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Just Kidding, But Seriously.
June 16, 2010 9:35 PM   Subscribe

Not satisfied with merely screwing up their kids, helicopter parents are swooping in, kicking ass and taking names. Having defeated such scourges as stickball, skipping, treehouses and the dreaded interwebz, they have turned their sights elsewhere. The next front in the War on Childhood? The Best Friend
posted by Chipmazing (156 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
What the fuck? Sometimes a best friend is all you have when the rest of the world is against you (speaking from angsty, teenaged experience).
posted by too bad you're not me at 9:41 PM on June 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


Stay in your room! No outside!
posted by limeonaire at 9:45 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


In recent years Timber Lake Camp, a co-ed sleep-away camp in Phoenicia, N.Y., has started employing “friendship coaches” to work with campers to help every child become friends with everyone else.

Isn't this what Facebook is for?
posted by _dario at 9:48 PM on June 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


“I think it is kids’ preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults — teachers and counselors — we try to encourage them not to do that,” said Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis. “We try to talk to kids and work with them to get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive about friends.”

This is stupid I had two best friends (jr high/high school) and also hung out with a group of people. Both. Sometimes I just hung out with Katie; sometimes just with Donia; sometimes both; sometimes with them and a bunch of other people.

If two children seem to be too focused on each other, the camp will make sure to put them on different sports teams, seat them at different ends of the dining table or, perhaps, have a
[camp] counselor invite one of them to participate in an activity with another child whom they haven’t yet gotten to know.

The idiocy, it burns. And enrages.
posted by rtha at 9:50 PM on June 16, 2010 [19 favorites]


What an absolute, unmitigated tragedy. It's like an entire generation forgot what made them happy.
posted by effugas at 9:50 PM on June 16, 2010 [83 favorites]


Yes, having a best friend can mean losing a best friend, and that can mean pain.

But I'd welcome that sickening feeling of being ditched by the pretzel stand in the mall food court in 5th grade by my BFF Beth, if the alternative were spending all those lunch periods eating warm bologna sandwiches on squishy bread with someone I guess I kind of liked.
posted by sallybrown at 9:52 PM on June 16, 2010 [14 favorites]


He made that treehouse too well. It looks more like a guest room, which kicks in the city codes. Should have stuck with a rope ladder, which would be much cooler anyway.

My kids tell me that they are not allowed to run in the school playground. "You are not allowed to run outside?!" "No. If we do we get in trouble."

Jees Luise what is this world coming to?
posted by eye of newt at 9:52 PM on June 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Every morning I fall to my knees and thank Zog the Creator that I am sterile. Not because I hate kids, but because I hate parents, and I've enough self-loathing issues, thank you.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:53 PM on June 16, 2010 [33 favorites]


Y'all are overreacting. Since when have adults ever been able to get kids to do as they're told? Best friends will persist no matter what parents & administrators desire. If the adults are encouraging less exclusivity, that's fine, whatever, but it'll never stop kids from being, y'know, kids.

Also: these reactions make me think a lot of people aren't reading the links, just reacting to the FPP.
posted by incessant at 9:54 PM on June 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


There are some days that I want to just have the power to go into every house of any parent who had their first child within the past ten years and just slap them silly.

Okay, let's just say "most days."
posted by Navelgazer at 9:54 PM on June 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


My kids tell me that they are not allowed to run in the school playground. "You are not allowed to run outside?!" "No. If we do we get in trouble."

The only thing that brought every child in my grade school class together was plotting how to prank the playground monitor. It was our favorite game, after Molly stole Liz's BFF and Liz hit Molly in the face with the kickball, which got confiscated.
posted by sallybrown at 9:58 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


It-- It-- The f-- It-- Fl-- Flames. Flames, on the side of my face, breathing-- Breath-- Heaving breaths. Heaving breaths.
posted by eugenen at 9:59 PM on June 16, 2010 [21 favorites]


But the classic best-friend bond ... signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying.

I'd find the whole thing much more interesting if I believed for one second that the "school officials" had any really serious intent or ability to do anything at all about cliques and bullying.

Instead, this smacks of yet another trumped-up crisis that people in positions of petty authority can use to consolidate and re-enforce their appearance of expertise and their little fiefdoms.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:02 PM on June 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


Socialism!
posted by lukemeister at 10:04 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


increasingly, some educators

I knew I would find this, or something like it.
posted by Trochanter at 10:08 PM on June 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


This is probably a good development. Think of all the energy and intelligence kids have expended on subverting, undercutting and outright disobeying idiot School Rules.

Instead of smoking in the bathroom, rolling the waistbands of the uniform skirts and sneaking notes in class, they'll put all their energy into developing deep, meaningful friendships, building treehouses and running around at recess.

Win/Win.
posted by jrochest at 10:08 PM on June 16, 2010 [31 favorites]


Wow. I went to camp at Timber Lake back in the day. Somehow, I'm not surprised that they've resorted to social engineering. That place embodied Rush's "Subdivisions" like nowhere else I've ever seen.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 10:09 PM on June 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


On one hand, I kind of like the idea that teachers might be encouraging kids to make friends with everyone - or more importantly, teaching the group that it's okay to be friends with everyone, even those kids that don't naturally fit in.

But on the other hand, I wonder what it will be like for children who really do grow up without ever having a best friend. Will it affect their ability to form close bonds with others? It would be nice if they could find some kind of happy medium here, encouraging the whole class to be social, but also letting individual friendships grow naturally.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:11 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I read this post and *knew* without looking that last link was going to be to a NYT story from the Thursday Style section.
posted by mediareport at 10:12 PM on June 16, 2010 [20 favorites]


It's like an entire generation forgot what made them happy.

Forgot, or never got to find out?
posted by limeonaire at 10:12 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Man. Kids figure things out, you know? The issue of having best friends, lots of friends, or no friends sorts itself out by adulthood. What the hell is with this micromanagement? It beggars belief that people who survived from childhood to adulthood, today, without having this shit imposed on them, would think it necessary to impose it on their own kids.

However:

Y'all are overreacting. Since when have adults ever been able to get kids to do as they're told?

So, so true.
posted by Jimbob at 10:14 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis

Oh God!!
posted by limeonaire at 10:15 PM on June 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


It would be nice if they could find some kind of happy medium here, encouraging the whole class to be social, but also letting individual friendships grow naturally.

