My daughter recently had a few friends come skating for her 8th birthday. Not a PARTY, per se, but just a few friends and a skating rink, followed by some ice cream. So, kind of a party. I had never met two of the friends’ parents. The kids pretty much planned it—they talked about it at school and told their parents, but since we didn’t have invitations (it was NOT a party!), I wanted to call and talk to the parents. There’s no way I would let my kid go off with someone I had never met if I didn’t even talk to them about what they were doing, so I wouldn’t expect another parent to, either.
When I called one mom, she said they don’t like their daughter riding with other people, so she would drop her off at the skating rink and then pick her up and drive her to the ice cream place. OK, I get that—she doesn’t know us at all. For all she knows, I may keep a beer fridge in my car. I’m not here to judge. Maybe she had a bad experience.
This got me thinking about how different we are now than how we used to be (really, a lot of things make me think about that). I could go into all sorts of “when I was a kid” comparisons, but when I was a kid living in Tokyo at 10, I would ride the subway all over the city by myself. Seriously. And I wasn’t even allowed to watch PG-13 movies until I was married! Or until I was well beyond 13, anyway. I also remember kids piling into my mom’s minivan for soccer practice, swim team, post-game pizza…whatever it may have been, parents just sort of relied on each other for that type of thing.
I still come across parents who don’t really know what their kids are up to, and who would probably let them go anywhere with anyone. I feel like there are far more who lean the other way, however, and I think there are several factors that contribute to this shift. First, we are bombarded with stories about horrible things that happen to kids. On the news, on the radio, on the internet, in our Facebook feeds, and from other parents. A generation or two ago, there weren’t so many options. Second, we spend so much time in front of our computers that we forget how to interact with each other. We learn to be cautious and forget that people are people. Third, sites like Pinterest make us think we have to be the best at everything, but we lose the ability to ask for help when we need it.
There are now, have always been, and always will be varying levels of parental control and protectiveness. How do we find that middle ground? I am of the opinion that you can’t shelter them forever and sometimes you need to have faith and trust people. Yes, bad things happen, but if we can just take precautions, trust our instincts, and lean on each other, the odds will be ever in our favor.