Wednesday, August 05, 2009

self sufficient kids?

I was reading the fabulous PunditMom, who wrote a thoughtful post on raising kids and having hope. She linked to a post by a mom visiting Rwanda, who essentially asked the question, "Are we [in the US] doing too much for our kids?"

Her musing was inspired by seeing 10 year old girls in Africa who are self-sufficient enough to get around town on public transportation by themselves, buy food, bring home water, and generally help take care of things in a truly substantive, needed way for the family.

So- do we overprotect? Do we keep our young ones from doing for themselves all that they might?

The comments were interesting, and I could see everyone's point. On one hand, yes! We do coddle. We do protect. We maybe worry too much. We take every safety precaution and then some. No bathing alone until age 6, no crossing the street alone until age 10, no dating alone until age 16, no driving alone until age 18. It is a privilege, a luxury, a burden, a blessing.

On the other hand, maybe not. Maybe this is just our culture, what we value and what we do. It's not overprotection, some said-- it's just how we parent, how we choose to create a childhood. It's what we think a childhood should look like.

And then there was another aspect that wasn't touched upon, which was that in many pockets of American culture, in the salad bowl that is American culture, there are plenty of 10 year olds who are very self-sufficient. I bet you could go to farms across the US and find 10 year olds ably contributing to the smooth function of the operation. You could go to inner cities and find 10 year olds who could ride buses and transfer with their eyes closed, bringing home a quart of milk from the corner market and dodging trouble on the way.

So maybe it's just the privilege of suburban life that's being questioned?

Personally, I believe that the more my daughters try and do, the more confident they'll be. I don't want to push them to do more than they have to before they're ready, but I don't want to hold them back either. For me, it's about constantly -but gently- but constantly- pushing that boundary of comfort and safety. Gently, but constantly. Helping them gain confidence as they grow, try, fail, try, fail, try, succeed.