Note: I realize that my perspective is from that of a mom in a small city whose temple is Whole Foods and whose neighborhood roads are all Ivy League College names. Rural town moms probably have a completely different perspective. Get that. So take my opinion for what it’s worth.
By now, I think we’ve all probably read Jen Hatmaker’s post on the Today Show’s parent’s blog entitled, What Would My Mom Do? (Drink Tab and Lock Us Outside). I haven’t heard one negative thing about it so far- only lots of shares and “yes, this” (myself included).
But, I was thinking… I don’t think that we really would like parenting like Jen’s momma did, at least not today. Just a 2.0 version of it.
So maybe we love the idea of letting our kids roam free and eat bologna sandwiches on white bread and then coming home when the sun goes down. I personally love this idea because then I’d have the whole day to do whatever my little heart desired. And I do have fond memories of summers outside for long periods of time, playing with all my neighborhood friends.
But, let’s pretend that this kind of parent existed today in your neighborhood. You know, the parent who lets their 6 year old kid roam the neighborhood. In fact, you may know a parent kinda like this. I know a few. But you know what I hear about these kind of parents? Not flattering things. Because what if I really let my two older kids- almost 6 (in a few days) and 7 play in your neighborhood. Just roam around. All day. Would you feel concerned? Would you wonder where their parents are? Would you call someone about it? What would you do or think about me when they started arguing/yelling at one another? How would you feel about helping them clean their knee if they fell outside your house? How would you feel about feeding them if they happened to be playing in your yard during lunchtime? How would you feel about disciplining them if they hit your kid, or yelled at them or something (because we all know this happened a lot when we were living our roaming childhoods)?
And what if your child came to my house and I fed them processed bologna on white bread and gave them sugar-filled kook-aid to drink. Everyday during a summer. Would you think that’s totally fine and who cares? Or would you cringe?
I honestly think that many of us really wouldn’t feel completely comfortable with this kind of parenting, and we don’t REALLY support other parents who parent like this. And you know what, my guess is that Jen didn’t parent exactly like this either.
Because she has pictures of her kids’ dangerous stunts. Playground swinging, trampoline jumping, tree skateboarding. My parents don’t have pictures of me playing outside with my friends, roaming the neighborhood, walking across busy roads to the 7-11 to get a giant 44 oz slurpy, flattening pennies and rocks on the railroad tracks, visiting the old guy at the end of the block and going inside his pigeon coop to pet his pigeons (only looking back does it seem odd, but I swear, he was just a nice older lonely guy who loved kids!), biking to the library even though I wasn’t supposed to (because it was a whole mile away from my house!)….because they weren’t with me. In fact, if they did see some of the dangerous things I did as an elementary kid (kindergarten-4th grade), then they wouldn’t have approved. I would have gotten in serious trouble!
So, while I think we like the idea of Jen’s version of the “magical childhood” (because it really is just that), I’m not sure we’re willing to pay the price to get it. And maybe we don’t necessarily have to parent like that to be the kind of family we want to be. Maybe Jen’s call to throwback parenting isn’t the “best way” either.
From conversations I’ve had with friends, we parent a little differently than our parents did because we weren’t 100% happy with how our parents did it. Many of us grew up with parents who worked a lot or drank too much or who really didn’t know us at all. Modern parenting didn’t just pop up. It exists for a reason. Has it gone too far in some cases? Sure. But does that mean we do away with it and go back to the “good ‘ol days”? Eh. I’m not sure that’s really what we’re looking for either.
Perhaps what we’re all really wanting is permission to ease up. To give our kids some freedom. To step away from the window.
You have permission to let your child outside without watching him or her. I won’t judge.
You have permission to let your 6 year old walk to school by himself/herself. I’ll keep an eye out for them while they walk past my house.
You have permission to let your kid eat cafeteria food because you don’t have time to pack a lunch. Mine will be eating that food too.
You have permission to delete your pinterest account. I don’t actually care what your kids’ parties look like. I just love that they get to hang out with their friends and I get a couple hours to myself.
You have permission to let your kids be bored. I’ll send my kids over and they can be bored together.
You have permission to not enroll your kids in any camp or extracurricular activity. I promise they will not be any less smart or ready for college. In fact, probably no one will even know or care.
You have permission to let your kids make their own lunch. My kids will be so jealous that they packed fruit snacks, some cheetos and a cheesestick that maybe they’ll want to start making their own lunch too.
You have permission to not know what they are doing every minute of the day. I’m sure they’re fine. If not, they’ll eventually let you know.
But you know what? You also have permission to parent like you want. If you really like your kids, you have permission to hang out with them.
If you want to make them a time capsule for their 18th birthday, totally do it! I have my own version of a time capsule which looks like a giant box with old papers, toys, clothes, etc, from over the span of my childhood. I bet you all do too.
If you want to throw them a magical birthday party, do it. Have fun! I bet your kids will love it! Just be sure to invite my kids too!
If you want to do science experiments, art projects, teach them how to read, storytell with them, learn a foreign language with them, whatever- great! Your kid will love it. Can my kid some over to join you sometime?
Ultimately, we have permission to let go of the lie that what we do or don’t do with our kids makes or breaks their future. While we have influence over our kids, we don’t determine their personality, their actions, their attitudes, their future opportunities, or their success or happiness in life. It’s up to them, and the sooner we realize that in our parenting journey, the sooner we will be able to ease up, relax, and just enjoy our children.