This morning I let my six-year-old daughter play in our backyard at 7:00 a.m. in her nightgown and bare feet. Sure it was only for a few minutes, but it was cold (like 30 degrees cold), so my actions weren’t exactly “mother of the year” material.
Or were they?
In her first post of 2013, our infinitely wise D Moms Daily contributor Kay Wyma questions the trend of safeguarding your child from, well, everything and has me thinking Millie’s barefoot morning frolic may not have been that bad after all.
By Kay Wyma
Before Christmas, I met a couple of moms with young children for coffee at a local spot. Seems like a distant memory, but something about it, I can’t shake.
Two of us that arrived early and grabbed a drink while we waited for our friend to join us. Just as we sat down, the front door flew open and in she came with her three munchkins – oh so cute. As the ruckus hit it our table, I did what I never thought I would do – craved just one more to added to my already full brood of five. Then I looked at her, in the throws of toddler survival mode, and like some geriatric grandma I said to her, “It goes so fast. You blink and it’s over.” To which she laughingly blink-replied, “Nahh… not so much.”
At this point, the kids started clamoring. Begging for this, whining for that as one of them literally hung from her pant leg. (Have we not all been there?) She joined us and flurry described her morning. As soon as she sat, she stood then raced to grab the 2-year-old headed for the door. Or at least I thought she was racing for the kid. But she wasn’t. She was headed to lock the door.
I sat in disbelief. Did she just lock the door? It’s a place of business.
Noticing my quizzical reaction, she preempted my question by replying, “I’ll unlock it when someone comes. Little Suzy is an escape artist. She just loves doors. It’s so much easier just to lock it.” Within seconds, someone was at the door. Their confusion outranked mine as the door lacked response when they pulled.
My friend quickly got up. Opened the door. Laughingly apologized while motioning at the cute little girl squeezing by to make a run for it. Next my friend started moving a couple unused chairs to guard potential outlet hazards, lest one of her kids stick their finger in an interesting hole and get shocked. She so swiftly moved through the shop, all while conversing with us, that her actions seemed normal. Which apparently they are.
The friend sitting next to me might not lock the doors, but she went on to describe her playground regimen/”workout” where she manipulates the environment for safety. She runs before her toddler, laying blanket paths in the woodchips lest her orally-fixated kid put something dirty in his mouth.
Still trying to digest the locked door, I had no response.
I thought about my younger brother whom my siblings and I coerced into eating “chocolate” pies made entirely from flower-bed mud. He survived. He even survived a few trips to the doctor where pebbles were pulled out of his nose and ears when my his curiosity had gotten the best of him.
I don’t remember one socket in our house being covered. (Did they make socket covers then?) I don’t remember my parents racing ahead to pave our path for much of anything. I do remember the very clear message that we were to respect our elders; that our opinions were welcome – even encouraged – but my folks’ decisions were law. I do remember waiting and waiting and waiting at the tennis court for my mother to come get me because my schedule didn’t rule her life. I do remember sitting at the dinner table for hours as I stubbornly complained and refused to eat my peas. We weren’t given the choice. We ate what was on our plate… or sat for hours, eventually going to bed if stubborn won.
On that note, as if on cue, the door-locking friend fired up our next topic – The Vitamix. “It is so amazing. I can smoothie everything. Every vegetable, every fruit with all the vitamin-infused skin and pulp … and the kids have no idea. They eat it all – granted complaining a bit about the color – but without much push-back. It’s great!”
Let me quickly interject – I’m right there with her. Recently, I just might have driven through McDonalds to grab chicken nuggets so we could eat in peace (i.e. without a whiny attitude) at Taco Diner, whose menu apparently lacked options for 2 of my picky eaters. I might not have locked the front; but how am I any different? Cratering to catering. Paving the way. Choosing the road least bumpy. (We’re knee-deep into equipping our kids around our house, but we’re far from perfect… oh, so far.)
“Have It Your Way” has taken on an entirely new meaning. Self-absorption, the inevitable result of such preventative and bubble-wrapping measures, has been creeping closer and closer to narcissism. At least that’s how social scientist categorize young people these day.
Hopefully they aren’t right. But maybe such labels act as a warning. Because narcissism never ends well. Marriage never functions with a narcissist involved. Neither do friendships, or work environments.
I guess “eat your peas” and “don’t touch that” carry a bit more merit that we realized when we were kids.
Kay Wyma is the author of Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement. She shares the hilarity and the tears that come with raising adolescents & teens on her blog The Moat … because who wants to walk that road alone.