Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Raising Independent Kids

Let's start with I do not know where you grew up but where I grew up in the late 70s and 80s in NYC times were NOT safer.   The crime rate for a while was out of control, the city was falling apart, there were garbage strikes where I remember the nasty rats having feasts, crack and AIDS .. ok you got it - yes it was that bad graffiti subway laden thing you see in movies but with some "special" odors for effect.

It was the time when we cheered on vigilantes and supported groups like the Guardian Angels because at least someone seemed to not be overwhelmed into fear of the crime that was happening.

Ok got the picture - if you didn't Serpico/Death Wish/Sat Night Fever are all excellent movies for you to watch or read Bonfire of the Vanities.  Now amid this we had parents that loved us a lot.  I mean a lot.  I also, total dork alert, looked it up kidnappings/child kind were higher then and sexual abuse occurred.  So unto this those of us who lived in NYC or any place like it were left to run outside.  There were no play dates, my mother and father worked and basically I had to come home when the streetlights came on.  I wandered these streets a lot as a kid, to parks, my friends' homes, to public pools, alley ways (as I got older) and even into the city (it's a NY thing if you live in a borough Manhattan is the city) on the train (same it's a subway) with friends at really young ages.

We knew it was nasty - and I as I got older I knew it was dangerous - but I still wander as far as the curfew let me.  My friends and I got home, often to empty apartments, and took care of a snack, doing our homework, watching some tv.  We had lists of chores for both our days off and daily.  We did them, often unsupervised.   I knew how to go to the bank at like 12 years old and deposit money for my parents - those days before ATMs when you had to plan on when to go during the week to get and deposit money before the weekend.

It is partially my nature but it is also this experience, shared by many, that makes me independent and very self reliant.  I got my own apartment, understood alternate side of the street parking and can negotiate a subway system in almost any part of the world.  I wonder what kind of children we are raising at times.  We have become hyper-vigilant, not because statistically it is merited but because the media and internet coverage has to some degree caused hysteria where there should be awareness. For the most part, and do not let publishers sell you on how this is a US way only I talk to friends in other places and it is global, we manage our children's lives in a way that the President of the US's personal admin could use as a guide.  We have started to believe that we are not only our child's advocates but many think they are now doctors, educators, psychiatrists and know better because we have access to some random information on the net.  We want to partner with the education system from the day it is Music Together to the point where some want to help with the job interview process.  That is partner not just listen and understand that these professions and professionals know more than us, unless we too are in them, and to ask questions but partner as in equal at the table.

Our children have access to an amazing amount of information and technology yet because we are so ingrained we monitor that to CIA level tactics.  They make no plans that we are not aware of or somehow a part of.  They do not know many times how to entertain themselves because should they come to us with "I'm bored" or "I don't want to play what little friend who I have over does" too often I see us trying to fill that void.

Now some of this is good parenting and all of it is parents who are trying to do the best they can.  The technology is a friend and foe and should be handled correctly.  Though lately I am trying to see how to help my children identify dangers more themselves (ok with some spying - get over it).  I have recently wanted to have my kids manage more of their own time - I mean if you do not get your homework done then it's not just about me but you lose recess.  The boredom thing I am over - if you are bored it is good, life will be boring and you should learn how to embrace down time.  My almost 11 year old has been encouraged to make his own plans with friends and then just check in to make sure it works with me.

We do this because as parents we want the world to be safe, it is not, and caring, it can be or can be brutal, and most of all because we want it all to go smoothly for our children.  Our kids though will not have lives like that and much like we did you hope that the bad things they encounter or chose to do are life lessons they can bounce back from.  I am working on making them see the potholes and then knowing how to swerve around them rather than rushing ahead of  it to pave it.  This is not to say our parents did not worry but they did us a great service in our ability to get it done for ourselves.  The children of today will need to know how to forge new relationships, seek out information in a work setting and basically not look to someone to get what they need but know instead they need to look to themselves to get it done.  I am working on this myself because as a parent there is also great pressure to make sure that my kids are safe and protected in a world that can be rougher than even adults to can handle.  My goal is to have kids who are independent because that will make them great contributors to society in whatever they chose to do - as long as I have helped them know that they are responsible for the choices.

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