Thursday, September 26, 2013

25 is the New 18

One reason why young adults are so infantilized is not just because of parents but because our whole public life infantilizes children.

Let me give you an example.

Last summer, I signed up my eight-year-old daughter for day camp.

My plan was to have her walk to day camp, 600 metres away, (according to Google Maps).

I signed her in the first day. The second day, I dropped her off (we were a bit late) and didn't sign in.

Well, that was not acceptable. The rules required that I sign her in. So I had to drive all four children to the community complex, untie my toddler, stick her in the stroller, get out my five-year-old (left my eleven-year-old in the car) and drag all three kid inside so I sign put my initials on a sheet of paper.

It is very rare for bad things to happen to an eight-year-old.

I understand that there are child predators out there.

However, we know that by doing this, we are infantilizing our children for certain, whereas the risk of accident or child abduction is very, very small.

So what lesson does an eight-year-old learn if she cannot be allowed to walk to day camp?

Mommy has to hold your hand. You are too incompetent to do anything by yourself.

I used to walk much further than she did when I was in day camp at age 8.

Nobody in my group got abducted.

Nobody got was hit by a car.

Somehow we all survived.

If anything, I think this kind of thing makes is more dangerous for children to go out into the world because they don't develop any street smarts and they can't use them.

The purpose of parenthood is to raise your child into a competent adult. By adulthood, your child should feel confident enough to go out into the world and make it on their own. 

I think that a lot of the quest for perfect safety is more about satisfying the adults' consciences than anything else. We tell ourselves: but wouldn't you feel horrible if your kid got hurt/abducted.

And of course we would all feel horrible. But in all likelihood, it will never happen.

But if you metaphorically wrap up your kid in bubble wrap, you're handicapping him.

There is no risk-free world. You get up in the morning, that`s a risk. You take a shower, that's a risk. You drive a car, that's a risk (and far more lethal risk than many other things we do in our day!).

When you eliminate risk, you have to count the cost to eliminating that risk. Infantilizing our children, and making them feel like they can't do anything is a huge cost for a very remote risk.
Rather than teach kids to fear the world, we should be teaching kids how to deal with the world.

And when we design our public life so that they don`t have to, that makes them weaker than if we gave them the tools to help themselves.

 H/T: Free Range Kids