IIRC this is exactly what teachers, church leaders, scout leaders, whoever-the-fuck has been doing for at least the last 70 years.
posted by Jimbob at 10:15 PM on June 16, 2010


monogamity vs. polyamity?
posted by mwhybark at 10:19 PM on June 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Not in any school I ever went to. As long as we were quiet in class and didn't do anything out of class that left bruises or blood, they didn't care what happened to us. This concept of school as a growth medium where the environment is optimized for a child's future success seems to be a modern development. Or maybe that's what private schools are like.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:20 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Made up trend alert.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 10:26 PM on June 16, 2010 [21 favorites]


This is my brother and his wife about their kids. They worried about the fact that their twin sons - at the age of three, in nursery school, I mean pre-kindergarden - sometimes have other friends than each other. This was a worry of my sister-in-law when one of the boys has a birthday party that the other isn't going to. It's kind of surreal in a way.

Dunno, man, I just kind of get weirded out by the entire thing and am kind of glad I'm not going to be child-rearing at any point.
posted by mephron at 10:30 PM on June 16, 2010


> I wonder what it will be like for children who really do grow up without ever having a best friend. Will it affect their ability to form close bonds with others?

My concern as well. I am still in touch with all my best friends — as a kid who moved around somewhat, I had something of a series of bffs. But that high school (and ever after) bestie, Shelby? She was (and is) an exacting, confrontational, difficult creature to maintain a relationship with and I THANK GOD for that. I know if I worked it out with her this long, I can work anything out with anyone. Best friends are relationship training par excellence. Having someone who knows your history is good, too.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:33 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I work tech support for a university, and every. Goddamn. Day. there's some helicopter parent calling in because they're setting up their kid's network accounts and need help. Network accounts which by policy the students are required to set up, which by policy only the students may have access to, and which the students are going to use every single day while they're at school. I have no idea why it would make sense to anyone to have these parents- who usually have lower tech skills than their kids- set up the accounts.

Fucking helicopter parents- what kind of child do you think you're raising?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:33 PM on June 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


The kind I can exploit.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:44 PM on June 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


But on the other hand, I wonder what it will be like for children who really do grow up without ever having a best friend.

I think they're fucked, actually.

The experience of finding a best friend, developing the friendship, and--yes--inevitably losing that friendship is necessary experience for more adult/romantic relationships. I think, anyway.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:47 PM on June 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


It makes me sad that this article is categorized under "Fashion and Style" in the NYT sections.
posted by pised at 10:53 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


In recent years Timber Lake Camp, a co-ed sleep-away camp in Phoenicia, N.Y., has started employing “friendship coaches” to work with campers to help every child become friends with everyone else.
[...]
Still, school officials admit they watch close friendships carefully for adverse effects. “When two children discover a special bond between them, we honor that bond, provided that neither child overtly or covertly excludes or rejects others,” said Jan Mooney, a psychologist at the Town School, a nursery through eighth grade private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.


This is about increasing enrollment and avoiding lawsuits/loss of revenue. I'm not convinced there's any sincere ideological or emotional basis beyond that.
posted by clockzero at 10:56 PM on June 16, 2010


clockzero: "This is about increasing enrollment and avoiding lawsuits/loss of revenue."

Whether the victims are children or adults, it seems that aversion to close, intimate or exclusive relationships often serves capitalism in the end. Where people can't bond with other people and draw an identity from that bond, I fear they bond with products and the identities associated with them. See also the ideologies contained in the Sex and the City movies, self-help literature, the myriad of products which flourish because of an extended bar-based dating culture, etc.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:05 PM on June 16, 2010 [18 favorites]


I never had a best friend as a child and I think I suffered because of it. I experienced all the highs and lows of growing up pretty much on my own. I never felt like there was anyone who truly liked me, understood me, or even wanted to be around me. Many times I still feel this way, it's my default. I was either completely alone (I stood so quietly at recess the birds would gather and I was called "bird girl") or I was in a group/pack. Sometimes it was nice to do things in groups but I never felt like a critical member or anything, because I had no bond with anyone else. Usually I was just the smart one who was good to have around for homework purposes.

When I was 16 I made my first best friend. It only lasted two years but I really blossomed. I felt so much more secure in relationships after that. I have a best friend now and we've been best friends for almost five years. I always know "that person loves me" regardless of anything else. I get her, she gets me. She had to go through a lot because of my untrusting, unattached nature and the fact that I was immature in my approach to friendship, but she stuck with me and I with her.
posted by Danila at 11:06 PM on June 16, 2010 [36 favorites]


I think the "modern" plague helicopter parents are a wonderful straw construction, built for the express purpose of making it both easy to judge other people, and dismissing any guilt we may feel over letting our kids do their thang. Basically, I think they're about as common as real helicopters; certainly, they exist in the world, but they tend to be a hobby of the rich, and hardly widespread. Also, I don't think the phenomenon is either new or exponential.

I worked as a childcarer for five years, with hundreds of kids. Yup, certainly there were some classical helicopter parents in that time - many in fact. But you know, my experience over those five years - and the experience of my father's forty years of teaching - has unambiguously been one where the biggest problem is trying to get parents to give a shit about their children, not that they care too much.

Everybody talks about the helicopters, no one's so keen on talking about all the empty airports, little passengers waiting forlornly in the hangar for a ride that's never gonna come.
posted by smoke at 11:08 PM on June 16, 2010 [80 favorites]


But the classic best-friend bond ... signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying.

This whole thing has a really funny feel to me.

Is there any chance the point of all this is actually to reduce and eliminate as far as possible the development of same sex romantic feelings?

You could never get away with saying that these days, but you might be able to get it across to enough parents who worry about that to be able to jack your enrollment.
posted by jamjam at 11:08 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


It makes me sad that this article is categorized under "Fashion and Style" in the NYT sections.

Why? Now you can dismiss it as spurious bullshit without having to waste the time and/or brain cells to read it.
posted by Rangeboy at 11:12 PM on June 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Hmm, good thinking, jamjam. Some poor kids probably go straight from these summer camps to pray-the-gay-away boot camps.
posted by clockzero at 11:13 PM on June 16, 2010


How did I fucking now this was leading up to some bullshit lifestyle NY Times article? Jesus Christ already, when are Manhattanites going to fuck off already in telling us how we live?
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 11:16 PM on June 16, 2010


It's great for introverted children, who are now required to do everything in huge packs.
posted by jeather at 11:19 PM on June 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


As someone who grew up without any really long-term close friends - I mean, I had friendships, sorta-close even, that lasted for a few years before petering out, but not anyone I'd call really close, and that's either because or why I'm happy being a bit of an anti-social loner - I'll just say this:

That's one of the saddest stories about one of the nastiest bits of social engineering that I've ever read.

