering and with confidence. They are now 26, 24 and almost 22; CAS was only called once.

  17. Like reeky mentioned, I stumbled across the Free Range Kids site sometime last year, too.

    I have no problems scheduling playdates, and like others have said, I do it more because everyone else’s schedules are so hectic. Since quitting my at-home job a year ago, I keep us busy, but not overly so. Claire has preschool one day a week for an hour-and-a-half. She did have swim lessons twice a week, but those are over now. Other than that, I schedule things with the Moms’ Club, and we have somewhere fun to be every day if we wanted. Some days, we just relax at home.

    (I guess the reason it’s not so foreign to me, is I’ve been scheduling time to get together with my friends for years. If we don’t get it on the calendar, we wouldn’t see each other!)

    When it comes to domestic duties, she helps me with the laundry, and she helps me cook. She really wants to vacuum, but she’s just not big enough yet. Her chores right now consist of putting the silverware in the drawer and feeding the kitties every night.

    She’s only three, so we’re not too rough on her…and right now, she loves her chores.

    Speaking of which, I think it’s about time your daughter takes a turn at cooking at least once a week for you! It could be fun for her to plan the meal, and she’s old enough that she could even shop for the ingredients, etc.

    I haven’t had a chance to read through all the comments yet, but is there a reason why SHE’s not researching colleges? SHE should be the one filling out job applications, etc. You can push her in a certain direction, but she’d be better served if she did the work.

    Far be it from me to judge…just an opinion. 🙂

  18. I have never heard of free range kids or this woman. I guess I have some new reading to do. When I was a kid I was in every activity possible, but they were all school run and I could walk there and back home. My kid plays baseball and takes drum lessons. He loves it, but that’s all he’s got time to do. I don’t understand how so many children can be in more than one activity these days. The day is only so long. He comes home from school at 3:30, does his homework has a snack and goes to baseball. Drum lessons are on Saturday and we’ve had a scheduling issue now that it’s baseball season again.
    The school board here just decided to add an hour to the school day and 4 more required credits for high school graduation beginning the next school year. Where do these people find time for more than one activity?
    I distinctly remember my Dad’s answer to the phrase “I’m bored”, it was a very stern “Go play outside then!”
    If you need a day planner to keep track of your kid, it’s time to move back to planet Earth.

  19. As a teacher, I see those helicopter parents up close and personal every school day – and it’s not a pretty sight. Nor are their kids anywhere near as wonderful as they claim. Many of those kids are disorganized, unmotivated, take no responsibility for their own actions or learning, and believe that they are entitled to As simply because they “tried really hard”. Parents argue with us constantly: “My kid worked a really long time on that project, and I don’t see the teacher making any adaptations for her spelling difficulties, and I didn’t understand the criteria anyway because the teacher wrote it in French!” (This is in a French Immersion program. Cruel, huh, giving the project criteria to the kids in French. The Grade 6 or 7 kid suddenly doesn’t know enough French to be able to tell their parents what they’re supposed to do for a project???)

    Ça me rend folle! (Drives me crazy!)

  20. Alison raises an interesting point: if all of your child’s friends have hyper-parents, what can you do but also schedule hyper-playdates in the hyper-future?

    I wasn’t hyper-parented. I did music through school until the end of high school, and I got my own jobs (a couple of which my parents pointed out to me). Any other extracurriculars I tried, I sucked at (e.g. swimming) and I didn’t fit in to the scouts culture.

    I think I learned very early on that I had the power to choose to not do something, and I exercised this power often!

    I actually did end up wasting most of my spare time as a child, usually watching TV.

    This past Saturday, I was helping to put the float away after the parade, and there were a handful of kids just hanging around and hovering. I couldn’t help but wonder why they didn’t have anything better to do.

    Hold on, I’m taking the day off. What am I doing on the internet?!?

