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Bad Mommy! No Biscuit!

February 16th, 2005 (06:28 pm)

pegkerr linked to this article, which I also read today. I'm still mulling over the article.

In particular, I was thinking about some of the things that my parents didn't have to deal with, that I do, that make parenting harder. The odd thing is that a lot of these are unintended consequences of good changes

Here's one. (1) The demise of the culture of the carpool. Back when I was a preschooler, I got a lot of rides from other people's parents. My mother and the other mothers took turns driving everyone's kids. Carpools are much MUCH less common than they used to be, because buckling up children has gotten vastly more complicated. When I was three, I was buckled up with a regular seatbelt, either in the front or in the back. Oh! And (you'll love this part!) if I was in the front seat of a car with shoulder belts, I would conscientiously tuck the shoulder part behind me, so that I was restrained with a lap belt only. My parents had taught me to do this so that I wouldn't get strangled by the shoulder belt should we crash.

Fortunately, the time I was in a car crash, we actually backed into something. (A house. We broke through the wall. Fortunately, Houston houses weren't built very well.) These days, Kiera rides in a carseat and Molly has quite recently graduated from a carseat to a booster. We can't give another kid a ride in our car because we don't have a minivan; the only remaining seats are the front (airbag) and the middle of the back (lap belt only, and precious little space left between the two carseats).

I think that the shift to properly restraining children in cars is a good one, don't get me wrong. But it has largely killed the culture of the carpool, because you need to have the boosters, or have the kids cart around the boosters, plus it's awfully hard when you can't put them three across in the back plus one up front.

So all the driving falls on the individual parents. You can't just share it out.

Here's another. 2. Increased protection of kids.

Back when I was a kid, my mother let me ride my bike up and down the block, unsupervised, at five. As a kindergartener, I was expected to walk home alone from my school four blocks away. It was close, but I was an easily confused kid and got lost a few times; in retrospect, one of my parents should have been picking me up. I had it down by first grade, at least. My best friend walked home with me to my house, then continued on to her own, much further away -- in second grade. We had good parents, conscientious parents. No parent I know would do that now.

At eight, I walked myself to Hebrew school, crossing an extremely busy street at a traffic light. By age ten or eleven, I regularly used public transportation to get to things like piano lessons and dance class. I was typical for a kid in the early 1980s. In nice weather, I rode my bike everywhere.

These days, most kids have a ton of activities, and their parents have to drive them to every single one until their kid is in junior high. You can't get a break by telling your kids to go outside and play; you need to go out with them to keep them safe. You walk them to the bus stop and wait with them. Because they could get kidnapped.

It is widely believed by mothers my age that the world is more dangerous than it was when we were kids. This is completely BS; the number of stranger kidnappings has always been extremely rare and has changed very little since the 1980s. Our parents, clearly, were being neglectful; either that, or we're being overprotective.

I personally think we're going to seriously screw up our kids unless we can get a collective grip and loosen the apron strings enough to let them stretch their wings a bit. But mine is a minority opinion, from what I can tell.

This definitely makes life harder for parents, though.

The article comes down hard on 3. A greater awareness of the impact of things like reading to your kids.

I've seen a couple of commentaries on this article today, and one place noted that part of the problem here is the way the information is often presented. Some educational psychologist does a study that shows that, say, kids who are raised in bilingual households do better at math in fourth grade. This gets picked up in the media, and there follows a series of much-simplified articles that all assume, first off, that correlation = causation. They also all dig up some local semi-expert who suggests that parents who don't happen to speak two languages should all sign their children up for Infant Language classes. The next step are the articles (and ads) that ask, Are you cheating your child with your failure to teach them Spanish at six months? You bad, bad, bad mommy.

I'll be back more with more commentary, maybe. Kiera wants me to read to her....


Posted by: Porphyria ( porphyrin)
Posted at: February 17th, 2005 03:06 am (UTC)

Before the Zoloft, I kept circling around the realization that I can't do it all. It's not something I like to think about, so I keep attempting to do it all and failing, scaling back and then gradually scaling up, and failing and scaling back...

One day in clinic, I heard what I was telling a mother of an 18 month old. I was giving her permission to put the kid in front of the TV if she needed to to get something done, and telling her she needed to take time for herself.

That night, I decided to try to stop the cycle. I can't do much to stop my own guilt: I work 80 hours a week. I'm away from home one night in four. When I am home, I'm tired.