Any reasons why don't matter. It's just a fucking nasty and horrible - and a whole stack of other words I'm incapable of choosing at the moment - thing to do to kids. Forced égalité and fraternité without the liberté
posted by Pinback at 11:22 PM on June 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Y'all are overreacting. Since when have adults ever been able to get kids to do as they're told?

My own childhood friendships had a hell of a lot to do with us getting together, knocking on friends' doors and knowing that we'd be able to come in and hang out, and running around the neighborhood together.

I'm not sure if any aspects of those freedoms are allowed by today's fucking parents.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:24 PM on June 16, 2010


I think the "modern" plague helicopter parents are a wonderful straw construction, ... they're about as common as real helicopters; certainly, they exist in the world, but they tend to be a hobby of the rich, and hardly widespread. Also, I don't think the phenomenon is either new or exponential.--smoke

I respectfully disagree.

When I went to elementary school, I, and every other kid, walked or rode my bike. The front of the school was covered with bicycles. Now there are none at any elementary school I've ever seen--even the one I went to. This is a dramatic difference--really nearly a 100% difference in attitude.

Funny thing is, I was talking to my now elderly Mom about this and her reply really surprised me, considering that she and all the other parents in our neighborhood basically let us walk all over the place, even in a nearby wilderness area, by ourselves all day long. "Kids don't ride bikes to school in elementary school. Most parents walk or drive their kids."

"Yes I know! You have to now days!"

Me: "???????"
posted by eye of newt at 11:28 PM on June 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


The study, which surveyed college freshman, is one of the first to try to define exactly what helicopter parenting is, and measure it.

Really?? Have we really reached a point where we scream bloody-murder over emergencies we haven't gotten around to making up yet?

This article is laughable and exactly the sort of thing that makes me wish some people would just off themselves and do us all a favor.
I might just be in a bad mood today...
posted by Avelwood at 11:41 PM on June 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Eye of Newt, are you in the same neighbourhood? The same school? Is it socioeconomically the same area? Is it otherwise demographically or culturally the same?

Is there a reason why parents drive as opposed to pick up? A school rule? Is the road the same? Is the speed limit? Where do the parents live? Is it practical to ride a bike to school? Does the route go through a major road or highway? Are there bike racks elsewhere in in the school, perhaps sheltered to prevent rust? Have you even been inside the school and spoken to the admin to verify what you've seen?

Are there council or county by-laws about riding bikes on the footpath? Is there a lot of gravel or broken glass on the route such that flat tyres are common? Are children simply walking or using scooters or roller blades? Is the school on their way to work? Do the children go to before and/or after school care and leave their bikes there? Is the neighbourhood well and regularly serviced by public transport or a good school bus network? Is it too cold/hot/wet/other for practical cycling?

Does a lack of bike riding signify a dangerous and neurotic pre-occupation with a child's wellbeing? A deep and abiding paranoia that governs every aspect of their existence and prevents them from experiencing childhood in a normal, healthy way.

You must have forearms like a Fiddler crab to draw a bow, that long. "Helicopter parents" as a cultural phenomenon is all about us and our idea of childhood, parenting, and "modern times", and very little about actual parents, actual childhood, and actual contemporaneity.
posted by smoke at 11:44 PM on June 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


My daughter skipped down the hall with me to her class the other day, which was nice. I didn't realize that allowing her to skip -- nay, skipping with her -- made me a rebel. Maybe I should grow a beard.

oh wait I already have one maybe I should get a tattoo
posted by davejay at 11:44 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I didn't have best friends during the school year, but during summer camp? Oh, man, I hate two. Matt and Nick. We always arranged ahead of time to be at camp during the same session, and when we weren't off doing our own activities (it was a music camp and we all played very different instruments), we were pretty much inseparable. This went on for 5 summers? Maybe 6. We spent time at each other's houses during the year outside of camp, we wrote letters (how quaint) all year long, even a few telephone calls (back when you paid Ma Bell by the minute). It was a healing solace for me for the rest of the year knowing that, for a couple of weeks every summer and maybe for a weekend or two during the rest of the year, I'd be with two people who really seemed to GET me.

I can't imagine what summer camp would have been like without that experience.
posted by hippybear at 11:51 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, shit. "Oh man, I HAD two." HAD two. I don't hate them. In fact, I miss them and wonder what they're up to.

But not enough to join Facebook in the hopes of finding out.
posted by hippybear at 11:53 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify...
By saying this article in my previous comment, I was referring to the article from the first link. I did not mean this post. Thank you Chipmazing. This is probably something we can all benefit from discussing.

I just saw the new buzzword for the I-wanna-pretend-to-be-a-psychologist crowd of overly fake caring parents and guidance counselors unfolding before my eyes and my blood pressure jumped. I'm okay now. I'm breathing deeply.
posted by Avelwood at 11:55 PM on June 16, 2010


The denial of kids' best friends sounds awful, on so many levels - stupid, intrusive, and cruel. On the other hand, it brings to mind the really moving, thoughtful experiment that Vivian Paley documented in "You Can't Say You Can't Play" (at Amazon, here; on This American Life, here (stream the episode and skip to 47:00). Basically, if some kids were playing in the classroom, and another kid wanted to join in, they had to allow it.

A note: Some of the links don't relate to helicopter parents - it's also schools, etc., deciding that kids (or, sadly, some kids) are precious.

And thanks for the stickball link - I know what Dad's getting for his next birthday.
posted by anshuman at 11:57 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's an academic who's been linked on MeFi -- the name escapes me -- who observed that never in human has any population been so safe, and yet feared so much.
posted by Malor at 12:02 AM on June 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Argh. *never in human history
posted by Malor at 12:02 AM on June 17, 2010


“When two children discover a special bond between them, we honor that bond, provided that neither child overtly or covertly excludes or rejects others,”

Jesus.

Excluding is not the same as bullying. Sometimes, maybe a lot of the time, kids want to be in a space with one or two other particular kids. Making that choice means being unavailable to all the other kids.