    /goes out to play

    – RG>

  21. re: RG’s comment. my question would have been why weren’t those kids helping out with the float!

    chripes, i put together pizza boxes for 3 months straight to make some extra spending money…

    which may explain why i’m not too keen on pizza! lol

  22. I am a devotee of the “benign neglect” school of parenting. Kids have to learn how to amuse themselves and organise their own time otherwise when you send them off to university they will spontaneously combust with the enormity of the unplanned days in front of them (also, they will have no clue how to organise their own study which the university certainly will not do for them!)

  23. Raino – Geeze, get your own blog, eh? I don’t know what to comment on first… as I said to Zoom, I agree that the world is a different place now and parenting is inevitably going to be different. And I also wanted to say I made it a real point NOT to call the school if my daughter was having issues with other kids or the teacher unless she absolutely needed me to. She has, at least, learned to deal with conflicts on her own. Phew.

    Grace – “CAS was only called once” ha ha ha. Do tell. And if you have a blog, I’d love to get your link. I do keep my daughter in the loop every step of the way when I do things “for” her. And we have many discussions about her taking some initiative. I just think it’s a nasty old world out there and if everyone else is doing everything for their kids, mine won’t stand a chance on her own.

    CP – Oh ya – mine loved her chores when she was 3, too. It was all new and exciting then. Now she’s got so much homework, and a job and music practice that she only has time for a few chores. And you’re right, she should be doing all the university research, job applications on her own, but she doesn’t understand that it has to be done NOW, not just before she’s ready to go to university or ready to have a summer job. Planning years or months in advance is just not in the teen vocabulary. I don’t think that’s changed since we were young… it’s just the world that has changed since then. When I was in high school it was okay to start looking for summer jobs in June. Now you have to start in February – which makes no sense at all to a 16-year-old.

    Charlene – I don’t know how people find the time to do all the things they don’t let alone find the time to ferry their kids to all their activities as well. I’m a big believer in chillin’, hangin’ and doing nuthin’. I need that in my day.

    Pinklea – I’m so happy to get a teacher’s perspective of all this. It must be extra-tough to be a teacher these days. When I was growing up the teacher was god. Parents didn’t dare argue with him/her…let alone kids. Such an infuriating balancing act between doing what you know is right and kowtowing to all the parents who are always in your face complaining about stuff.

    Grouchy – You seem like a pretty independent thinker to me, so all the helicopter parenting in the world wouldn’t have dampened your spirit. I would never have stood for my parents trying to organize my life even if they had wanted to, which they didn’t since they had 4 other kids and enough shit of their own to do. So, I’m naturally bossy and my child is by nature a tad submissive and happy to let someone else take the reins. Perhaps a good combination; perhaps not. We’d have a real problem if I had a child like me, I think. Anyway, wasting time watching TV isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Mine wastes a lot of time on msn, but perhaps that’s the new going-out-to-play.

    Loth – If only. As an only child, there are and have been many times when my child has had to amuse herself. She thinks it’s cruel and unusual punishment, but over time I think she has learned to appreciate her own company. I know she has some dependency issues and we’re working on them, but really, I think a lot of that is her personality. She reminds me so much of my mum and one of my brothers. They enjoy taking the back seat, being social, letting someone else take over. The rest of us are completely the opposite.

  24. XUP, I don’t have a blog but I hang out at Zoom’s blog a lot. Does that count?

    The CAS thing was at the beginning of our parenting career. Our eldest was still 3 when she started elementary school; she was always the dirtiest child in the playground and poorly dressed because she was a human cyclone and suffered from fashion ADD. She also went home screaming every day; screaming AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS “I don’t want to go home with you. I don’t want to go home with you.” What the casual observer (and the parent who was genuinely concerned about this when she contacted authorities) didn’t know was that K had her heart set on taking over as crossing guard at a harrowing intersection. This battle raged until a friend agreed to supervise her while she acted as a ‘shadow’ guard and I took the less challenging crowd home for a group lie down. K’s teacher, the principal and school secretary were so kind to me through this . . . K is now 26 and has been teaching grade one (mostly special education) for 3 years in the North. She is mostly clean and her students say she dresses ‘pretty’. I miss her with all my heart.