And sometimes it's hard to keep in mind that my kid loves me *anyway*. But I try.

On a less-related tack:

These issues are something I have a hard time with, this one in particular:

Booster seats aren't legislated, and the AAP supports a bill that would legislate them, which (in my mind) would kill the carpool forever.

I personally think boosters are a good idea. But do I want it legislated?

Not sure.

Posted by: Naomi ( naomikritzer)
Posted at: February 17th, 2005 09:43 pm (UTC)

I think I want it legislated. But I do grieve for the carpool. I wish there were some way to at least make carseats and boosters easier and more straightforward to use -- the LATCH standard is a step in the right direction, but there's a loooooong way to go.

Posted by: squigsoup ( squigsoup)
Posted at: February 17th, 2005 01:08 pm (UTC)

Finally, an educated person admitting that perhaps we are a bit overprotected. I always have a vague sense of unease when I send my four year old out into my
1) fenced-in
2) Easily visible from the back sliding glass door
backyard to play--just in case anyone from you-know-where would happen to stop by and tell me that I really SHOULD be out there watching her every move in case someone should happen to swoop over the fence and steal her, instead of puttering around in the kitchen while she gets from fresh air.

Posted by: Naomi ( naomikritzer)
Posted at: February 17th, 2005 11:08 pm (UTC)

Well, I won't rat you out.

Posted by: Erin ( perimyndith)
Posted at: February 17th, 2005 05:47 pm (UTC)

I was discussing overprotection & kids the other day with my mother. When my husband and I bought our first house last year, we made sure that it had 3 bedrooms, a backyard, a quiet street, and a neighborhood park, all for our future children. There are lots of kids in the area... there must be 15 of 'em out waiting for the elementary school bus at the stop every morning.

But we almost never see these kids around the neighborhood. When we go past the park, there are never kids there unless their SUV is parked nearby. Granted, there is a somewhat busy road between our neighborhood and the park, but I used to cross roads just like it all the time when I was a kid. Heck, I had to cross a busier road to get the mail.

I saw a study recently that correlated how many hours kids spend watching TV to childhood obesity. The study was trying to show that kids were exposed to too many commercials for unhealthy foods. It seems to me, though, that the real problem with kids sitting home watching TV is that they're sitting and not walking or running or playing or otherwise burning calories.

Myself, I'm much more concerned that our future children will inherit my husband's allergies than get kidnapped by strangers. What if they get stung by a bee and no one has an epipen? But hey, my husband survived his childhood...

Posted by: Naomi ( naomikritzer)
Posted at: February 17th, 2005 11:16 pm (UTC)

See, I totally, 100% agree with you that this is a contributing factor to childhood obesity. All the moms I know say, "Oh, but I just go with them when they want to go out and play." Sure you do, because after all, you never have a younger child who needs to be put down for a nap, you never need to work on dinner, you never have laundry that needs to be folded or something else that you need to be doing inside. You never say to your kids, "You can play outside later." Because you're a perfect mommy. But there are clearly plenty of not-perfect very-protective mommies out there. The bad mommies when we were kids locked the kids out of the house for the day. (According to my mother, one of our neighbors in Houston used to pack her girls lunches, then locked them out for the day while "entertaining motorcycle gangs" in her house.)

There is simply no exercise that compares to the endless roaming that most of us did as kids.

My neighborhood still has a decent number of parents who let their kids go out and play with other kids without a parent right there. It's one of the things I like about my neighborhood. (Though I don't let Molly go out unsupervised -- I'll just reiterate that, in case anyone's wondering. She's only four.)

Posted by: squigsoup ( squigsoup)
Posted at: February 18th, 2005 01:11 am (UTC)

There's a big difference between a 4 year old and an 8 year old. How are kids supposed to have those wonderful "away from parents" experiences that teach them that they are their own people, if their parents are always right there?

Posted by: mythago ( neverjaunty)
Posted at: February 21st, 2005 03:05 am (UTC)

Good points. I think that there are a lot of parents who DON'T grasp the whole stranger-danger-is-BS thing, because I've had that conversation with other moms--pointing out that >99% of all assaults on children are perpetrated by family members or somebody who knows the kid. And they nod, and say, "Yes, but..."

If we're really honest, I think we worry that a) other people will harass us for letting our kids out! alone! unprotected! and b) if something, ANYTHING, happened to the kids, we'd be tarred as neglectful and stupid.

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