What would our moms do? They would, of course, drink Tab, or even a vodka tonic, and lock us outside. The big difference is they never worried about a neighbor calling CPS on them. Even though I love ‘back in the day’ parenting, here’s why we can no longer parent like our moms did.
Recently an amazingly awesome blog post went viral titled “What Would My Mom Do?” In the article, Jen Hatmaker makes the plea that parents should parent like her own mom did back in the day:
“I swear, my mom did not know where we actually were half the time. Turned out in the neighborhood all day, someone’s mom would eventually make us bologna sandwiches on white bread and then lock us out, too. We were like a roving pack of wolves, and all the moms took turn feeding and watering us. No one hovered over us like Nervous Nellies.”
I love this post, I love the sentiment behind it, I want to sign up, I want neighbors who will turn the sprinkler on for the ‘hood kids, give my kid a Band-Aid if she scrapes her knee, take turns feeding and watering these sweaty child-wolves and to all of us to agree to let our kids be kids.
I grew up a free-roam child. The backyard was my video game system, I was stung by furious swarms of wasps, I collected snakes in jam jars, I kicked all the buckets and played with all the ghosts in the graveyard and was bruised and sunburned and amazingly, amazingly happy. And worn out. We would play in the dark on our block, our skinny arms grasping at fireflies and our tired little legs scabbed after hours upon hours of hopscotch and double Dutch. And no one ever called the cops on any of us walking down the street at night. The dark was filled with the calls of parents beckoning us to come in from front stoops. And the next morning, we could grab a Pop-Tart and do it all over again.
But we can’t let our kids have this these days, with those aforementioned Nervous Nellies peeking out from behind curtains, cell phones at the ready to dial CPS if a kid walks home alone from a park. I don’t worry about my kid being snatched by a random stranger with a fistful of candy — I worry about a neighbor deciding they need to call CPS because my daughter is riding her bike alone. I’m not advocating ignoring your kids or never knowing where they are; I’m advocating for not calling the cops the second you see a child playing alone outside.
CPS has important work to do. They should, of course, be alerted in suspected cases of abuse or neglect, but calling them if you see a small child blowing bubbles alone outside is not one of these cases. Unless a kid is running out into traffic, I’m pretty sure they are going to be OK. And if you are really worried about it? Wait a bit. Keep watch. Go outside and ask the kid if their parent knows where they are. Chances are the mom is quickly adding another load to the wash or the kid has permission to be outside.
The same rule goes for roaming packs of teenagers, because more times than not they aren’t doing anything that will harm anyone but themselves. And that is between them and their parents. Unless you see teens egging a house or vandalizing a building or smoking dope in your backyard, you probably don’t need to worry about them either, and you certainly don’t need to treat them like criminals for just being teenagers.
I’m all for parenting like our moms did. But I need you to agree with me. Let’s let our kids go outside and kick balls and make the majority of our parental tasks this summer be about doling out popsicles to dirty, sweaty kids and hollering at them to keep it down out there. We can hang our wash out to dry and sit in plastic lawn chairs and when they come around asking us to go inside to play video games we can tell them hell no. But I can’t be the only parent doing so. Plus, I’ll need you to go find out which stores still sell Tab.