  25. Great post! I’m not a parent, so I don’t have much to contribute to the discussion except to say my parents did NOT hyper-parent me, and like you, my mom did a lot for me where she could. But all things considered, I think I turned out okay. I’m responsible, have a good job and take care of myself in the world. I am confident you have little to worry about!

  26. I really think this micromanaging is ruining kids, their independence and their fun. When was the last time you heard structured and fun in the same sentence and it made sense???

    I guess I’m pretty old school when it comes to my parenting then… I can’t stand the idea of micro-managing my kids time – I want time to myself too. As much as I love my kids, I don’t want to be defined by my kids success…
    I send my kids outside to play. Tell them to go to the park. Yes, they do have competitive dance – but that’s it for them.

    The worst form example of all this? Hallowe’en – it’s being ruined by school ‘parties’ and good safe mall fun. yawn.

    BTW – afraid of your kids wasting away watching TV when it’s not so nice outside? We just got the wii fit – and the girls play that constantly instead of TV (and I still kick them out after an hour or so…)

  27. Grace – What a cool story! For the longest time, my daughter’s career aspiration was crossing guard, too! I still bug her about that. I guess it must look like an amazingly important job to a little kid.

    Lesley – I think, like Zoom implied, when you only have one or two, you can’t help but do more for them that you would if you had … oh, say… newborn octuplets and six other slightly older kids. Good to hear a true life testimonial. Thanks

    Ian – I’m more worried about her wasting her time on msn with her friends. Why can’t she just go meet them somewhere and talk?? Huh??

  28. That kind… i have one of those too… has the TV on, computer for chatting and phone in hand for texting.
    I boot her out after an hour too! But she would prefer hanging out with friends to just about anything…

  29. I have friends who have their kids involved in so many activities, almost every evening is involved with hockey in some form another. Every waking our of the weekends involves some kind of basketball/hockey/volleyball tournament and lord knows what else.

    Their 12 year old told me that sometime their schedule is so tight, when the buzzer goes off at the end of the game ,they literally RUN to the car so they can drive hours to the next out-of-town tournament… Sometimes they don’t even have time to eat or go through drive-thru, and barely make it in time for the next game.

    I asked when do she ever have free time to do NOTHING? ? The kid answered “Well, we had a few snow days this winter…”.

    That’s just… SAD.

    I feel so sorry for those kids. They’re already caught up in the Loser Yuppie Workaholic Rat Race. And they don’t even realize it yet.

  30. I remember talking to a woman who not only wrote her daughters resume but also did the follow up calls. (This woman had also decided on the career path for her kids. ) There comes a point when kids need to learn to do it for themselves, be it laundry or finding a volunteer gig or a part-time job.

    I’m of the opinion that it’s ok for kids to be bored once in a while. It’s ok if he doesn’t have plans for every second of the day. He does jui jitsu, we’ll do soccer this spring (heaven help me if I get roped into coaching again.) In the summer, he’s got camp all day which is usually pretty structure so he goes wild.

    And well, if it means he doesn’t learn advanced origami for exponential brain growth then so be it.

  31. Oh my. You need to teach your daughter to do her own laundry right now. I remember some girls in my dorm in my freshman year in college being clueless about laundry and I thought they were imbeciles. I taught my daughter to do her laundry when she was around 12 and since then I have never done another person’s laundry. Yeah, she might have ruined a silk blouse or two but she learned from her mistakes. Cooking was even easier because she always wanted to pour and chop and stir, so I can’t help you there. But you are certainly right that you need to start letting go and letting her start taking the reins of her life. Good luck to you both!

  32. So true. I guess there is just so much out there for kids that it’s hard to pass them up. I remember so many hours of soccor and swim team, not to mention piano lessons. I felt like I spent most of my time in the car.

  33. Ian – The phone stays in the kitchen while she’s in her room doing homework and she’s not allowed on msn/Facebook on school nights. Weekends she’d stay there all day and night if I let her. But I don’t.

