Thursday, November 6, 2008

Helicopter Parenting

If I was a "cool" blogger I would probably get into trouble for linking to this site but since I'm not cool and I'm not afraid of pissing people off, I will go ahead and link to this post about "negative child fear mongering" because I think it raises some interesting questions.  

V is not someone I always agree with but I like her blunt, even shocking, in your face way of putting things and sometimes she comes up with a topic like this that makes me want to consider my own view on the subject.

Plus she makes me laugh, I am THAT sick and twisted.  So shoot me.

I let my kids ride around our neighborhood on their bikes, daughter hangs out with the neighborhood kids at "the jumps" and they all can walk to the gas station/convenience store to get a soda or a treat (or milk if I have forgotten to stop at the grocery store on my way home from school) which is maybe a mile from our house but you have to walk on a street that takes a 90 degree turn with no sidewalks.  Daughter even hangs out with some kids in our neighborhood that smoke cigarettes and pot.  She is very honest with me and told me when she tried cigarettes ("it was SO GROSS Mom, I don't know how they do that all the time on PURPOSE!") and asked me what pot was like when one of her friends got into trouble for trying it.  I told her what it felt like to get high and gave her vivid and real examples from our family about why she should NOT smoke pot but ultimately it is her decision and all I can do is give her guidance.  I am quite sure, from personal experience, that if you just say DON'T DO THIS then they are absolutely 100% sure to DO IT and make sure you don't know.  But if you have an ongoing conversation they will ask questions and talk to you about things.  I would rather this start now, when they are in our house and we are still in control over their day to day activities than have their first experiences making decisions when they are in college.  Kids who live under their parents thumbs throughout high school go absolutely APESHIT in college and get into a lot of trouble.

My kids walked to elementary school by themselves in 1st grade.  Well, they weren't ALONE, they walked with each other and the rest of the neighborhood kids but I didn't walk with them.  Or drive them.

In the summer I have been known to send them outside to play with strict instructions not to come back until lunch.  The boys are homebodies and usually just play in the yard but daughter has friends all over the place and it can be all day until I see her.  Granted, she has her own cell phone so I can call her, but she is out of my sight for hours at a time in the summertime and on the weekends.

12 was the magic age for being old enough to be dropped off at the movies with a friend or sibling and we let daughter fly alone to Vegas at 12 to visit my Dad and Stepmonster.  (We are going to send thing 1 to Vegas for an extended visit with them next week.  Until he is 18.  They don't know yet.)  

We followed the law and didn't let them stay home alone until they were 10 or to be at home alone in charge of younger kids until they were 12 but I probably would have let them do that at a younger age were it not for the laws in Washington state.  (And the fact that daughter would have killed her brothers and buried the bodies but I digress...)

When I was a kid I rode public busses in my neighborhood and into Seattle alone in elementary school but there are parents of my kids friends who are horrified at the thought of letting their middle and high schoolers ride public transportation alone.  Many of their friends have never been to the movies without a grownup or ridden their bikes to a friends house unaccompanied.  I let the kids walk to the bookstore while I shop at Target or the grocery store and some of my friends ask if I'm worried about them "wandering around alone".  No, they're 12 and 14 years old for god's sake!  Daughter does her own laundry, they all have chores they have to do every day and the boys are getting really good at dishes!  I try not to be a helicopter parent but compared to my peers I am practically neglectful.  My whole goal at this point is to have them learn everything they need to know to get the hell out of my house and live successfully on their own!  If I don't teach them that, they will NEVER LEAVE.  And that would fuck up my plans in a very big way!

So what do you do?  When is it necessary to let them out of your sight and learn things the hard way?  We can't protect them from the real world forever and I think that not preparing them for reality is a subtle form of neglect.


Shelly... said...

Well, since I have never raised any kids (other than every other weekend) I can't answer those questions but I sure missed the memo about Thing 1 coming for an "extended visit"! :)
Actually, a lot of what you said makes sense. When I was a kid I babysat other kids at an early age (8 or so) and we played outside for hours. When I moved in with my dad and stepmom things got a little stricter and let me just say you are absolutely right about going APESHIT when you move out of the house (which I did 3 weeks after graduating from high school and NEVER moved back).
Good post!

C said...

This is an awesome post! I read the one you linked to also...I have to admit, I struggle with this--A LOT!

