A little while ago I was watching a show called House Hunters. This is a show about people looking for new homes. In a typical show, the buyers look at three homes and then choose one at the end. On tonight’s show a young couple was looking at houses in West Palm Beach, Fla. At every turn, they would comment on whether Mia, their daughter, would like a certain feature.
“I’m not sure Mia would like that,” the mother said of the pink walls in the guest bedroom.
“Oh, there’s steps…that’s not good for Mia,” dad said.
“Oh, Mia would love this kitchen,” they both said.
I got to wondering about this Mia person and her strong opinions. Then they showed Mia. She’s two. But evidently she already has strong opinions on paint color, stairs and yards. I don’t remember my parents consulting me on much of anything until I was in college.
On the other hand, I imagine that I had a lot more freedom than Mia will ever have.
Here’s where this is going.
A few weeks ago I interviewed a man for a magazine article I was writing. He is the executive director of a land trust out west. He said that one of the biggest challenges his group faces is that children today are growing up with a total disconnect from the land–they’re scared of nature, scared to explore their own backyards.
He and I are close to the same age. We grew up in what must be just about the last generation to experience the freedom to roam. We lived in the country. We played in the woods without supervision. We caught crawdads in the creek. We were gone for hours on end and no one thought a thing of it. We rode our bikes for miles–without helmets.
The man I was interviewing commented that kids used to learn a lot of useful problem-solving skills building treehouses and forts. But today’s children are so over-scheduled and so over-protected that they seemingly have no time to figure things out on their own. As soon as one problem presents itself, a quick call on the cell phone to mom or dad takes care of it.
Of course, I don’t have children, so my observations should be taken with a grain of salt. We might’ve been the most over-protective parents ever. Who knows.
But I do know this–I fell off plenty of ponies, crashed plenty of bikes and splashed through plenty of creeks without adult supervision. I can promise you that whatever I did, Husband did ten times as much of–except for falling off ponies.
We turned out ok–and we have a deep appreciation for and love of the nature that surrounds us.
I’m not saying that kids should ditch their bicycle helmets or seat belts. I’m just saying that a little freedom to explore on their own is a good thing. Even if it’s just in their own backyards.