I remember when EK threatened to crawl, my daycare provider of a dad suggested that I get down on my kid's level to identify potential hazards. With knees covered in cat hair and dust bunnies, I spied sharp corners just ripe for eyeball pokes, sequins (don't judge, they are AWESOME hot pants), and other perils that would most certainly pique the interest of an inquisitive babe.
We made it through that lil' phase fairly unscathed. I mean, look, we were obviously fighting an uphill battle and pretty much gave in to the chaos. Articles such as Hanna Rosin's recent Atlantic piece, The Overprotected Kid, even highlight the benefits of licking asphalt (well, not exactly.)
Reasonable risks are essential for children’s healthy development,” says Joe Frost, an influential safety crusader.
Rosin's article is even more salient now that our son is 3.5. I am constantly struggling with encouraging the independence for which he is fighting to so hard and my own insecurities (e.g., exposing him to danger, growing up too fast, and embarrassingly, perceptions of judgment from other parents).
Do I let him play alone in the backyard? Run to the end of the street and trust he will stop two squares from the road? Buy me dinner? I know he can handle it, but can I? Are we overprotective parents?
Again, from the Atlantic:
Failure to supervise has become, in fact, synonymous with failure to parent. The result is a “continuous and ultimately dramatic decline in children’s opportunities to play and explore in their own chosen ways,” writes Peter Gray, a psychologist at Boston College and the author of Free to Learn. No more pickup games, idle walks home from school, or cops and robbers in the garage all afternoon.
Well crap. That's no fun.
In 2012, we moved to a neighborhood where the pavement is cleaner (i.e., more delicious) and the streets safer. We watched kids move through the streets on Halloween sans parents and were thrilled to see a neighborhood reminiscent of our own childhoods. Now I just have to actually prepare myself to someday say "smell you later!" as EK runs to the park to throw rocks at girls and light fires, or whatever seven-year-old boys do.
I suppose from the minute our children our born, it's our job to provide them with the skills to be independent, confident people. Yes, EK is only 3.5, but I am already guilty of underestimating his abilities. And of course he also struggles with his own newly found independence: A pen thrown at an imperfect "E", a deck of card tossed when he loses a game. He needs to learn to accept challenges and failures, and, I guess we as his parents, need to do the same.
We can no more create the perfect environment for our children than we can create perfect children. To believe otherwise is a delusion, and a harmful one; remind yourself of that every time the panic rises.
So with that, we are bellying up to the asphalt bar for a lick. And if you see my kick poking your kid's scab while I am checking out at Target (not that happened last night, cough cough), sorry. I want to say he is just "exploring his environment blahdiddyblahblah", but a parent has to draw the line somewhere; I was totally negligent. And it surely won't be the last time.
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