The way that I grew up was less than ideal (let's say) and I was alone a lot from a very young age and had way too much responsibility on my shoulders than I should've been expected to handle. Now, I obviously didn't die, and I like to think I'm a pretty decent human being, but a lot of bad things happened to me, so I feel like I've experienced the darker side of what CAN happen. And when you combine that with all of the shit you hear about these days, it makes for some pretty huge fears.

I have been told that I'm too controlling (I know, shocker, right?) and I sincerely do work on it--sometimes I'm better than others. I don't want my kids to completely rebel or not have any skills to accomplish anything on their own, so there have been times that I've had to reevaluate some of my 'policies' and change direction a little bit.

My kids are 8 & 11, so some of the scenarios you've talked about haven't been an issue yet. I let them play outside and ride their bikes on our street; I have let my 11 y/o stay home by herself for a couple of hours and I've allowed her to stay w/the 8 y/o for up to an hour. My 11 y/o rides in the front seat a lot of the time because she's almost as tall as me.

I won't talk to other kids for them to make friends (I might have when they were like 2!) and for the most part, if they have issues with other kids at school, I make them figure it out. As far as allowing them to walk to other stores alone or be dropped off at the movies, I'll just have to see what feels right--but I think about it a lot. It's hard to imagine that I'll feel comfortable with those things any time soon, but I guess a lot of it will depend on the situation and the other kids involved.

You've made me think of all of the places I am over protective and how I can change that--so that's good. I've certainly made plenty of mistakes, I can tell you that!


Kate said...

My parents kept a close watch on us and we were not allowed to do alot of things that other kids could - as a result I over did it when I got to be an adult. Like you said I went "apeshit".

Not good.

I am not a parent. But if I were, I would hope I wouldn't repeat my parents mistake.

I do however have a cat that's very spoiled - so I'm guessing if I had kids I'd go to the extreme with the spoiling. LOL!

Katy said...

Shelly - forget extended visit, he's moving in with you!!

Christy - I think my whole post is out the window if you are a parent who did experience the "dark side" of this whole subject. I think it would be very hard not to be super protective of your kids in that situation! We had friends whose four year old drowned in a canoeing accident seven years ago and my children haven't been on or near a river since then. They can handle it but I CAN'T. So I do think that personal experience affects us hugely on this issue!!

Kate - Your cat is never going to be able to grow up and go to college and be a productive member of society. BAD kitty mommy! ;-)

MOM #1 said...

Sorry, I was too lazy to read that whole other article and your whole post too . . . maybe I should come back tomorrow. I'm sort of in PMS pissed off mode today . . . it makes my attention span VERY short.

Oh, and I'm in in-between parent. I do try to scare the bejesus out of Baby Boy on certain things that I really don't want him to have to experience, but on the other hand. . . I trust him (for the most part, but not with unfiltered internet usage - more on that another time, LOL) and I allow him the freedom to be who he needs to be and go where he needs to go.

A lot of my homeschooling Mom friends who have older children refuse to let their kids get driver's permits or licenses . . . it frustrates me to no end.

WHY stifle a child?


It's so absurd. Baby Boy's been studying for his test, and all I can do is give him the tools he needs to be a defensive and considerate driver. The rest is up to him.

Oh, shoot. I'm rambling on your blog.

I need to take a Midol and go ramble on my own blog.


The Hotfessional said...

Oh mah holy hell...Shortman stayed alone for the first time, overnight, when he was 14. He ended up spending a bunch of time at the next door neighbors (their son was his best friend) - and he knew (as did they) how to reach us at any time.

His biggest problem was that he stayed awake ALL night. Which taught him that sleep = a good thing.

We left him and the 24 year old (who hardly ever sleeps at home) alone for two nights this year. He was 16.

I want him to be an adult. He is proving himself every day.

Laurels word said...

I'm overprotective because mine are young, and blonde, and blue eyed girls. Next year I will let my (she will be) nine carry a key to school to let her in the house. She's very responsible already. I've started to let them play outside in the yard without me in a camping chair watching them like a hawk. I now open my front curtains and watch them like a hawk from the couch lol.

It's hard letting go. I applaud your parenting and strive for that kind of independence for my kids.

Kevin Miller said...

When you wrote about letting your kids to to the convenience store after school it reminded me of how I stopped at the 7-Eleven WITH YOU one day after school in elementary school and got grounded for the rest of the week. My mom was one of those ones who didn't let her kids go to "the sev", but otherwise she let us ride our bikes all over the neighborhood.

There's my random and not-particularly-relevant comment for the afternoon.