Katie Roiphe wonders whether parenting has gone over the edge of insanity. We're going to impractical extremes to create safe, education, creative environments for our kids, at the expense of independence and spontaneity.
Last year, a friend of mine sent a shipment of green rubber flooring, at great impractical expense, to a villa in the south of France because she was worried that over the summer holiday her toddler would fall on the stone floor. Generations of French children may have made their way safely to adulthood, walking and falling and playing and dreaming on these very same stone floors, but that did not deter her in her determination to be safe. This was, I think, an extreme articulation of our generation's common fantasy: that we can control and perfect our children's environment. And lurking somewhere behind this strange and hopeless desire to create a perfect environment lies the even stranger and more hopeless idea of creating the perfect child.
Roiphe isn't the first to make these claims. If I wasn't so rushed this morning, I could dredge up three or four debates on this very topic that we've had over the years.
I wish I was in the position to agree whole-heartedly with Roiphe. As a special ed parent, I don't have the freedom to ever stop parenting and just ignore my youngest for hours at a time. If I practiced benign neglect for a day, he would either get hit by a car or obsessively play video games by himself.
With my oldest, who was blessed with a normally functioning neurological system, I am probably as involved as my parents were with me. I probably sit on the sidelines of more soccer games than they did with us, but other than that, they were just as involved in homework and in leisure activities. In fact, many say that parents today aren't involved enough. Local administrators complain that parents are too busy to monitor their children's cellphone activities and to attend school functions.
Sometimes, I think these writers cherry pick extreme examples of parents and then extrapolate that we're all that way. I guess it makes for a more sensational story, but it's far from the truth.