Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Child's Play...Are Parents In The Way?

Several months ago I was invited to a book club with a group of women from our elementary school. The first book chosen was "The Glass Castle" a memoir by Jeannette Walls. Loved it! (See our favorite Amazon books in the right column.)

The author's upbringing was riddled with a strange combination of neglect and love. Never before had I thought of those two traits walking hand in hand, but in her situation they did. Many chapters were hard to read, but I gained such compassion for children that are just left to raise themselves. Although her childhood was unnecessarily difficult, through these circumstances she learned to trust herself and developed determination, ingenuity, and strength.

It made me think of how careful I am with my kids. We live in a safe town, but parents here tend to be very overprotective because of the terrible stories in the news. It's true...that I guard what my children watch, I hear most of their conversations, I work in their schools, I help out at children's church. There isn't a lot of time where they are unsupervised. My kids play sports, and teams are a wonderful experience, but is there time in their schedules for neighborhood playdates that let them practice making good and bad decisions without the constant watchful eye?

When I talk to parents they don't want their kids to fail or experience hardship. Our "hands off school" keeps them from learning for themselves what happens when they play too rough. Does all of this really protect them or hinder them? Simple things we took for granted when we were in elementary school like riding bikes in the neighborhood is now considered reckless parenting.

Teachers are afraid to tell parents that their child is getting a poor grade. Do we get too emotionally involved in all of the playground politics and step in to solve our kids problems. An unending number of rules govern everything our kids do with the idea that we are keeping them "safe". Does this allow them the wiggle room to become successful, creative, independent thinkers?

I'm still defining this and working it out in our own family. Believe me, I don't even come close to having all the answers. This book just prompted me to ask myself more questions. It reminded me that childhood is a lot like bootcamp...bumps, scrapes, exploration, mean kids, getting dirty, failed tests, being uncomfortable, enduring situations that aren't fair, standing on your own two feet, is all a part of the real world. That being a parent means not protecting them from all of those situations, but being there to love, support, and give them the tools to handle what is hard in life. Whoever said that it was fun to build character? Good stuff to ponder.


!!The Obnoxious SAHM!! said...

funny that you wrote that teachers are afraid to tell parents that their kids are doing poor. when i met with my sons teacher she said he was doing fine, a week later I got a note sent home and it said vaguely that he is doing poor in writing and reading. err??? hello? ah? and you couldn't have told me you knew this when we were talking face to face? (not that I didn't know he struggles already.)

Holly said...

Last year every time I asked the teacher how my son was doing..."Fine." was the answer. I think that was the only word she knew how to say to parents. The year before he had a great teacher who wasn't afraid to tell it the way it was and I LOVED her....many other parents at the school were afraid of her. I try my best to protect my son but also let him know the world is not a cushy place and let him learn on his own too.

The Glass castle is one of my fabvorite books EVER! I read and listened to this book about 4 years ago and still am emotional about is pretty amazing how people persevere and how differently situations affect people/children who were all raised in the same house.

Thanks again for the awards. Having fun following your blog!

Lee the Hot Flash Queen said...

Well, at our school it is not quite like that. I was called during the first week about my son and had a conference with my daughter's teacher the second week. They aren't afraid to tell us how the kids are doing...especially when they are doing poorly!

5thsister said...

I must read this book! Her childhood sounds similar to mine. When I think of how things could have come out I drop to my knees and thank God for the perserverance and fortitude that was necessary to make my life what it is today. Can't wait to read your guest blog over at Willoughby's cocktail party!

Daffy said...

Coming from an educational perspective (both hubs and I work in education) at least in our school district parents run things. And by that I mean NO ONE can tell them their child is horribly misbehaving or doing poorly (parents yell, degrade, threaten and in some cases become physical). In our district everything is the teacher's fault. Parents run roughshod over everyone and administration bows to it. Children know they will get away with unacceptable behavior and academic performance and manipulate that fact to the fullest. It would be nice to have some happy medium between the two. It seems to always be one extreme or the other. Great post today!

ScoMan said...

This is a very good post, and very thought provoking as well.

And you make a good point, more and more we are looking to protect kids and keep them in little bubbles so they don't get the chance to just be kids. There are a lot of things these days that parents HAVE to do that weren't done in the past, and a lot of things they MUST NOT do that have always been done before.

Does that mean that we were raised wrong? I don't know, but I certainly don't feel like a failure who never stood a chance because my parents weren't beside me every step of the way.

No, I think I turned out okay.

kyslp said...

I read The Glass Castle when it was first released. (I'm from WV but not the area that where JW lived.) My kids' school don't keep us informed of any problems, either. Or maybe my kids are perfect? (HA)

I like your Amazon favorites sidebar. I read and enjoyed many of your picks. (Especially The Help, Water For Elephants, and The Kite Runner)

Erin M. said...

I read The Glass Castle, too. It was very moving and I often found myself wiping tears away. I agree we shelter our children too much sometimes. It's hard being a mom and walking such a fine line. I'm sure I'll manage to screw up my kids regardless of my best-laid plans.

Rook No. 17 said...

Hi Charisse & Holly! Holly, thank's for stopping by, checking out, and following Rook No. 17. I'm honored. Looks like we have quite a few fav-books in common. I haven't read this one yet though. It's going on my "must read" list. Thanks for bringing up some really important issues. I have a 4 year old and an 8 year old and often find myself asking many of the same questions. I look forward to continuing to follow your blog, and to see what ya'll bring back from your next vacation!

Rook No. 17

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

Just bring your kids over to my house. My kids aren't allowed to run rampant, but they are allowed WAY more freedom than a lot of kids around here are. And by "freedom" I mean the ability to go to a friend's house (by themselves! Gasp!) to play outside. Just like we all did. And so did our grandparents. And so on. And so on.

The bubble wrap doesn't really protect our babies. It just means that when they DO get hurt (because you can no longer protect them) they don't really know what to do about it. Falling down and scraping your knees or pride is important. It's fundamental. Our job as parents is to make sure they know we are close by, if they need us, without being TOO close.