Tonight the kids were going to our good friend’s house after dinner while Jamie and I biked the trails and grabbed something to eat with a couple of other good friends.
As I was filling water bottles, Olivia asked if she could walk to her friend’s house, where her and Violet would be staying. After a few moments, I said no. I didn’t say no because I didn’t think that she was capable. I can see her nearly the entire way there, until she crosses a corner to reach their house, three doors down. I said no because I was worried about another mother, intervening, and doing something uncalled for, like reporting a child walking alone to the police or a four year old being naked in their own front yard.
The village is broken.
It’s hard to absorb how much childhood norms have shifted in just one generation. Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the ’70s—walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap—are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting. The Overprotective Kid, the Atlantic
Thinking about this again this morning, when I read about an 11 year old boy being detained at the Lego store, for shopping alone, I realized it’s true. The village? It’s broken.
You have to start off this parenthood thing by first finding your village, surrounding yourself with people that are going to help you, not hinder you, on this whole raising of kids things. You grow together, you help together, you host playdates for inlaws that are coming into town a day early. You find unexpected things you mentioned you were out of on your doorstep. Then, a day comes when the kids reach the age of six or seven, the day when the kids begin to crave independence.
This independence is going to foster confidence, this independence is going to develop skills that are going to last throughout their lives. This independence is supposed to cause parents a little growing pains, make your heart beat a little faster but it’s one of the necessities of creating well adjusted adults – and this broken village? It’s really screwing with what childhood is supposed to be.
So today, I’m going to start with letting Olivia pop over to her friend’s house, the same one I said no to the other night – and I’ll be nervous, you bet. But not about her skills and ability to walk without putting herself in harm’s way, no, I’ll be nervous about the broken village.