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 children...today 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.