While I think it's great that fewer teachers and administrators are turning a blind eye to bullying this is way too much. You don't have to deny the possible pain of a kid being excluded in order to not want to interfere. The preference of all these "experts" is erring on the side of too much interference instead of too little. Aren't the kids supposed to be learning by doing? It also sets a poor example of respecting others' choices.

-----

Socialism!

Yes. Good observation. That's what I'm seeing here. You've got a strong central authority taking choice away from the little people for the supposed good of the collective.
posted by BigSky at 12:09 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


has any population been so safe, and yet feared so much.

Steven Pinker maybe?

http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/pinker07/pinker07_index.html
posted by Avelwood at 12:11 AM on June 17, 2010


The NYT style section is the biggest fucking troll on Metafilter, by far.
posted by creasy boy at 12:17 AM on June 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


Rich People Problems, Fake Trends, and Shoes - yay, Thursday Styles!

Did anyone read the comments on the article? This description of BFF drama made me laugh:

Girl A refusing to let any of the other girls near her BFF, and when one or the other of the girls was finally able to speak to the "BFF", Girl A would either burst into tears, sulk, or later choose the girl who was able to have a conversation with the BFF for teasing.

Girl B telling Girl C that she used to be BFF number 1, but was now number 2 because Girl C had never invited her over for a sleep over, suggesting to Girl C what she could do to recover her number 1 position.


Oh how that brings me back to 4th grade and the daily lectures on how Jesus would never say "I don't want to play with you." (It was a "non-denominational" school filled with alphabet girls.)
posted by betweenthebars at 12:23 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Socialism!

Yes. Good observation. That's what I'm seeing here. You've got a strong central authority taking choice away from the little people for the supposed good of the collective.


And if that were what socialism is, you might have the beginnings of a useful thought!
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:34 AM on June 17, 2010 [22 favorites]


Man, I almost went to MICDS. And by almost, I mean "secretly did everything in my power to make sure I didn't get in."
posted by gc at 1:06 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now that I think about it, during the dual interview I did there (me and another kid),all I had to talk about was the amazing summer camp I went to, where I made a lot of friends. The other kid was like in eight movies or something. How funny.
posted by gc at 1:12 AM on June 17, 2010


he key is to be self-confident and fearless, although that is a lot to ask.
posted by parmanparman at 1:30 AM on June 17, 2010


You know, as much as there probably are a few massively over-protective parents in white, middle and upper-middle class communities in and around NYC (and probably other urban centres of the US), it's a long, long way from NYT style piece to world-changing social trend.

There have always been over-protective and neglectful parents in the world, with a vast spectrum in between. Except now we have lazy style journalists highlighting the more batshit as an Indicator of Things To Come. I'll say one thing to you on that - pageviews.

As a kid, we had a family down the street who wouldn't let their daughter out onto the street to play with the other kids (even though I was friends with the son, who was allowed out but lots of strict instructions). They eventually started letting her out when she was about twelve I think. I thought it was a bit weird, but that's how they wanted to do things.

Difference was, this was in rural Scotland rather than urban US and the majority of kids were happily skinning their knees, climbing trees and disappearing for hours. They still are, at least on the street I grew up on.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:22 AM on June 17, 2010


I'm not really worried about the helicopter parents. It's the robot drone parents I'm worried about.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:34 AM on June 17, 2010


Speaking of helicopter parents... one of the articles from the Home and Garden section in the same issue of NYTimes talks about New Yorkers fencing in their patios to keep their cats indoors. They call it "the catio".

...some cat owners who would never dream of letting their pets roam free outside have come up with a creative compromise: an enclosed space — usually in the form of a screened-in porch or deck — that allows them to share the great outdoors.

Please don’t call it a cage. They prefer the term “catio.”

“The cats, they like to sit out there,” said Stefanie L. Russell, 44, referring to the balcony of her 12th-floor Greenwich Village apartment, where a homemade enclosure keeps her three Burmese cats safe. “Before, we basically didn’t use the balcony at all, because we were afraid that the cats would fall or jump.”

posted by spoobnooble at 4:17 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ, it's like the NYT is making a sport out of who can write the most banal article about an obscure thing happening in New York.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:28 AM on June 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Jesus Christ, it's like the NYT is making a sport out of who can write the most banal article about an obscure thing happening in New York.

I believe that sport is called footmouth.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:39 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The obvious next step here is a "kidio". The Times has already written the article, and is just waiting on someone to build one so they can take photos.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 4:45 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thinking about eye of newt's post and smoke's response, I wonder how much of this supposed "helicopter parent" trend is actually a result of the spread of the exurbs? So much of childhood freedom is based on being physically able to go places on your own. You can go to a friend's house and you two can go play together, and you can walk back to your respective houses when your parents call you back in.

Or at least, you used to be able to do that. But when neighborhoods are laid out so you need a car to do everything, kids who can't yet drive are left completely dependent on their parents to take them everywhere. When you don't have walkable neighborhoods, when kids live miles apart from each other and there are no sidewalks and there's a highway between you and your closest friend, of course more kids are going to stay inside and more play dates will have to be arranged (all the better to work around parents' busy schedules). What's the alternative?
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 4:51 AM on June 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


It's like an entire generation forgot what made them happy.

You're assuming there people were happy in the first place. That isn't an assumption I'd be willing to make.
posted by valkyryn at 4:53 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


My "favourite" version of helicopter parenting occurs at the playground, where parents tell their kids not to run up the slide... "Wait your turn." The word "playdate" is also irritating. However, on the other extreme, we live in a social housing complex where both parents work, that is, if there are two parents. Typically, it's single-parent (read: single mother) households, and there is very little supervision. The kids run wild, destroy things, stay out late, "borrow" bicycles and toys and whatever isn't nailed down. That's pretty irritating too.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:05 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd throw my 2 pence in with Anyamatopoeia's diagnosis. I'd also point out that our growing sense of ever-impending threat grew with the the spread of the (outer) suburbs and exurbs. We're more (wittingly) socially isolated, more fearful, and less able to accurately judge what is actually potentially harmful then any generation thus far, I'd wager. And now we get to reap the whirlwind.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 5:07 AM on June 17, 2010


Is there a reason why parents drive as opposed to pick up?
When I was a kid, I sometimes wouldn't feel like riding to school, so I'd whine in the hope mum would drive me. If she did, great! If she didn't, I FUCKING DEALT WITH IT.

A school rule?
When I was a kid, if you rode you obeyed the road rules, SAME AS EVERYONE ELSE.

