The Atlantic just ran a great article by Hana Rosin (of The End of Men fame), called The Overprotected Kid.

You should read it in entirety, it’s fantastic, but to summarize: we’ve become increasingly protective of our children and as a result have limited or even eliminated their free-range time, in turn causing children to become:

less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle.

says Kyung-Hee Kim.

I love this. I buy into this. As I read it, I remembered my own childhood wandering and day-long yard games with the local pack of kids. In the summers I went out after breakfast and came back by dinner time and no one asked any questions. I walked to school every day starting in first or second grade. We all have stories like this- it’s just what we did right?

And now we’re parents and we live in a culture that expects constant protection and supervision of our kids, like it defines parenthood itself, and I think many of us have taken it as a given. It’s particularly prevalent here because it seems to intersect with the middle- to upper-middle-class focus on enrichment, cultivation, and achievement that I was talking about in a previous post.

We do parent collectively in many ways, even the most isolated and introverted among us.

Rosin says – and I love this – :

One common concern of parents these days is that children grow up too fast. But sometimes it seems as if children don’t get the space to grow up at all; they just become adept at mimicking the habits of adulthood… They spend a lot of time in the company of adults, so they can talk and think like them, but they never build up the confidence to be truly independent and self-reliant.

Seriously, read the piece. It’s great.

I’ve seen this idea pop up here and there over the last few years and it seems to be spreading. It’s in the air, it’s out there. Practice may not change drastically or quickly (too many boring playgrounds to raze) but I think we’re in the beginning of a paradigm shift. At least I hope so.

And I’m so happy that I’ve become a parent during this moment. I only hope I can put my money where my mouth is when the time comes.

Art credit: Todd Baxter (it’s a Todd Baxter Thursday)

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