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January 27, 2008



Hi Melissa,

I struggle with this one too. Our house is on a block with a lot of foot traffic- in the summer there are drug dealers and prostitutes who like to do their business at the park. The park is at the end of our block- just 3 doors from our house. Things are MUCH better then they were, back before we had kids when we had shootings on the block and in the park and an active drug house. When my boys were 6 months and 2.5 years I had them in the park when a fight broke out and someone shot their gun at the edge of the playground. Shot. Their. Gun. While my kids were in the swings!

So my dilemma is how to be cautious, but not freaky. How to let them play outside (in the backyard), how not to stereotype, how to feel safe in our neighborhood. We'll never be able to ride our bikes around the block, since one end is a very busy 4 lane street.

Right now there's a homeless guy living in the brambles in the lot at that end of the block. One morning he was sleeping in our car, then when I confronted him he stumbled out and tried to pee on our tree. I struggled with how pissed off and freaked out I was, and yet I felt bad about the fact that he has no place to sleep. I yelled at him, but at least I called him "sir" as I was yelling at him. I want to make sure that I show my boys empathy, and that he's not really a "bad guy", but a guy who's having some bad luck and has made some bad choices.

I refuse to be like a family member who pre-chews her kids' hard candy so they won't choke, won't let them use their own bathroom stall at a campground (instead she crams herself and them all into one), homeschools out of fear of others' influence, and is basically teaching her kids that the world is a scary place. Yes, sometimes it is scary, but we stand up to the scary parts and try to see the good in the bad guys.


Well,there is a part of me that thinks these children are a bit under-supervised as I'm not necessarily convinced from experience that they are being left unattended because their moms are working and lack childcare. I suppose it is a question of finding a balance as many of these kids end up running the streets by age 10 and don't make it past their freshman year of high school as they lack basic reading and math skills. Although when the Elizabeth Smart case was in the news I did think to myself no way would any of these girls I teach be so freaking compliant which is a trait of their upbringing that I totally admire and respect.

Still, the 'helicopter' phenomenon seems scary as well. And exhausting to the mom. I thought the point of going to a playground was so you could sit and drink a cup of coffee and have a minute of peace not be in their refereeing (sp?) whose turn it is on the slide :)

Unfit Mother

RM -My good friend down the street lets her 6 and 4 year old boys ride their bikes around the block. Her attitude makes me realize how ridiculous it is NOT to let our children have some looser reins. Can you imagine how incredulous that would have sounded to a parent in the 70's?

MT- I absolutely think there is an economic element to this "helicopter parenting" (that new term is ALL the rage). We live in an economically diverse neighborhood where I see children of lower income families and immigrant children running around without constant parental supervision. If you do not have the option of the daily nanny, many families are forced to let their children fend for themselves. I can barely afford childcare, if my kids were older and I HAD to work, giving them a key to the house may be the only way I could survive.

This overprotective sheltering is going to cause some longterm issues. Our children need to build some confidence by exploring the world on their own. I just have to decide at what age I think this is appropriate.


Do you think it is also an issue of class in the US? When I taught in a low SES school I noticed a big difference at events such as football games and also at stores and such in the neighborhood compared to my middle class suburbia existence. I would see pre-schoolers walking down the streets by themselves all the time as I drove home from work and small children completely unattended at larger markets, etc.

But I agree with you about the culture of fear that seems to dominate these days. I am a bit of a worry wart but trying to stop :) I remember seeing tiny kids in Mexico at the edge of the ocean and the moms and grandma's sitting 20-30 feet away in chairs talking. The kids seemed absolutely fearless and it made me really think about how all the hovering must affect our children's psyche here.

radical mama

There are a lot of people in my life who think we are too lax with the girls. We let them play out in the yard, and only glance at them every 20 minutes or so. We let them walk down the street to play with friends.

But I feel as you do. We do our best to teach them good judgment. I don't want to raise my kids to think that danger lurks at every corner. Maybe it does, but we have to be able to leave our house every day despite that fact.

And every generation makes the same old argument: When I was a kid, it was safer/ better/ easier. Whatever. Things progress, things change, things rarely get more dangerous/ worse/ harder as a whole.

Yes, we have terrorism now. But 20 years ago we had the cold war, 30 years ago the Vietnam War, 40 years ago the atom bomb, and 60 years ago the submarine and machine gun. Technological advances never get scarier than the last, they are just new and different.

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