The other day when paying for gas inside the store, my three year old asked for a treat. I said no and before Sean had a chance to complain, a man whipped out a dollar bill and gave it to him. I protested, but the woman with him said, "He does this all the time. He likes to." We thanked the man, Sean chose M&M's and we went on our way.
At the time, I thought how nice it was of the man to give Sean the dollar. From outward appearances, he did not seem to have a lot and a dollar may have been a sacrifice.
As the day progressed, a few more thoughts came to me about what had happened. One, I do not love someone, especially a stranger, undermining my authority with my child. Two, and most importantly, I do not want Sean becoming comfortable taking money, treats or anything from strangers. Finally, I thought about how in this day and age, it is a shame that I have to go through this whole thought process. Couldn't the scenario just be: nice man gives boy a dollar, boy gets candy, everyone feels good? I am not so sure anymore.
A week ago, I had a conversation with two other moms - one with six grown children and the other with three young boys. For some reason we started talking about how different it is for kids now because of how much more we know about all the ways our children can be unsafe.
There are many changes that have happened over the past 30-40 years in regard to parenting and children - but one that we discussed for quite awhile was how once we reached age 6, we played outside by ourselves. At 8 or 9 years old, our parents did not see us until dinnertime and even then it was for a quick few minutes. Night time play meant hide-n-seek and catching fireflies.
Today, at least with the friends and families I know, roaming the neighborhood playing until called in for dinner is unheard of. We are all the so-called "helicopter" parents, hovering above, guiding our children's discussions, conflicts, activities and made-up games. No one questions or challenges these changes, and we certainly would judge the mom who would let her kid walk the two blocks to school alone. Yes, everything has changed. All I am saying is that it may not necessarily mean progress.
Am I trying to start a campaign to let our kids run free again...no. Do I think our kids are missing anything? Perhaps, but they do not know it. My memories of those summer days will live with me forever, and I believe my sons' memories will be with them forever and be just as important as mine are to me. They will just be different than mine.
So off I go to plan play dates, sign-up for camps and schedule our summer. Maybe I can include a walk in our forest-like backyard, the kids could go it alone, while I stand on the back porch armed with binoculars, mace and cell phone. That certainly is a different image than the ones we produced of our moms from our summer days...