    Friar – I know people like that, too. And it IS sad. And not only have they scheduled their kids in back-to-back activities, the parents are also over-booked for everything. Me, I NEED do-nothing time every day (not including work)

    Nat – WHAT? No origami? He’ll never make it to Harvard. I know I need to not do so much for the kid, but I’m torn, because as I’ve said a few times throughout the comments, it’s a competitive world with requirements no teenager would automatically understand. I can tell her she needs to apply for her summer jobs in February, but that makes no sense whatsoever to her, so I have to nag. And she really got the part-time job on her own merits because that’s where she’d been volunteering. And I’m having nothing to do with choosing her career path. I’ll help with and support whatever she decides, but that’s it.

    Geewits – She’s pretty good at cooking. She never wants to do it, but on weekends I leave her to fend for herself. I make Sunday lunch and that’s it – Friday supper, all meals Saturday and Sunday supper she’s on her own. Once in a while she’ll even volunteer to make Sunday lunch. I cook during the week because I’m home early and she works until 5:30. The laundry thing I have no idea why she hasn’t jumped on that since she’s obsessed with clothes. I should have let her put her suede skirt in the washer, should I?

    Linda – Were those your hours of soccer, swimming and piano or your kids’? Although my daughter initiated the piano lessons, I kept pushing them long after she wanted to give up because I thought it was important for her to have a marketable skill beyond whatever she chose to do for a profession – something to fall back on and earn her some money if needed. It was a good 8 years, but I’ve given up. She was just going through the motions the last couple of years and hated it and was getting nowhere, so she’s switched to guitar. We’ll see how that goes.

  34. i blame a lot of my post partum depression on being way too pampered when I was growing up. may parents, who are The Awesome, did everything for me, I had no “domestic” skills, and was accustomed to people doing everything for me. when grace was born and suddenly it was ME who had to do all of the work it was a shocker and threw me into a depression with crippling anxiety. i was overwhelmed by all the work involved with having a kid. my kids are still young, but I will def. try and get them to do a bit more than i ever had to do. it was a nice ride while it lasted, but i don’t think it helped me much.

    as for over-scheduling, i have to tune out those conversations with other moms because i feel like i suck for not occupying the girls with extra activities every day of the week. they swim and do Sparks, but that’s pretty much it. i don’t think i would want to be any busier than that. oh, and i like to hang out with them too.

  35. Meanie – As I understand ppd, it’s a chemical imbalance, not a personality issue. I think blaming yourself for lack of skills or ability for ppd is a dangerous road to go down and does a disservice to all the women suffering from this. It’s like saying clinical depression is something you could snap out of if you weren’t so self-indulgent or something. All that to say that the way your parents raised you in no way contributed to your ppd. It seems very random as to who gets it and who doesn’t. A woman may get it with one child and not with another. Very strong, capable experineced mothers can get it as well as young, inexperienced women. It sucks and I’m glad you were able to work through it successfully — I hope you got some medical help as well? I don’t think there’s a woman alive who doesn’t freak out to some extent with their first child — even without the added burden of ppd.

    Anyway, if my daughter is like my mum (and she SO is), she knows perfectly well how to look after herself if she has to; she would just rather have someone else do it. My dad used to do everything for my mum — he looked after all the finances, made all the decision, etc., etc. so when he died we were so worried about how she was going to cope since she didn’t seem to have a clue. But – surprise! She did better than well.

  36. There was a segment on As It Happens last night about a woman in Texas who had the police set on her for allowing her 10 year old sone to walk the half mile to soccer practice by himself where she would follow 15 minutes later to watch him. Apparently several people saw him out alone and called 911. She was then lectured about the dangers out on the street… sigh.

    Okay, now I’ll read the rest of the comments.

  37. another stellar post, i am very grateful that my mom taught us how to survive b/c it’s served me well on a lot of levels.

    it’s much easier to just do things for them and you don’t have to hear a lot of flappy talking but, it’s worth the hassle. my mom always said that she was raising us for the future.