Is the road the same?
I rode on roads, I rode on bike tracks, I sometimes rode on the footpath. It was a good half-hour ride if I went flat out, and I FUCKING DEALT WITH IT.

Is the speed limit?
Speed limits varied between 15 and 80kph, and we were expected to FUCKING DEAL WITH IT.

Where do the parents live?
Some lived close, others lived far. Either way, you FUCKING DEALT WITH IT.

Is it practical to ride a bike to school?
If you had a bike, and you were well enough to attend school, you could ride.

Does the route go through a major road or highway?
Yes, and we FDWI.

Are there bike racks elsewhere in in the school, perhaps sheltered to prevent rust?
Shelter? No. If your bike got rusty you FUCKING CLEANED IT.

Are there council or county by-laws about riding bikes on the footpath?
Yes, and we FDWI, usually by ignoring them.

Is there a lot of gravel or broken glass on the route such that flat tyres are common?
Of course. These are public roads. You carried a patch kit and FDWI.

Are children simply walking or using scooters or roller blades?
Some could, most couldn't. It was pre-scooter and rollerblade. Some kids had skateboards, but they tended to ride the the bus or the train.

Is the school on their way to work? Do the children go to before and/or after school care and leave their bikes there? Is the neighbourhood well and regularly serviced by public transport or a good school bus network? Is it too cold/hot/wet/other for practical cycling?
Sometimes; sometimes; sort of; sometimes the weather was bad and you got soaked or sunburned. WE WERE KIDS. WE LIVED IN A WORLD MADE BY AND FOR ADULTS. WE FUCKING DEALT WITH IT.
posted by Ritchie at 5:13 AM on June 17, 2010 [14 favorites]


I live in a neighborhood full of helicopter parents, and I have a lonely, bored son.

He was out in the driveway one Saturday a couple months ago shooting some baskets, when a kid from school came by (he'd gotten loose by mistake apparently) -- they got to shooting together for a few minutes, then they came inside and were hanging out in his room for I dunno -- maybe 10 minutes, when there was a knock at the door. Concerned Mom. "Is my son here?" Me: "Sure! We're glad to have him - not enough kids in the neighborhood." Her: "Well, he didn't tell me he was doing this -- he'll have to come home." Kid was in TROUBLE. She was quite mad. We said "He can come over any time, really." Her reply was something like "This is awkward -- I'm not sure how to do this. We could arrange play dates?"

They live ACROSS THE STREET. I CAN SEE THEIR FRONT DOOR FROM WHERE I'M SITTING RIGHT NOW. AUUGGHH!! We've seen him exactly once in the couple months, since.

Another kid, around the other side of the block, (kids had a chance meeting outside of his front door once) has a nanny who won't let him come over at all. Period. Can't do it. Sorry.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:15 AM on June 17, 2010 [21 favorites]


One person's answer is a movement she calls free range kids. Also, audio of a recent interview with the author and blogger on NPR.
posted by SteveInMaine at 5:25 AM on June 17, 2010


one of the articles from the Home and Garden section in the same issue of NYTimes talks about New Yorkers fencing in their patios to keep their cats indoors. They call it "the catio"

To be fair, we have both our cats leash trained, and we put them out on a leash run which gives them space in the backyard but doesn't let them actually go away. We did this because the vet in town shared with us horror stories about the feral cats around here being bastions of feline disease, and he suggested that we find a way to keep the cats under control so they don't wander off and get in fights and get infected. We do walk them around the block occasionally, too. /derail
posted by hippybear at 5:32 AM on June 17, 2010


I can't wait until this cohort develops a counterculture based on what they were deprived of as a child. Hopscotch in the streets. "Play-ins" in giant treehouses. Flashmob dodgeball games. Think militant newsies, without the news. Future old people of the world, prepare to REALLY defend your lawn.
posted by condour75 at 5:51 AM on June 17, 2010 [13 favorites]


Nothing real to add to the conversation, just some anecdotes, but:

This isn't exactly a new issue. I remember being in elementary and middle school and the teachers splitting up me and my best friend for the sake of making other friends. And no, it wasn't because we were talking or distracting each other.

And it doesn't go away. My best friend/roommate (I'm in college now) has a helicopter mom who decided we spend too much time together so we're not allowed to live together anymore ( by threat of her being cut off).

Honestly, it hurt both of us a lot more to be told that her mom hated the idea of her kid being my best friend than if my friend had just decided to move on herself.
posted by shesdeadimalive at 5:58 AM on June 17, 2010


My best friend/roommate (I'm in college now) has a helicopter mom who decided we spend too much time together so we're not allowed to live together anymore ( by threat of her being cut off).

Hard time imagining a helicopter mom doing this, it's funny...it could have been a good thing long term if society was normal anymore.
posted by swooz at 6:11 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


WE WERE KIDS. WE LIVED IN A WORLD MADE BY AND FOR ADULTS. WE FUCKING DEALT WITH IT.

No we didn't. We were lucky.

There are plenty of people whos lived in the same world that we did as kids, and probably didn't have the same experiences as us or were able to deal with life's difficulties like we were. And today as adults, you can see the result of them not being able to deal with it.

That jerk in your office? Maybe his parents treated him like garbage.

That neighbour who rats on the cops each time you try to have some friends over in the back yard? Maybe she had no friends as a kid and now is so bitter at the sight of other people's friends.

That steroid-pumped bully in the gym? Maybe he got beaten up one too many times by bullies of his own.

Just remember that any successes in our lives have just as much to do with luck as it does with all the hard work and effort we like to credit ourselves for.

FWIW, I don't like the idea of separating best friends. I think it's dumb. But we should also remember that there are kids out there who don't have the opportunities we have, who will never get a chance to have their own BFF, and while some will deal with it and grow from it, there are those that won't, and it is our responsibility as adults to take care of all children. I don't know what the solution is, and it is definitely not separating existing BFFs, but we still need to find a solution.
posted by bitteroldman at 6:25 AM on June 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


“I think it is kids’ preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults — teachers and counselors — we try to encourage them not to do that,” said Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis.

Yep, that pretty much sums up life in suburban St. Louis.
posted by slogger at 6:32 AM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


idk my bff
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:35 AM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Assuming this isn't some overblown fluff piece, i'm not really sure what to think of the ideas put forth in the article.

