One Saturday last year, a friend came to visit with her daughter.
I live across the street from a large park, and after lunch I gave in to pleas from my own 8-year-old and the visiting 11-year-old for permission to venture out – by themselves – to play soccer. Although my apartment is on the 6th floor, there’s a clear view of the grass from my dining room window. As long as the kids stayed within sight, I reasoned, it would be fine.
In truth, I’d never let my daughter go out into the park without an adult escort. But I'd wanted to, and I thought that this opportunity for her to go with an older friend was perfect.
My friend, who I greatly admire, shot down the plan. She was uncomfortable with the kids being out of arm’s reach.
Was I crazy? I was willing to let my 8-year old go, but my friend wouldn’t let her child, three years older, do it. Had my personal reaction against helicopter parenting clouded my judgement?
Still slightly abashed, a year later I’ve yet to reauthorize an unchaperoned trip to the park, despite the frequent petitions by my daughter.
Recent reports of declining murder rates in the United States, however, have me wondering how my generation turned into such zealous overprotective parents. For instance, according to an article last week in the Daily Beast, “from New York to Los Angeles, police departments are touting big drops in their number murder rate—and for good reason. If the country’s largest and most historically violent cities are any marker, the U.S. is on track to have one of the lowest murder rates in four decades.”
Violent crime rates were much higher when I was my daughter’s age in the 80’s, yet my own mother let me canvas the neighborhood on my bike solo.Lenore Skenazy, our national spokeswoman for backlash against overprotective parenting, says she’s “a big fan of safety measures—bike helmets, seat belts. I just don’t think kids need a security detail every time they leave the house. Risk and risky are not the same thing, but our culture is determined not to see the difference.”