I have just returned from my “vacation.” It’s in quotes because I don’t think that one could ever truly call traveling across the country with three children under 10 an actual rest. Still, I wasn’t rewriting my attendance policy for my syllabus. It was what I had been craving – uninterrupted time to focus on just being a mom.
I had time to reflect on my parenting style. This was particularly evident to me at Legoland near San Diego. It seems to me, whether intentionally or not, the park has promoted a philosophy of parent/kid independence. Some of their rides are designed so that the child must go on by herself, so you are forced to observe your child from a distance. In other spots, the parents wait in line for rides while kids play in a space, sometimes briefly out of view from adults.
Despite some terrorizing moments watching my 7 year old navigate (or I should say not navigate) a boat and backing up the ride for a good 25 minutes, I can see the appeal of this philosophy. It has made me consider how physical layout and architectural design contributes to parenting philosophy. Do open floor plans in homes encourage more independence since you can keep an eye on kids without having to be in the same room, or are kids fostering more independence in their basement playrooms? It seems interesting to me that childhood independence, fostered so naturally when I was a child (I played kickball in the evening on the street!) has to be consciously constructed by this generation. I see it in my college students still tethered to their parents by text, and sometimes I receive phone calls from parents checking in on junior.
When should we protect, and when should we encourage wandering? When do we handhold students through assignments, and when to we leave them to struggle their way out of the mess of writing? How have these questions been answered differently over the years? In addition to helicopter parenting, does helicopter “professoring” exist? My youngest is starting kindergarten next month, so I will be fully immersed in the phase of parenting that is more about letting go than holding on. I wonder how this new phase will shift my thoughts in teaching.