|photo by taliesin from morguefile.com|
Try as I might, and believe it or not, I've tried very hard, it has been a struggle to try to facilitate my children being able to have similar experiences. I've always been willing to get out of the way. I have no personal need to orchestrate my children's lives.
But there are no gulches for them.
Bunmi Laditen, in her recent Huffington Post editorial, laments all the time, creative energy, and money that today's parents lavish on their offspring. I suspect, a bit defensively, that she'd classify me, homeschooling mom with an entire cabinet full of assorted craft supplies (not counting my own sewing stuff!) as one of the offenders. But there are no gulches for my kids.
When my kids were "play in the yard" age, we lived in a big old corner house in a marginal neighborhood on the cusp of re-gentrification but not there yet. I had a sturdy fence, a smallish yard with a swingset set in a big box of sand, and a large, loyal dog. The house had many windows. I could see my kids no matter where they were in the yard. In the summers, every kid in the neighborhood would come to play.
Random strangers regularly stopped their cars in front of my house and came to knock on my door to tell me how unsafe this was. According to them, anybody, at any time, could simply swoop down and steal/abuse my kids. Only in their tabloid-style news fear fests! But if that was the reaction to my letting kids play in a completely normal way, I figured letting them get lost in a gulch was likely to trigger a visit from official family services.
Digression: In case you're wondering, the worst thing that ever happened to my kids was when a door-to-door evangelist from one of the local "Bible Believing" style churches came by and tried to chat up my kids and give them pamphlets. I came out and told them to not speak to my kids without asking me for permission first. Cue a stunning selection of curse words and not nice labels applied to mom in front of her kids and the neighbor kids. Not exactly the best way to "win the neighborhood for Jesus!" I was amused, the kids were horrified, and I suspect this is one of the reasons why my now teenage daughter is a solid agnostic. Back to my point. . .
If I hadn't engineered certain experiences, my kids would have had no access to them.
The overly fearful, tabloid shocker addicted society that we live in has shut down kids' access to kid-built dirt bike parks, hiking into the gulch and examining the abandoned, rusted out cars from previous decades, the building of dodgy earth and tree forts, the going down to the river to go fishing. I would have loved to get out of the way of my kids' play more than I did. As it was, I was riding the edge of "neglectful parent" with my kids getting to do 1/10th of what I got to do under the eye of a mom who was labeled extremely overprotective in her time.
Maybe some of us field-trip and craft-obsessed parents are doing it to keep up with the Pinterest Joneses. Some of us, however, are trying to do our best to give our kids something resembling a childhood instead of a prison sentence of school/extracurricular activity/learning camp/ rinse lather repeat. I didn't want to manage my kids' childhoods. This modern age didn't give me a choice.