The latest “craze” lifestyle journalists are writing about is the so-called free-range parenting ‘movement’. The gist: after years of over parenting, over-scheduling and over-hand holding their children, some parents are turning their back on the child-centered model toward a more, care-free, unstructured methodology.
Both the Globe and Mail and the National Post have weighed in on this ‘BIG NEW TREND’…
The free-range child and Back to baby basics are two articles filled with examples of this ‘sweeping’ trend because some parents, seemingly all from downtown Toronto, have decided not to enroll their kids in activities every day of the week. Wow, what a breakthrough.
I think that while it is noteworthy and a good sign that parents are realizing child-centered obsessive parenting is not really good for anyone, what remains absent from these articles, and from parenting today in general, is the consideration of the parent. Now I don’t have any children and I am sure many people will think that I cannot possibly know anything until I’m changing diapers, functioning on very little sleep and dealing with all of those pressures and stresses that come with parenting, but ya know, I think as an outsider, looking in and observing, I have made a few realizations.
Number 1: Today’s child is the head of the household. Time and time again, I am witness to this problem. “We have to leave because little Emma needs to sleep in her own bed.” Or, “it’s past little Jacob’s bed time so we really need to be going now” or “we asked little Rosie (who is 2) where she wanted to go for the weekend but she just wanted to stay around home and play on her swing set.” “She’ll speak when she is ready.” “He’ll let us know when he does not want to sleep in the family bed anymore.” Don’t children need rules, structure and boundaries? Isn’t one of the good things about having a kid that you can kindof tell them what to do and they have to listen?
I remember my bedtime was 7:30 for like, my whole life. I asked my mom recently why I had such an early bedtime. She said, “I never said you had to go to bed at 7:30, you just had to be in your room. You could read, or draw or whatever but your dad and I wanted time for ourselves in the evening so that was the rule.” Awesome, I think, what a cool trick. I never suffered from too much sleep or down time. In fact I remember naming all my stuffed animals and making up elaborate plays involving the different characters each night. And all the while, my parents were making out on the couch to Unsolved Mysteries. Who Knew?
Number 2: Parents are obsessed with keeping their child safe, organic and perpetually comfortable. “Only the best for our spawn!” Once after Frisbee practice for my old women’s team, one of the girls, went outside the circle where we were all taking off our cleats and lit a smoke. She knew that most of us didn’t smoke and so she gave us some space and in my opinion was being very considerate if not overly concerned. One of the women however had just had a baby. The baby was asleep in her stroller when all of a sudden, mom caught a wiff of smoke from 100 feet away. She screamed, loudly, “Who is smoking. Oh my God. The baby, the baby get away, get away from my baby.” It was like if the smoke reached the vicinity of the baby, the baby would immediately expire.
This kind of behavior however is so commonplace. Like everyone has to evolve to make your baby comfortable. I have friends that wont even come over to our house because we have a dog. Yes, our chocolate lab may very well think your baby is a big denta bone. And then when parents bring their baby, I can’t believe how much shit they have. Sorry parents but you are victims of the latest marketing machine. Ya know, baby chic, crib consumers…Today’s young parent with some disposable income apparently thinks he or she needs all the shit advertised to them. Designer clothes to catch spit-up? This gadget for their posture, this blender for their food, this mobile will make them smarter, this diaper cream will make their bottoms shine. Such overkill. My good friends two-year old has about four times as much clothes as she does.
Number 3: Moms have no lives. And I’m sorry but anything including baby in the title does not count as part of your separate life as a woman. “But I have a life. I go to baby yoga, baby movies, mommy and me classes, baby sign language and baby book club.” Ummmm….Baby barf. How about getting away from baby? Why do so many new mothers think that of they leave their child for one moment that the child will freak or be unable to cope and why do so many young mothers become unable to get away from their babies? An old friend of mine, with three children recently went to the park with his 5 and 3 year-olds for the first time without his wife. This was the first time he had been alone with his own children. And he is not a slacker dad, she is one possessive mom. Another friend has never, ever left her 8 and 6 year olds with a babysitter. Unless her parents are available to babysit, the kids are with her. What does this do to one’s marriage, to one’s sanity? And I know others who wont even leave their kids with their parents. They raised you, what are they going to do, feed your kid non-organic cookies?
Moms need a life, and the kind of life where one can escape and not be called, or refer to oneself, as mommy. Sometimes I think new moms forget what their names are. How can a woman, with a masters in engineering, who used to manage her department, all of sudden be happy having no identity outside of mommykins? Truthfully, I don’t think she can. Not to say she can’t be happy and fulfilled as a mother, but I think she needs some other things in her life. A night out with other engineers, a steamy date night with her man, whatever, just something. I have seen it so many times, that couples no longer go out at all. They live for the baby. Sex life, out the window, and what for? Junior is going to grow up and leave, well he’ll probably be like 32 before he leaves since mom still does his laundry and dad doesn’t make him pay rent for the air-conditioned, big-screen t.v. and pool-table toting, open-bar downstairs guest room he calls his own, but one day, it will happen and mom and dad will only have each other. What then?
Number 4: Parents seem to think that they are so damn amazing for producing offspring. Sorry to say, but it is actually really easy to reproduce, in general. So great, I am sure it was the most amazing day of your life when you brought little Madison into the world, but really, big deal, you clean diapers, you missed nap time, you just bought another stroller, Maddie’s poo is yellow but smells better when she eats carrots. What if working women were to go on and on about their jobs like mothers do about their babies or even pregnancies. “Well I’m so tired today because I had this crazy deadline and I had to get this report done and you wouldn’t believe it but the printer just wouldn’t work. I checked to see if I had set it up correctly and I had, so then I restarted my computer, to no avail. And so I was forced to go and ask someone to have a look at it. Well this took a very long time. Well finally it worked but ya know, the ink was not the same black colour it usually is. It was actually more or a brown/black and it was a bit runny. Which made me worry. I have a feeling something is really wrong with the printer. The help desk guy assures me I’m just being paranoid, but I read online that….” I think you get the point.
What ever happened to just living your life and not planning every second of it. So the free-range child does not have an activity every day of the week, will that make him or her happier? Maybe, but what if children fit into the parents’ life instead of everything changing to suit the child? Now of course lots of things have to change when you have a kid. I’m sure the all night benders or 5 hours on a patio drinking pitchers or other silly, risk-taking behavior us free-range adults partake in may need to be amended, but really, I don’t think having kids means losing yourself and becoming someone so different you aren’t even recognizable.
So I hope the free-range movement is just a pre-curser to the live-life movement that involves healthy behavior and a lack of structure and regulation for the kids and more importantly for mom and dad as well.