Monday, June 25, 2012

Conforming or Individualizing

Allowing a child a sense of self is liberty and authenticity. What has made America great in the past was our individuality, self reliance, and ingenuity. If we don't nurture this, we become march-steppers in a societal design of others; we become institutionalized.

I don't mind that my children choose to do things on their own, under my supervision. I'm there to provide the material and intellectual resources, and emotional support for their ideas, projects, and creations. Meanwhile our local neighborhoods are empty; parents are at work, and children are in structured activities with very little free time at home. When they do get free time, they don't know what to do with it; and the home is not set up for home activities. There is no established routine or tradition at home for supervised free play.

This has been on my mind lately because we keep coming across grumpy over-scheduled, over-tired families; parents who are not allowing their children to act their age, and are expecting mature behavior from young children. The yelling, berating, and stressed-out controlling behavior toward their children is awful to have to see and hear(for me or my it was at the library, and very hard to ignore). I wonder if it is just my area? I don't notice it when we go out of state, but then we are in vacation areas, so most people are relaxed. It can't be a very happy existence to live like this. Life seems very compartmentalized, as if parents no longer feel qualified to care for and nurture children outside of school.

Now there are de facto recreation and socialization specialists who take over after school hours. These take the form of camps, sports, and structured activities run by "experts", and always the children are divided up by age categories. Parents spend their time hovering in the background, providing taxi service. This style of child rearing is considered superior, normal, and responsible in our area. The pressure to conform among peers, both parents and children, is very strong. A mention of a relaxing low key summer for the children inevitably gets a fish-eyed look. It seems so odd to me because I spent summers bouncing around my grandparents gentleman's country farm, and at the shore with my other grandparents. These were the best times of my life - freedom and time with some older, very wise, special people.

I make it a habit to keep our (apparent) DIY counter-culture child rearing to myself, as I've heard the ominous warning from local parents, more than once, that a child who has too much free time will end up in trouble and/or socially awkward, and culturally deprived. I can understand this being a concern if the parents are not present, as in a latch-key child, but this seems to still apply, in many people's minds, if the children are supervised at home! Am I not qualified?  I know I am, but how ridiculous are the implications. After a while, you realize that you must go(quietly) on your merry way, and let the others go on theirs - both ignoring and taking the occasional aggressive boundary jumping fish-eye gracefully.


Otter Mom said...

We've always been fairly independent. It may be the Texan heritage, I don't know. But our daughter has been raised to have as much in common with others as she wants to or as little as she wants to. We've always been big believers in individuality and while she's been raised with discipline, she's also been allowed to find her own style. She's had structure, but also free time and I think she's turning into a very well-rounded and well-grounded adult. She's also been raised to know the value of work and the necessity of it, and also with manners which seem to be lacking in too many people of all ages these days.

Alexandra said...

That's wonderful. No Borg parenting, huh?! lol Your daughter does sound like a gem.

Otter Mom said...

Oh I do Borg parent. But it's usually hubby that needs it! :)
But our daughter has been raised to think for herself, and she usually does a good job. As much as I loved watching her grow when she was small, I'm really enjoying watching her turn into an adult and discover the world for herself.

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