Tuesday, March 25, 2014

They can take their well-meaning concern elsewhere

You might remember that I live next to a small-ish man-made lake.  My backyard is small and boring for a 3-year old boy, so he has taught himself (and his sisters quickly learned from his example) how to scale this fence.  The lake is .5 miles long and we live about in the middle, so he'd have to run for a quarter mile in either direction before he hit a street.  They have those exercise stations along the way that hardly anyone besides little kids use (monkey bars, balance beams, pedestals for doing lunges, etc) that he likes to screw around on.  Plus, there is the timeless pastime of throwing stuff in the lake.

I cannot scale the fence, so I sit in the backyard and watch him run around.  He occasionally gets farther away than I can see, but he always comes back.

This thing we do FREAKS OUT all the walkers and fishers.  I get that they are concerned and ask him where his parents are, but I wave and say "I'm right here!" and they still look like they are deciding whether or not to call CPS.  I don't doubt they would... remember our old dog Daisy and how they called the police on us because she spent too much time in the backyard where she had fresh water and shade?  And also it was spring so it was 70 degrees outside?  And also she's a dog?

Mostly they are concerned that he's going to fall in the lake and I'm behind the fence and wouldn't be able to grab him.  We've lived next to this lake his entire life and he's never once fallen in.  Also, it's only a few feet deep.  Also, he could grab onto the side and hang out until I could get to him... or just climb out.

Aside from the need to get out of the house and run around, I've always sort of felt like I'm doing Ethan good by letting him be over there by himself or with his sisters.  Like he's learning independence and exploring.

Yesterday, I read a very interesting article that TOTALLY PROVED ME RIGHT.

It's called "The Overprotected Kid" in The Atlantic.  (HT Bridget).  It talks about how kids these days are so supervised that they don't experiment with risk or being on their own or trying things and failing that they overdo it with the risks and end up addicted to drugs, don't know how to be on their own and get depressed, and freak out when they fail.  My favorite part was the following:

Sandseter began observing and interviewing children on playgrounds in Norway. In 2011, she published her results in a paper called “Children’s Risky Play From an Evolutionary Perspective: The Anti-Phobic Effects of Thrilling Experiences.” Children, she concluded, have a sensory need to taste danger and excitement; this doesn’t mean that what they do has to actually be dangerous, only that they feel they are taking a great risk. That scares them, but then they overcome the fear. In the paper, Sandseter identifies six kinds of risky play: (1) Exploring heights, or getting the “bird’s perspective,” as she calls it—“high enough to evoke the sensation of fear.” (2) Handling dangerous tools—using sharp scissors or knives, or heavy hammers that at first seem unmanageable but that kids learn to master. (3) Being near dangerous elements—playing near vast bodies of water, or near a fire, so kids are aware that there is danger nearby. (4) Rough-and-tumble play—wrestling, play-fighting—so kids learn to negotiate aggression and cooperation. (5) Speed—cycling or skiing at a pace that feels too fast. (6) Exploring on one’s own.

This last one Sandseter describes as “the most important for the children.” She told me, “When they are left alone and can take full responsibility for their actions, and the consequences of their decisions, it’s a thrilling experience.”

Letting Ethan play on his own outside the fence hits numbers 1 (sometimes he sits on top of the fence, which is about 7 feet tall), 3, and 6.

So while I'm glad that these people are concerned about my child's safety, I got this.


Troy Grossarth said...

Good for you! I really mean it. I feel like I am a very relaxed parent and sometimes I wonder if other moms think of me as irresponsible.

Kate, Ben and Archie said...

I am on your side- these kids need more than a small backyard or being inside all day! Ps, Annie loves to explore number 2 on the list of risky behavior...

Carrie G said...

I'm not really sure that I agree with the lady about kids getting a purposeful thrill from danger. Sometimes I think they just don't have a good grasp on actions/consequences. But I completely agree with the idea that letting your kids explore alone gives them a better sense of self and responsibility.

Eevi said...

By the way, that was Eevi's comment and not Troy's:) I came back to see what other people were saying.

Bridget said...

Huzzah! The part of the article where it talked about children wanting to take separate, "secret" routes home, away from their parents...that is SO my kids.

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