Over-parenting in my generation

Lenore Skenazy and David Brooks (two of my favorite reads, by the way) touch on the tendency of parents of a certain age (mine) toward ultra-over-protection of their kids.

The theory from Strauss & Howe is being borne out today. It goes: since we generally grew up as latchkey kids as children (and perhaps grew up to be Latchkey Men, with a nod to the excellent Wek) and were largely left to our own devices as our parents granted us freedoms (partly out of their own absorption in their own lives), that now, as grown-ups with kids of our own, our generation tends to over-compensate as parents, and thus overprotects our kids to the point of stifling them.

From Brooks:

We’re familiar with talk about how Vietnam permanently shaped the baby boomers. But if you grew up in or near an American city in the 1970s, you grew up with crime (and divorce), and this disorder was bound to leave a permanent mark. It was bound to shape the people, now in their 40s and early-50s, reaching the pinnacles of power.

It has clearly influenced parenting. The people who grew up afraid to go in parks at night now supervise their own children with fanatical attention, even though crime rates have plummeted. It’s as if they’re responding to the sense of menace they felt while young, not the actual conditions of today.

From Skenazy, advocating “Take Our Children to the Park…& Leave Them There Day”:

As you readers know, I believe in involved parenting — teaching our kids the skills they need to be safe and self-reliant. But there’s not a whole lot of chance for a child to put any of that into practice and get good at it,  if mom is by his side for a full 18 years.

As a parent who admittedly trends toward overprotection, I’ve also left 3½-year-old Icepick Jr. in the backyard (which would make me a bad parent, according to the pediatrician in the Daily News article) for a whole 90 seconds while running inside to pee (with the windows open and an infield-full worth of outdoor toys, fully safety-approved, to occupy him). We’re fortunate in that we live less than a city block from the elementary school Junior will eventually attend. I’m looking forward to walking with him to that school someday. And someday later, (gulp) letting him walk there by himself.


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