Friday, February 6, 2009

Where Has Childhood Gone?

Last night around 7 p.m., on my way to book club, I drove through the neighborhood I grew up in. It was a lovely spring evening. Clean streets, trees with green buds, pretty cottage-style homes.

Zero kids.

When I was a child growing up there 30 years ago, the first warm, spring night meant one thing: Every kid from every house was out, playing in the street and on the sidewalks. Freeze tag, bikes, kick the can, hide-and-seek.

I know where all the kids were. Same place as mine. Soccer practice. Piano lessons. Tutoring. Or in lock-down because the neighborhood was experiencing a wave of bombings, drive-by shootings and child abductions (not).

Once at book club, one mom insisted that all the neighborhood kids needed to be inside because our world has become very dangerous. That schools forbid kids from walking or biking to or from school. That kids' nonstop extracurricular actitivies are essential for

them to thrive in our highly competitive world. I protested that our particular world -- for instance, my old neighborhood -- has not gotten any more dangerous or competitive in the past 30 years. Several of the moms argued that our world -- let me note that it is a largely white, largely middle class East Coast milieu -- is a far riskier, threatening place than it was in 1975.

Our world is very different -- because we've made it different. Today's parents have changed how we parent. If a majority of parents refuse to let their kids play outside their house, or go to a local park, or walk to school by themselves, then no kids can. Because one kid alone on the sidewalk or at the park is vulnerable (not to mention bored).

Can we agree that American parents -- especially middle- and upper middle-class parents -- have gone collectively crazy? Almost everyone today, myself included, falls into the "extreme parenting" category.

But what I cannot figure out is WHY. Exactly when, and how, did American parents become completely obsessed with making our children's childhoods perfect?

Did you believe you'd be different? That your kids would have zero afters

chool activities besides "go out and play until dinnertime?" What purpose does it serve -- kids or parents -- to micromanage our kids' supposedly most carefree days? And when -- if ever -- will the pendulum swing back?

By Leslie Morgan stanley

This article really hit a nerve for me.I don't know why..maybe having a cold brings back childhood memories of simpler times!!! and I'm talking not that long ago. I grew up in England and I had a great childhood. My Parents wanted nothing big from us not worry about giant issues that I had no control over anyway.Just to be a kind, honest, kid. Respectful and conciderate.

This is my home town church

in England.We used to play in the fields

surrounding the church. I was a Girl Scout and

used to hold the Flag every sunday.