When I was growing up, my mother’s mantra was “coping skills.” God bless her for that. Giving her children room to fail and feel failure was probably the reason my brother and I grew up into well-adjusted adults. While I am certainly too young to have had a childhood of the type Roger Hart chronicled, I remember being able to walk to the center of town unsupervised from about age 10 on…I remember walking to school with friends (and no parents) in the third grade. While the fundamental dynamic in a child’s relationship with their parents is changing, I think we are taking it to extremes.
And as much as I hate to say it, it has shown up in the psyche of my generation. I can’t speak much to anxiety; my own anxious and danger-avoidant tendencies likely stemmed from a broken leg I suffered when I was younger than 3, which caused no lack of fears and anxieties about heights, speed, and emergency equipment. However, there is another phenomenon that, upon some introspection, is directly related to this. Any millennial in the dating pool has heard of the problem with “nice guys”. You know, the type who will approach a girl (“nice guys” appear to be mostly heterosexual, probably for power dynamics reasons) and talk, be friendly, but never actually make an advance…they then bemoan the fact that they’re being a “nice guy”, and women don’t like “nice guys”, often in a passive-aggressive manner to the intended target. That behavior is simply pathological fear of rejection. In the end, unless we get out there, get our lumps, and probably screw up in life, no one will ever learn. And the last thing we need to do is teach our children that we can make the world safe for them.
My goal as a future parent is to put on as many band-aids, remove as many splinters, buy as many helmets and knee pads, and send as many letters to sleep-away camp as my parents did. My parents were better parents for standing back and cleaning up messes afterwards, rather than hovering around to make sure no mess got made.