While I think separating best friends from one another is counterproductive at best, damaging at worst, I also remember what these forced grouping exercises were like. No one liked me when I was a kid, and frankly I had more fun playing video games or running around my backyard by myself. Most of the times these forced play arrangements meant the group of kids being smiles and sunshine when the teacher was around, and then the straggler would be confined to a group of kids who are now free to pick on him/her, now without the ability to find his/her own space, being 'encouraged' to go back and play with the others.

On the other hand, if my peer group is any indication, 9 out of 10 people I know have a BFF who is the most intolerable lech / boor / "asshole" / "psycho bitch" that due to some kind of seniority/dedication they are unwilling to purge from their life, so maybe it's not such a bad idea after all.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:44 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is probably a good development. Think of all the energy and intelligence kids have expended on subverting, undercutting and outright disobeying idiot School Rules.

Instead of smoking in the bathroom, rolling the waistbands of the uniform skirts and sneaking notes in class, they'll put all their energy into developing deep, meaningful friendships, building treehouses and running around at recess.


Doubtful. This form of parenting likely delegitimizes parents as authority figures. Kids aren't stupid, and will likely figure out that these restrictions are pointless from a very early age, and end up ignoring anything the parent has to say (in fact, the study mentioned teenage alcoholism as one of the direct consequences of helicopter parenting).

Speaking anecdotally, the kids who had overprotective parents were also the ones who usually made "very bad decisions" once they were on their own in College. (Unless, of course, that college happens to be Liberty, BYU, or Bob Jones, which afford their students less freedom than a concentration camp)

And don't get me started on the helicopter parents who smoke.
posted by schmod at 6:46 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or at least, you used to be able to do that. But when neighborhoods are laid out so you need a car to do everything, kids who can't yet drive are left completely dependent on their parents to take them everywhere.

That describes the brand new suburb my parents moved to in the 60's. That didn't stop us from riding our bikes. When they finally got around to building a local library, it was 2 miles away, down a major highway, and I walked or rode my bike to get there. When I started high school (all my other schools were pretty close) it was 5 miles, a major highway AND a steep hill, but again, I biked or walked. (or hitched or took a city bus.) Never, ever did my mother think to drive me anywhere except to the doctor or the dentist. Mall? I biked. Downtown? City bus. Movies? I biked. Girl Scout meeting, friend's house, YMCA pool? Biked.

I have recently experienced helicopter parents second hand. My 17 year old has her first serious boyfriend and has been dating him now for 6 months. Except that on all their dates his family (both parents, two siblings) goes too. Movies, Disneyland, restaurants, beach, LA, you name it-- their family policy is not to leave him alone with her. Which astonishes me. What on earth do they think those two will get up to alone at Disneyland? Besides which they both attend high school together and share lunch time so they are alone sometimes.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:51 AM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is there any chance the point of all this is actually to reduce and eliminate as far as possible the development of same sex romantic feelings?

The first thing I thought of when reading the article was religious orders-- particularly convents-- where they used to suppress "special friendships." Two nuns together was an invitation to sin so nuns were always discouraged from pairing up.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:08 AM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wonder what it will be like for children who really do grow up without ever having a best friend. Will it affect their ability to form close bonds with others?

Sounds like the perfect soldier to me. Or middle-manager.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:09 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


PostIronyIsNotaMyth wrote: "Jesus Christ already, when are Manhattanites going to fuck off already in telling us how we live?"

Probably when we stop reading their fucking newspaper.
posted by wierdo at 7:11 AM on June 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


The vanishing of the bicycle is a major change. I biked everywhere when I was 10 or so, and by everywhere I mean "gone into the woods/down the railroad tracks/following the stream/miles away." My parents would have had no idea where to start looking if I didn't come home when the streetlights came on. Cellphones didn't exist.

And this was normal. All the kids did this (~1980). In fact, my mom was considered overprotective.

I would bike to a friends house to spend the night. At least 10 miles, over a mix of sidewalks, no-sidewalk major streets, and greenways through the dark woods. The next morning I would bike back. And none of the adults involved saw anything unusual about this.

The kids of today don't experience this. At best they have a scooter, to go around the cul-de-sac with. I live in a nice neighborhood that backs up on a park with a greenway. And what a park - climbing bars! A climbing rock! A creek! Big trees fallen across the creek! Even from 40 I can see a wealth of fantastic kingdoms waiting there.

Our neighbor has three boys, from 7 or so up. They bounce basketballs at the bottom of the driveway, sometimes for hours. Then they go back inside. I've never seen any of them go near the park that abuts their backyard.
posted by bitmage at 7:22 AM on June 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wow, my sister, step brother, step sister and I spent hours alone making shit up to do while our parents worked. How in the hell are these kids ever going to get a chance to throw rocks or apples at cars if their parents don't let them go out and live? We created a game called "Monster on the Play House" with elaborate rules. 20 minutes after my brother got his first bb gun he shot the window of his mom's car. Let these little bastards live!
posted by zzazazz at 7:26 AM on June 17, 2010


to work with campers to help every child become friends with everyone else

oh awesome this will definitely help prepare the children for grown up life in which everyone is equally friendly to everyone else yes that is a great idea i do agree
posted by ook at 7:28 AM on June 17, 2010


Ritchie wrote: "When I was a kid, I sometimes wouldn't feel like riding to school, so I'd whine in the hope mum would drive me. If she did, great! If she didn't, I FUCKING DEALT WITH IT."

Lucky you. Aside from a year where my school was over five miles away and there was no school bus within a reasonable distance, I was never provided transportation to school by my parents or other caregivers.

I was expected to get myself out of bed, clothed, fed, and go to school on my own from the time I was in the first grade. I got some words of encouragement in kindergarten, and the first day of first grade (at a different school than where I went to kindergarten) my dad thought it would be a good idea to show me the way there. After that, it was my deal unless it was utterly pouring down rain, in which case I could usually get a ride. That sucked though, because then I didn't have my bike with me when school let out.

So yeah, it sounds like kids these days are grounded for life.
posted by wierdo at 7:34 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis, yeah ... having tutored and seen many children from there, I am sure that quote was without a trace of irony. Not naming names, I remember this one kid from there, at age seven, still wasn't wiping after having a bowel movement. "He doesn't do it right," said his mother. Fortunately the new nanny, a rather meek lass but something of a lion when it comes to kids, put a stop to that.

That sort of thing wasn't exactly uncommon there. I was never entirely sure if so many of the issues I saw with those kids were just the result of the parental demographic or some of the odd things I heard about that school. I guess I can put a few points in the School column now. Shame we can't just pull a Young Frankenstein and siphon off some overprotectiveness to donate to the Parental Neglect-o-Matic types.

