Monday, August 9, 2010

A Big Brother Childhood

When I was a child growing up in Tucson, on the days when we didn't have school, my mother would basically open the front door sometime in the mid-morning and we wouldn't come home again until the mid-afternoon. We went to our friend's houses (most of them lived on the Cul-de-Sac Limequat Way which was just around the corner) or we went to the acres of desert across the street, an area that is now undoubtedly tract housing.

Even in College town in Sacramento I'm pretty sure I played alone outside, but I was only a maximum of two so maybe my mother was somewhere in the background. I do remember alone going to my "boyfriend's" house. He was five and slept with my picture under his pillow. In his room he kept showing me this robot that shot little pellets, like I was supposed to be impressed. I was only 2, but I'm pretty sure I was thinking, "What the heck is it with boys and robots?"
But there's no use pining over the good old days. Times have changed and besides, I'm raising my children in a major city, not in suburban Arizona. Still, sometimes I think things have swung way too far the other way, or at least here in Berlin. I was struck by this again this morning when I hung out on the playground on Chamisso Platz. All around me were uptight hipster parents, shadowing their children's every move, barely letting them make even a few steps by themselves. And I'm not talking about one year olds who are not yet steady on their feet, I'm talking 2 to 3 year olds, even a girl who looked almost 4. Of course, you have to make sure they don't get into any real danger, but they also have to learn things for themselves and have a little freedom, yes, even room to make mistakes.
Last week I saw a father there, also shadowing his three year old son, who had the audacity to have one foot on the ground and one foot on the edge of the fountain. There was no way the boy could have fallen into the fountain and he wasn't being wild. If he had somehow freakishly fallen, the worst that could have happened would have been a skinned knee. Still, his father said "No! Either put your foot on the fountain or on the ground. You can't have one in each place!" What's the message there? Never have fun or be playful. Never try new things or take risks. Hmmm...Sounds a little bit like German culture.....

Sometimes I think Mia and Lilly's generation is going to be filled with extremely neurotic people who have a hard time ever making any decisions for themselves. Prove me wrong kids, prove me wrong. ;)

6 comments:

Karen/Small Earth Vintage said...

I don't live in a neighborhood with many small children, but I remember my childhood being spent (in the warmer months, at any rate) nearly entirely outdoors, running around with other kids, no adult supervision at all. (Although as a bookworm I often preferred being indoors, in a chair with a book.) I think that has changed quite a bit...heck, it started to change for me when I was a pre-teen and we got an Atari!

I feel a little sad for kids today. Which I think means I am officially OLD! :D

Schaufensterbabe said...

I'm with you on that. We are getting kind of old if we're starting to say "back in my day...." ;)

petoskystone said...

while i don't let my grandchildren loose on city streets, i can't see shadowing them on a playground! if they don't learn consequences at play, they'll never be able to make reasoned decisions later. my daughter was raised under the maxim 'are you bleeding? then stop crying & go play'

Schaufensterbabe said...

I definitely agree. I'll also have to remember the maxim "are you bleeding? Then stop crying and go play." for the future. A good attitude for life. :)

Kari B. said...

Ughh, this is coming into full view for me as the summer days go by. Today while selling at a fleamarket the baby was sitting nearby playing on the grass. I was watching him closely as he was surrounded by several 3-4 year olds (I may have been watching them more than my own as they looked to be in the throwing rocks state of mind) and I noticed a well-meaning father taking a fairly good sized rock- i.e. one he would NOT have choked on- out of my son's hands... I was taken aback but chuckled and he mentioned that he had already taken a stick and some leaves from him.
Aren't boys supposed to play with sticks and rocks? How is any child going to learn about their surroundings if you don't let them see, touch, taste, run, jump, FALL? And, on a side note, what do you say to parents who want to police your children for you? Aren't these parents the same people that were as free as us as children?

Schaufensterbabe said...

Yes, it really is strange. You would think they would remember there are certain things you have to experience and learn on your own. Very German to have other parents do that kind of thing, though they do mean well. I often get alarmed reports because my younger daughter sometimes likes to eat sand (and I mean eat, not just sample and spit out!) When other parents rush over to warn me I usually just laugh and say it's probably good for her digestion. I'm sure they think I'm strange, but then the feeling is mutual! ;)

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