Postcards from Mommywood: We’re Driving Our Kids Crazy
They’ve got too much to do—and no time to just be.
“Go outside and play!” If you’re over 30, that’s probably a familiar phrase from childhood. I grew up on Long Island in a spanking new development where parents sent their children out their front doors into their neighborhoods filled with kids without a second thought. Back then, every summer day was an adventure that started after breakfast and, after a brief refueling stop for lunch, continued until someone’s mom was heard in the distance announcing it was time for dinner.
Today, if you dared to send your school-age children out into the street to play unaccompanied for hours in even the safest neighborhood, it’s pretty likely they’d be the only ones out there.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m well aware of the dangerous world we live in today, which is filled with news of missing children. But when I look at the jam-packed, micro-managed itineraries of the children I know who barely have an hour of unscheduled activity, I have to wonder—have we gone too far?
Now that summertime is approaching, the living, as the song says, is supposed to be easy. Instead, most of the parents I know are gearing up for a marathon of ferrying their children back and forth to myriad activities – camp, swimming at the town pool and cross town play dates — that consume virtually every minute of every day.
I never went to camp. In our town, I can remember only two of my friends going to sleep-away camp and that was when we were in high school. In two weeks, my five-year-old starts summer camp; it’s her third year. Even with the economy being what it is, there was absolutely no way I wasn’t sending her. If I kept her home, there would be no one else at the park–or anywhere else–for her to play with.
In the past few months, I’ve been bombarded with brochures from camps of every type, from ballet to cooking camps. My daughter is going to a traditional camp where “kids have fun being kids” is what is on offer. I’m doing it for two reasons. One, truth be told, I no longer have a sitter so my getting work done depends on having somewhere for my daughter to go. Additionally, she’s an only child and, as such, gets almost all of her socializing at school and camp.