The theme of shallow, disposable relationships and the single-serving friend are pretty good lessons to be passing on to kids if you want them working temp jobs, or as permanent contractors, or having "starter marriages," or having coworkers to whom they won't even greet in the hall as Facebook friends.

I didn't have serious friends until I was in the double-digit ages. My parents had moved me averaging about twice a year for a while before that. Later, they took me to a psychologist to find out why I wasn't making an effort to make friends. I just rolled my eyes and said, "Because by the time I make them, I'll just get to miss them, not enjoy them." (Even the eye-rolling was in the notes, which I obtained upon the age of majority, along with other amusing bits.) Sometimes, I feel like I will be playing catch-up on the friendship angle for the rest of my existence.
posted by adipocere at 7:36 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just clicked two of the links, and came to the conclusion that this is a bad front page post with mostly. The stories behind the "best friend" and "treehouse" don't have anything to do with helicopter parents.

I'll agree with smoke above and point out another thing. This is yet another fake parenting crisis. When I grew up, the big crisis was the latchkey kid who didn't get enough parental supervision. Even today, the news media presents mutually conflicting stories that parenthood has gone wrong. Kids today are both smothered infants due to too much parental attention, and wanton libertines due to not enough parental attention.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:37 AM on June 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


"But the classic best-friend bond — the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together every day after school — signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying."
Really? Jesus Fucking Christ. So, every student now gets a trophy, AMIRITE?
posted by ericb at 7:47 AM on June 17, 2010


Fears of injuries, fights, or inappropriate touching have led some schools across the country to do away with rougher games...

I'm confused: stickball leads to "inappropriate touching"? How the hell does that work?
posted by steambadger at 7:51 AM on June 17, 2010


Hey teacher, leave those kids alone!
posted by ericb at 7:55 AM on June 17, 2010


Smoke I really couldn't figure out how you could not see how all kids got to school on their own years ago and, at least in elementary school, none do now. Then I saw the word 'tyre'. Ahah! I see you are from Australia. It may be that things are different there. Here (at least in the suburbs of San Francisco Bay Area), kids simply don't get to elementary school on their own, when they all used to. This has nothing to do with roads or traffic or even any particular suburb compared to any other.

It is a social attitude that it is almost criminal (in fact in many cases it is considered criminal) to let your pre-teens out on their own.

There was a Metafilter post a while back (I can't find it right now) about a woman who let her 9 year old son take a bus in New York City by himself. She blogged about it and it created quite a controversy. Many thought she was unfit to be a parent.

If this is different in Australia, then that's great!
posted by eye of newt at 7:57 AM on June 17, 2010


My own childhood friendships had a hell of a lot to do with us getting together, knocking on friends' doors and knowing that we'd be able to come in and hang out, and running around the neighborhood together.

I'm not sure if any aspects of those freedoms are allowed by today's fucking parents.


My own two boys, who are 6 and 9, have this right now. For a long time, even though there were other kids in the neighborhood, they were all too booked up with school, aftercare, extracurriculars, soccer and swimming on Saturdays, to have the kind of time for this. We'd have little bursts of it at spring break time and that was about it. Some of my happiest memories are of those long days with the neighborhood kids, but it seemed like it just wasn't going to happen for mine.

Now, by some confluence of the ages they've reached and a couple of other boys moving into the neighborhood who are not in aftercare, soccer, swimming, music, and karate every week, we have a pack! It's great. They swarm in and out of houses demanding snacks, disappear on their bikes for a couple hours at a time. I find them rooting around in my kitchen for picnic supplies. One minute my house is empty, the next I find five kids lined up on my couch watching TV; 10 minutes later, they're gone again. My 6-year-old recently reported to me on the progress of a dead squirrel he and a friend have been keeping an eye on down by the park.

I don't know how long it will last; they boy they hang out with most lives in a rental, and his mom mentioned they move a lot, so perhaps the fragile balance will tip before we'd like it to. In the meantime, they're having long, minimally-supervised days of exploration with friends and they are loving it. I'm glad for them.
posted by not that girl at 8:01 AM on June 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


Mister_A: Alarmist and Misleading Post Text Alarming, Misleading

Come on, folks; RTFA. This is all about parents and teachers encouraging children to be inclusive; it's not about banning pair bonds at all. When my kids (4&6) have friends over, we make sure no one gets locked out of the fun or teased relentlessly. We make sure everyone is included. Sometimes my 6-year-old son invites his 7-year-old friend from down the block over; more often than not her little sister tags along. We let them know that they can't be mean to the little ones. Usually, the two older kids eventually pair off, and so do the two younger ones. It's lovely, we encourage that, as long as it's not, "Hey let's go hide from so-and-so; she's a poopy-head." When that happens we put a stop to it. Is that helicopter parenting, or is it teaching your children to be kind and to respect other people?

Also, neither of my kids has a best friend, exactly, just yet; that's OK. They each have large, over-lapping groups of friends that meet up and terrorize our neighborhood, scouring the houses for food and juice. That's the way it was when I was a kid, too. We aren't discouraging best friend bonds, we're encouraging having lots of fun friends, inclusion, and mutual respect. And you know what, that's just the way it was when I was a kid. None of this is new. I didn't have a "best friend" until I was 13 or so; and I haven't really had a "best friend" since I graduated high school. My wife is my best friend, though putting it that way trivializes our relationship.

From the article: Matthew said he considers 12 boys to be his good friends and says he sees most of them “pretty much every weekend.” People, this means his parents are doing it right. At some point that group of 12 is going to dwindle. He'll still be friends with Jimmy and Steve, but he'll discover that he and Hank really have the most in common, and he'll spend more time with him. Or not. This is a good thing. The NYT headline is silly, and the framing of this post even sillier. I will concede that the approach at st. Louis Country Day seems heavy-handed; but I agree with the sentiment about helping kids not be so possessive about friends. That ain't healthy.
posted by Mister_A at 8:04 AM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Earlier this week CBS Sunday Morning profiled the "best friendship" of former basketball rivals Lary Bird and Magic Johnson. It was a touching story.
posted by ericb at 8:10 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I echo the sentiments of those who think this is the dumbest thing ever. By all means, let's deprive kids of yet another much-needed skill. Do you think relationships are nurtured along by people who have never had the opportunity to do so? Hell no!

