Hey Kid, Get Your Own Breakfast.

by Risa Green

 

Last week’s New York Times article about why kids can’t walk to school anymore has, I must say, been the talk of the town lately. Everywhere, it seems, people are discussing what it means for our kids, and the general consensus seems to be that it’s a shame to have such a ritual of independence taken away from an entire generation. It’s true. When I was a kid, I walked four blocks – through a major, crossing-guarded intersection – to elementary school everyday. And though my middle school was too far to walk to, I took the bus, and I walked to and from the bus stop by myself every day, too. I also let myself into the house in the afternoon with the key that I kept in my backpack, made myself a snack, did my homework, watched tv, and sometimes cooked a frozen dinner in the microwave if my parents were going to be home late from work. All that, and I was only eleven.

 

Which got me thinking about this whole no-walking-to-school thing. I mean, for the record, there is no way in hell that I would let my kids walk anywhere by themselves, ever. Maybe I would feel more conflicted about it if I lived in a leafy suburb like the moms interviewed in that Times article, but I don’t. I live in Los Angeles, smack in the middle of the city. And while we live on a nice street, in a nice neighborhood, it’s still the middle of Los Angeles. Two blocks from my house is an intersection that was once rated one of the most dangerous in the entire country, and I’ve been woken up more than a few times by homeless people rifling through my trash bins in the middle of the night. So yeah, my seven year-old daughter walking down the block by herself is pretty much out of the question.

 

However, I consider the no-walking alone situation to be a sad result of the times we live in, and not a statement about my daughter’s ability to handle herself. I mean, if you transported her back in time to 1980, to the Philadelphia suburb where I grew up, I have no doubt that she’d be totally capable of walking to school, or riding her bike to a friend’s house. But do you know what makes me sad? It makes me sad that she has no idea that she’s capable of any such thing. If I were to say to her, hey, honey, why don’t you grab your scooter and ride over to Sophie’s house for a few hours – just be sure to be home by five! – I think she’d think that I’ve lost my mind. Me? Go somewhere by myself? Alone? But I’m only seven. I can’t do that. I swear, I think she’d probably call child protective services and report me.

 

agentzoey
10.28.09

For our family, Montessori education has not only given our kids independence and the self-esteem that comes with it, but it has taught us the importance of developing a child who can do for him/herself. Paramount to the developing mind of a child is allowing them to experience the "aha" moments of "I am capable of cleaning up my spilled milk all by myself," or "I can choose my own clothes and get dressed at age 4." It's those moments when you see the glimmer in your child's eyes and the spring in their step as their confidence has just shot up. Who cares if the floor is a little sticky or the outfit isn't what you would have chosen when the payoff is a kid who doesn't look at you to hold their hand through life.

I had an acquaintance who's son called her several times during his four years of college. Yikes.

RedGal
09.29.09

This is so true! I actually posted on truuconfessions.com recently as I am really trying to get my kids to be more self relient. I think I am going to take the previous posters advice about the cereal.

BadPixie
09.24.09

People need to read Freakonomics and Free Range Kids for some facts and perspective about the "terrible" times we live in. The truth of it is that despite media coverage to the contrary, violent crime peaked many years ago and violent crime levels and those against children are the same as they were in the late sixties and early seventies. The most common cause of pediatric death in this country are car accidents. Due to increasing and unfounded paranoia, this country is disempowering children and raising a helpless, frightened population. It's both sad and unnecessary. Parents wonder why children are obese, directionless and unmotivated, etc. They need look no further than the way kids these days aren't entrusted with real responsibility or independence. Looking back historically, kids handled real tasks and responsibilities for millennia and fared far better than those of today. We are ruining the future of this country and its citizens unless very real changes are made.

zingapianist
09.23.09

look the truth is i'm 13. i just happened to see this article on yahoo, and, well.....im a curious lil girl ok.

so i thought that i was walking places at three(let me tell you the story kay?) what happened was i was at the library and i couldn't find my mom, i remembered her saying that she was going to starbucks soon so i left and walked four blocks down one of the busiest streets in Chicago, IL. a lady found me and asked where my momma was, i told her the last time i saw her was at the "big house of books". the smart person walked me vack to the library and found my momma.

i think that the reason kids are not indpendent anymore is because thier parents won't let them be so. I cook everyday for my four brothers and sisters, i clean the house, and i still do my homework, practice the piano 2-4hrs a day, and find time to just chillax. I look at my younger brothers and sister and i know that they aren't doing the things that i did when i was their age. and they don't do it because my mother has me and my older sister(who is now away at boarding school) to do almost everything for her. Except nursing the baby, we could never do that!!! if you slowly gove your child freedom, they'll grasp it and grow more independent with each day, even the momma's boys.

- from an teenager to the mothers :-)

busyfamily
09.23.09

I enjoyed your article and agree that we are over-involved, well-meaning parents. My boys are older (11 &13) and we do live in a safe neighborhood so they have a few freedoms that they wouldn't have in LA. It's good that kids grow up gradually so that we parents can wean ourselves from them over time. Think of birds...2-3 weeks in the nest then boom they're outta here.

jtknop
09.23.09

This is so true, and while parents think we're doing our kids a favor by doing everything for them, we're truly doing them a disservice. How are they going to grow up to be independent adults, when they never learn how to accomplish simple tasks for themselves, and gain true self esteem by working things out on their own? I had a roommate in college who didn't know how to turn on a stove and boil water (no joke), and she dropped out after having a semi-nervous breakdown. She couldn't cope, or at least believed she couldn't cope because no one ever told her she could do things on her own. Post-college, think of the impact this has in the workplace. I shudder to fast forward 25 years from now and see the fall-out.

MyHormonesMadeMeDoIt
09.22.09

I don't have kids...yet. However, I can already feel that I will be very guilty of the hover craft syndrome. It is so true that we used to do so much, latch key kid was the norm many years ago and now parents would definitely be looked down upon, at least in Souther CA, where I live too, if they let thier kids be that independent. Sounds like it's a fine line and parents have to walk it as their kids grow.

OTGO88
09.22.09

Learned helplessness. Okay, I, too am guilty of hovering. And it's just created a lot of extra work for me! I'm not even sure why I hover. I have a smart little girl. And heaven knows my parents didn't rush to do it all for me! So, instead of having her cereal ready for her on the table, this morning, I started by leaving a box of cereal, milk, bowl and spoon on the table. Okay, so I'm not having her do it ALL by herself, but she is 5, so it's a start. She poured way too much cereal and spilled the milk! But everything was okay. Hey, I just had another little one so, I need a better plan this time!

mom2five
09.22.09

I found this article, so entertaining. There's so much truth behind it. I have to admit as a mother of 2 boys, I am the same way. My oldest is 6 and I had a hard time leaving him in the cafeteria in the morning for the first week of school this year. My boyfriend thought i was ridiculous for trying to figure out how i could go in a little later so he would be comfortable in his class instead of in the cafeteria with all the older kids. While he is very independent with his chores and packing his lunch (most of it),it is things like this that I feel i need to let go a little more so that he may know he can do it without me. Its a hard fact that yes, we must face because kids are more adaptable than I thinkwe give them credit for. I, too need to not stand in the way of their independence.