Put the bubble wrap away and park the helicopter
Parenting advice from Dr. Brodie Aikman *
* – Not a real doctor. All observations and advice in this blog post are mine and do not reflect the opinions of UsedEverywhere. And they’re just jokes, so lighten up.
Ok, I’m sure to make some enemies with this post. But it’s time to speak up. Parents: you’re turning the next generation into people who can’t think or do for themselves. A legion of whiny wimps whose lives are over-protected and over-scheduled.
As parents, we’ve heard all of the buzzwords – ‘bubble wrap kids’, ‘helicopter parents’ (because they’re always hovering), ‘free range kids’, etc. But these words are stupid and come from books from so-called ‘experts’ who, if they have as much education and did as much research as they claim, they most likely didn’t spend enough time with their own kids, in the trenches, getting the practical child-rearing experience they actually need to become experts. And because we’re reading all these parenting books that we’re turning into these phrases they’ve coined.
I dislike all of these books for two major reasons. For one, I think they undermine a parent’s confidence in their ability to raise their kids. For the most part our parents did a decent job of raising us, without the aid of tome after tome telling them what they were doing was wrong. Secondly, I think it creates the idea that there is an easy, quick-fix program or series of tactics to raise your child. Or even worse, they give parents an excuse for their child’s behavior (FYI – your kid was acting like a brat when they hit that kid or threw a fit – he or she wasn’t being ‘spirited’. Kids are brats sometimes. It happens). And if you’ve ever dealt with two kids fighting, while coated in every disgusting body fluid kids are known to emit, you know there are no universal solutions or easy answers.
I know it comes from a place of wanting the best for our kids and the need to protect them from pain and suffering of any kind. I’m guilty of it too. But I think as a generation of parents, we’ve taken it too far. Pain and suffering is a part of life and the best way to prepare for it is to experience it. If we protect them from every little thing, where do they learn any problem-solving skills or coping mechanisms? Without practice, they don’t.
Case in point, here’s a little story that happened last year:
Let me set the stage.
I’m playing ball tag with my boys in the back yard.
Harrison is hiding behind a slide, his head barely visible, framed by two upright plastic protrusions on the slide, maybe a half inch wider than the ball. I do an elaborate spin move from across the yard and thread a bullet through those plastic uprights, hitting Harry square in the face.
We both stopped, stunned.
Now this could go two ways: I can run over and make sure he’s all right. Or I can acknowledge what an awesome throw it was and hope he appreciates its awesomeness.
There was no blood. It wasn’t a hard ball. And, all modesty aside, it was an awesome throw.
So I did the right thing – I raised my arms in victory and told him he was it. Harry smiled and the game resumed, both of us knowing we had just witnessed one of the most glorious moments in the history of ball tag.
In that moment I went from someone who tells him to clean up his room to someone who can share a good fart joke.
If I had rushed over and made a big deal of it he probably would have seen my overreaction and joined in, crying and feeling the hit much more than he actually did.
What I’m saying to all parents, myself included, is lighten up. Every little event and misstep doesn’t require a big talk or a making a big deal about it. Let the knees get scraped – that’s part of being a kid. The scrape heals, but the lesson will stay with them.
And speaking of being a kid, remember when we were kids? Do you remember being in an organized class, sport, craft or hobby every day of the week? Me neither. The phrase “just go and play” seems have been thrown to the side. Kids need time to develop their own unstructured creativity – they need to learn to think for themselves.
There, I’m done. Please direct any angry comments to me. But I may not answer right away. I’m about to go take my kids out snowball-style.