Mike Lanza's Californian home is every kid's dream. There's a map of the neighborhood painted on the driveway, a 24-foot-long play river and a two-story, 12-foot log cabin playhouse with a loft (perfect for sleepovers), which has whiteboard walls to draw on. Music blares from speakers as his children leap from the roof of the playhouse onto the trampoline down below. It has no security netting.
It's enough to make helicopter parents around the world pile pillows at the bottom of their kids' 4-foot-long slide. And Lanza's "Playborhood" (which is also the name of the book he self-published about his belief that kids should have the freedom to take physical risks without supervision and to play without having to worry about being safe or nice to other kids) is the real-life manifestation of his anti-helicopter parenting stance.
I agree with Lanza that when I think back to my own childhood, some of my happiest memories were playing outdoors, generally without restraints, such as balancing on the front handlebars of my dad's bike as he circled the parking lot behind our house and climbing trees behind my friend's house while our parents sat indoors drinking wine, oblivious to our antics or roller-blading up and down our street without a helmet or protective pads. Those were carefree days, for sure.
I can get on board with Lanza's Playborhood, until he starts blaming moms for everything that is wrong — or at least, what he perceives as being wrong — with modern families. "Moms nowadays never go away," he complains. He waxes lyrical about "mom philosophy," which he blames for depriving boys of masculine experiences and overpowering passive dads. Lanza is a dad of three boys, which may explain something else I take issue with. He's really not upset about girls being subjected to helicopter parenting. So not only is his opinion of mothers today — that they are overprotective and out to spoil their children's fun — based on a massive generalization, it's completely sexist too.
I know some helicopter parents (moms and dads, incidentally). I also know some "no rescue" parents (again, both moms and dads). Me, I'm somewhere in the middle — and I think most parents are.
I don't think a bit of rough and tumble does kids any harm. A few bumps and scratches won't leave permanent scars or cause nightmares. I'd much rather my kids run around outdoors instead of sit inside glued to their screens. I also believe that encouraging my kids to take some responsibility for themselves is good for them. I can't always be there to take care of them — as much as I might want to be.
But I can't be fully on board with Lanza's concept because I disagree with so much of what he says. You can have fun and freedom without hurting other kids. You can be a healthy, "normal" boy without being aggressive. Adults can have control of their kids without being too controlling.
Would I let my kids play in Lanza's backyard? Yeah, probably. But I sure as hell wouldn't be leaving them there unattended. And this is from a mom who has a trampoline without netting in her own yard.
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