Years ago I had a very close friend who used to entertain me with stories of his neurotically over-protective mother. His childhood had been supervised and controlled by his mother to a comical extent. The beauty of the stories, which was not lost on either of us, was that he told them through a thick haze of weed. His poor, ridiculous mother. Having safely reached adulthood under her ‘hysterical’ charter he was now revelling in fuck-you quantities of freedom.
But he was a stable enough boy and nothing terribly serious ever came of his rebellion. He got a great job, some legal hobbies, eventually a family, and as far as I know, an enduring love of ‘breakfast bongs’. How did his mother get to be so over-protective? One of her children died as a young boy. Yeah, that’d do it. Though I still cringe at her parenting I’m a lot gentler in my assessment of this woman today.
Penguin Unearthed has posted her response to a bunch of thought-provoking questions originally from AmericanFamily about changing parenting norms and the inevitable trade-off between child safety and freedom. Below are the questions and I’m tempted to answer ‘never’ to all of them, even though the whole ‘slow parenting’ and ‘tinkering parenting’ movements theoretically really appeal to me and I believe today’s (first world) children are pretty much safer than any generation before them (like, remember when your parents let you play in flood-swollen creeks and treasure-hunt at the town dump?). But then again my child is only 3 and pretty much never wants to be out of my sight so I’m not exactly exploring the reality of this topic yet. And at this point I’m probably doing more to prepare her for managing her own safety than dreaming of her freedoms – like teaching her how to free herself from a locked car and how to make an emergency call. (Although these have been influenced by particular circumstances in our family).
1) At what age is a child old enough to be left alone in a car while you are out of sight for between 5-10 minutes ? ( for example to run into a store or pick up another child).
2) At what age would you feel comfortable leaving a child home alone for up to 30 minutes?
3) At what age would you let your child go play alone (no adults) outside in your yard?
4) What age would you let them walk 1-2 blocks to play alone in a park?
5) At what age would you let your child have a sleepover with a friend from school if you had only met that child’s parent a few times in passing?
I don’t know… when?