I knew many high school classmates that went backpacking through Europe right after graduation. I’m sure many of you either had that adventure yourself or know someone who has. For my generation, it was a rite of passage for the middle and upper class young adults; 1 back pack, 1 Eurail pass, and enough money for cheap meals and lodging in youth hostels.
It seems all the stories had these same elements. I noticed I don’t hear this story any longer from younger adults. Have we stopped seeking opportunities to spread our wings? Are we afraid of the unknown? All the stories I know about youthful adventure seeking came out of the 70’s, 80’s and maybe early 90’s. What happened? Is there a missing gene that fires up a sense of adventure and self-confidence? As kids, we bounced around in the back seat of cars without seatbelts, rode on the tail of pickup trucks, walked to school by ourselves and even went on shopping excursions to the corner store without holding the hand of an adult.
Are we doing our kids a dis-service? Are we over protective? Only in the past year, will my 9 year old triplets ride their bikes to the end of our street without adult supervision. Are we sheltering them too much? Are we over compensating for the seemingly total disregard our parents had for safety? Something tells me I am overly joyous that my kids will now go out alone and retrieve the mail from our mailbox while I putter around the kitchen? With that said, I had to establish the buddy system so they’d be willing to walk upstairs without me to get something from their room at night…or during the day…or when they are across the hall in my room staring at a dark doorway. Is my fading memory of a bolder youth making me judge my own children unfairly?
I can still remember spending long summer days throughout my entire childhood rollerskating, riding bikes and skateboarding in my neighborhood with my friends…without a parent in sight. My husband was a latch-key kid…independent from the age of 10, breaking bones on his skateboard and ditching class. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking…me too. That’s why I’ve worked from home for the last decade. Not on my watch!
These days, if you allow your kids to walk to the park a few blocks away from your home without supervision, you’re likely to find social services at your door in the blink of an eye.
I don’t want my kids to be afraid of the unknown. I want them to be confident enough to walk into a dark bedroom. How do you instill independence without the authorities being called by some neighbor who wants to decide for you whether your kids are old enough to go down the street alone?