Child (nearly) arrested for being a child
Thursday, June 4th, 2009
If taken literally, the name of my book, The Perfect Baby Handbook: A Guide for Excessively Motivated Parents, might suggest that I endorse the aggressive perfecting of infants. I don’t. PBH is a deadpan critique of over-parenting—gentle comic relief for those who are raising children in the the midst of madness.
Surprisingly, its publication has coincided with a growing media backlash against over-parenting, which is invariably referred to as a “trend” like trucker hats or bubble skirts. Recently, the New York Times’ declared that this regrettable practice was over, a declaration which prompted Salon.com’s Amy Benfer to point out, with an eye roll, that the Times helped fuel it in the first place.
My favorite part of Benfer’s piece were the comments. The “go, Amy!” roars. The “who are you to judge” bristlings. And this plea to stop writing essays and counter-essays about over-parenting and check out how hopelessly ingrained this “fad” has become:
My wife and I decided a few weeks ago to allow our 5 3/4 year-old son to run around the block alone if he came right back. He is responsible and never crosses any streets unless he gets permission from a parent. He gets about five minutes to go around the block, which is apparently too long–he was escorted back today by a neighbor who had called the police. Never mind that most kids at this age around the world walk by themselves to school, and that we were allowed to do this kind of thing in the 1970s and before. And, if you look at any research, it’s safer now than the 1970s.
My name was taken by the officer. That’s the last time we’ll let our son run around the block.
I feel for this pent-up kid, as desperate to run as a crated whippet. I feel for parents who need to schedule recklessness (“He gets about five minutes…”) and then are publicly shamed for attempting (semi) laissez-faire childrearing. This isn’t a mere trend. And something tells me it will take more than a few articles to turn this boat around.