|Versus Lenore Skenazy|
Oh how I wish I hadn't taken down that post on skipping school.
What's a Sherpa? A Himalayan navigator, a guide, one who leads, checks the path ahead.I'm out of town, Los Angeles, and some people are telling me the story of the disappearance of their two year old. This two year old is my grandson.
What are Sherpa parents? Those who shepherd children, protect, probably don't push strollers lest their children think they are being pushed away.
The little guy follows the dog outside, isn't missed until someone's Spidey sense tingles. All hell breaks loose, but they find him down the street. He's in a very good mood and can't understand what the big fuss is all about.
His point of view is well-taken. Why the fuss? He's two.
He can handle a walk.
His attitude proves what we say about healthy kids needing space to grow, room to operate independently. If parents hover, children miss golden opportunities to stretch their limits, to gain confidence. They never feel the thrill of I can! in a thousand different ways.
When she's there, mommy, she kisses the boo-boos. When she isn't, the boo-boos are minor annoyances, interruptions in healthy play. Lacking watchful attention, kids find independent, alternative solutions. We hold them back when we are the only thing they see.
The self is truly the self when tested alone.
This is my argument against the family bed, by the way, something I've wanted to rant about for a long time. Allowing a child in the sack sabotages his confidence, if protects from competition, not unlike the menopause of breast-feeding. Kids need to be alone at dawn, the sun shining through the window, the birds chirping outside, to truly sense that life is beautiful and good, all alone, no large human buffers to buff against ghosts and invisible boogie men.
In the same way, we shouldn't be shielding our progeny from life's many disappointments in the name of love. Children need disappointment, they need to fail, need to do badly in school, mess up an art project. At least once. Failure keeps us humble.
And running to Mommy for help reinforces . . . running to Mommy for help. There is a fine line between healthy help-seeking and dependency. Let them call their friends to figure it out. Mom won't be there forever.
But parents panic, worry that their kids won't get into college or kindergarten. It's a cruel, competitive world, hence the help with papers, math, making sure they get to school on time. The consequence is a generation of pampered little people who don’t need to learn how to use a GPS because they have a chauffeur. I have patients who drive their teenagers to schools less than a mile away. The kids are lucky if they see a rabbit or a squirrel in their lifetimes.
Somewhere in this Bible of True Parental Love it apparently says that we're not supposed to let our kids get bored, either. The idle mind, devil's playground, heroin addiction, surely. But kids are electronically drugged until they fall bleary-eyed from their chairs, three screens blazing with G-chat, Facebook and lastly, homework. Still time for teev. It's a miracle they learn anything.
The good news is that there is a resistance movement to quash helicopter parenting. Hovering soccer moms come to therapy announcing that they are no longer cursing referees, throwing tomatoes, purses. They are finding this embarrasses their children.
Fifty years ago mothers like mine either went to work or made dinner. Either way, children played hide and seek-- outside-- and baseball, unsupervised, in the park Can you imagine letting little kids do that now, have free reign over an entire block, the whole neighborhood?
Lenore Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids, can. She's made a well-deserved splash joking about the redefinition of motherhood. Her family executive committee made a conscious decision to let their nine-year old son take the train alone because he wanted to be a big boy. Well, all right then! The world is yours to explore, dear. Just be safe.
And the committee taught him how to do just that.
According to Skenazy, what fuels the mishigas is the media (mishigas is Yiddish for craziness, my word not hers, rhymes with dish-wig-floss). News anchors seize upon missing-persons stories, encourage responsible parents to buy tracking devices.
She has a point about the industry. But just because people make money off of fear doesn't mean that there is nothing to fear. Crime is down, as she points out, but some crimes are up, namely child pornography. States Attorneys offices, the people who train people like me, don't think that the fear of child abduction is an inordinately irrational fear at all.
Sherpa parents knew it all along!
Over-protective, but not blind. They are out there, sorry, the no-good-niks, although they are usually people we know. But there is stranger danger, it does happen (watch the CNN show Issues with Jane Velez Mitchell). Last year a teenager in my neighborhood fought off a man outside the library who tried to throw her into the trunk of his car, and little kids walking home from the bus corner were approached by a man in a car offering candy.
So Sherpa parents aren't over-protective, necessarily. And they're the ones who attend relationship safety workshops, who worry about the school-yard creeps without knowing that the real threats are working inside.
In schools, working for day camps, and online. Predators and "business people"* troll for unhappy kids who make themselves vulnerable on the Internet. They are the ones whose Facebook settings are set to Friends with Everyone. Problems at home, needing to vent, lonely, kids write and blog bout their depression. A predator, usually a pornographer, finds it, comments, slowly grooms the child.
You're so pretty, didn't you know that? Ever think about modeling?No hurry to meet. The cameras are in our homes.
These are not good people. They are people who have seized upon a billion dollar industry-- the child pornography industry-- and they are looking for their fair share of the pie.
So being the your child's friend (and knowing the babysitter) is the true prime directive, not being a sherpa, and not being too cavalier on the subject, either. The traditional relationship-violence protection methods are still relevant: teaching kids that not everyone is a friend, that people who tell them to keep secrets might be concealing illegal acts. Maybe sending them to akido will help, but talking with them about our very different world, one more dangerous than the world that their parents and grandparents reined, is more to the point.
If they worry too much, we can treat that.
And as long as I'm ranting, sorry, one more thing. You people in Los Angeles? My first degrees, the ones with the confident baby? Would you kindly keep an eye on him? Or do I have to move out there?