As I keep mentioning on this site, it’s never been statistically safer to be a kid in this country. Yes, even safer than when we were kids. Let that sink in for a moment.
Yet the freedoms that children have enjoyed for hundreds of years have vanished and to be honest, that scares me as a dad. So when do we let kids play outside alone?
Now kids, sit around and let this “grandpa” tell you a story that took place in a time before the internet or even 24 hour TV channels. In this story, kids would spend the summer getting kicked out of their houses at 9 a.m. and find themselves out exploring the world until evening; yet always wandering back to eat that PB&J sandwich that materialized on the front porch around lunch time. In this world, the children would know every tree to be climbed, every bush you could hide under while pretending to be a ninja and understood the world was meant for exploring.
Science talks about how every human will categorize people into two groups of their choosing. For some, their classes might be rich and poor, others it might be parents and non-parents. For me, I divide people based on how they see the world; is it scary and bad or something to explored through grand adventures?
As my son has just turned three, I’m not quite able to let him just explore the world alone (even if I wouldn’t get arrested.) But the idea that I eventually will let him do it, is something as a dad I already struggle with.
Is it bad to let him walk the one-mile home alone from the store like I did when I was 10? Is it wrong to just kick him out of the house to explore, open ended, during the summer months at 13 like I did?
All this leads me to worry if “sheltering” my two kids from pretend threats will end up causing them far more harm than good?
Of course, I can expose them to the outdoors through hiking and taking them to the park but that’s not the life lesson I’m trying instill. It’s the idea of making your own decisions and being alone with your own thoughts. Remember before the cell phone (and Google) when you had a problem and needed to work it out yourself?
Kids growing up today won’t have that; they’ll just whip out their phone to find the answer or call someone who does. Do they really need that lifeline? I truly believe it’s a curse and a blessing.
I can’t be the only one who feels this way, can I? I would really like to hear from other parents on how they feel about this and if you think kids are growing up too “sheltered?”
In the mean time I’ll go back to letting my three-year light off the large bottle rocket fireworks. Kidding…kind of.