Having and keeping a best friend is a negotiation that goes on as long as the friendship. You learn about boundaries, about kindness and about making allowances for differences in taste. You learn to accomodate and mediate and communiate. You learn to compromise.

You see young adults now, and they have social networking, a big pack of people with whom you have little intimacy. It's so weird, we wonder why so many young people are inappropriately sharing what should be private information. It must be because they never developed the filters necessary to distinguish between "private" and "public". If you don't have a confidante, then you confide in everyone.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:12 AM on June 17, 2010


In the meantime, they're having long, minimally-supervised days of exploration with friends and they are loving it. I'm glad for them.

I will also say, though, that in this age of over-protective parenting, the only kids who are regularly available for this kind of free-range roaming are from two families where some of us suspect there is actual neglect going on; one girl, for instance, who spends a lot of time at one of my neighbor's. My neighbor thinks that this girl's parents don't necessarily feed her, and she has been caught sneaking into an unlocked house to steal food from the kitchen.

So, in my little neighborhood experience, I would say kids can have this kind of roaming pack but it may require parents who are actually guilty of neglect (which makes me wonder if I seem guilty by association to the parents watching through their windows with their kids who are not allowed out without supervision).
posted by not that girl at 8:18 AM on June 17, 2010


There was a Metafilter post a while back (I can't find it right now) about a woman who let her 9 year old son take a bus in New York City by himself.

She's Lenore Skenazy, and she blogs at Free Range Kids.
posted by not that girl at 8:20 AM on June 17, 2010


[soapbox rant]
Is it really so hard to be a decent parent? The amount of anxious, hand-wringing energy expended on this single topic has always amazed me.

Look, we all want to be good parents. Deep down, I think even the neglectoids want to be good parents. It's a good thing to aspire to. But I'm convinced it isn't that hard, and it absolutely does not require a degree in child psychology or secondary education.

I'm a young parent (my son is almost two), so maybe I'll change my tune in a few years, but for me the Ultimate Guide to Parenting has always been about a few basic things:

1. Accept that you will make a lot of mistakes as a parent. A lot. When it happens, own up to it.
2. Your time is your most valuable skill.
3. Teach them what's right, and let them make their own decisions (within reasonable limits).
4. Stick to your guns. If you say you're going to do something. Do it no matter what.
5. Don't do anything in anger. If you're mad, walk it off. It's not about you.
6. This is the most important job you will ever have, ever.
7. Love without condition, and trust your kids.

To me it just amounts to being an honorable person. Keep your word, stand up for what's right (that includes discipline), don't be a jerk, and MAKE. TIME. FOR. YOUR. KIDS. The most well-adjusted people I know all had different parents with different parenting styles, but they all had one thing in common: their parents always had time for them.

It's not about supervision or safety. Hell, it's barely about guidance. It's about being there, being reliable. The real world is harsh and unforgiving, and kids learn that pretty quick. Knowing that there is at least one person in their life that will just always be there is a great comfort. It's a comfort that they will take for granted. And that's a good thing.

These kinds of articles, and indeed the whole genre of parenting magazines and parenting guides and all of that stuff seems like a whole lot of navel-gazing. Parenting is not about the parents. Sheesh, get over yourselves.
[/soapbox rant]

I also agree that Parents Who Don't Care at All is a much more serious problem, but I think this is usually a symptom of some other more terrible issue (like extreme poverty, drug addiction, mental health, etc...)
posted by jnrussell at 8:27 AM on June 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Ruthless Bunny: "If you don't have a confidante, then you confide in everyone."

This is a really neat point, but I wonder how much of that is a symptom of this (perhaps imaginary) trend of kids no longer having best friends, and how much of that is a symptom of things like blogging and online journals gaining traction in the "mainstream" within the last decade or so.

When I joined Livejournal, about six or seven years ago, most of my friends and most of the people I interacted with online had public journals. "Friends-only" was a fairly new phenomenon, and often one that was seen as a little snobby: why should we have to ask permission to get to know you? Today I can think of maybe one or two people on my friends list whose journals are fully unlocked, as more and more people find their way onto the internet, and as it becomes easier to trace online identities across platforms and communities.

In a sort of weird inversion of that trend, I see a lot of bloggers on inherently less identity-oriented blogs like Tumblr being very open about their personal issues, but a lot more coy about their identity. Rather than using social media as a way to share information with their existing offline social network, these people are using social media to broadcast to the world in hopes of eliciting a response from someone who might feel the same as they do. Because it's so anonymous, they feel safe about saying things they might be scared to admit in real life.

I'm not sure it's necessarily a blurring of the public vs. private filters in the minds of the current generation, but maybe a redefinition of what kind of interactions and responses are expected of the public sphere. Stuff like PostSecret and Metafilter itself are perpetuating this idea that you can find solace in strangers, solace that you often wouldn't be able to find with the friends who are too close to you to be able to help. I think it's a more conscious decision than we give them credit for.

(I don't know how this ties into oversharing on Facebook. That's a whole different beast. Though I will point out that with a redefinition of the typical interactions expected in the public/private spheres, a lot of people are purposefully sharing a certain amount of information on Facebook in order to craft an image that they want to project to the world. It's possible that we see the information they choose to broadcast as being "too private to share", but maybe that's just part of what they want the world to know about them.)
posted by Phire at 8:36 AM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Speaking as a former social outcast... this is totally outrageous. Parents' fear of bullying has caused them to restrain their children's lives to the point that they seem totally unrecognizable from my own childhood.

The first time I heard the term "play date" I thought it was cute. Then I realized it was being used instead of going outside and playing with the neighborhood kids, and I was horrified.

In ten years, we're going to have an entire generation of children who've been so heavily managed that they have no idea how to interact socially with anyone.
posted by zug at 8:54 AM on June 17, 2010


Kids are pointless and parents are stupid.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 9:05 AM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


“The cats, they like to sit out there,” said Stefanie L. Russell, 44, referring to the balcony of her 12th-floor Greenwich Village apartment, where a homemade enclosure keeps her three Burmese cats safe. “Before, we basically didn’t use the balcony at all, because we were afraid that the cats would fall or jump.”

That probably sounds weird, but given how many times I've seen my cat fall off the bed as she's rolling around, it's not entirely unfounded.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:20 AM on June 17, 2010


And it doesn't go away. My best friend/roommate (I'm in college now) has a helicopter mom who decided we spend too much time together so we're not allowed to live together anymore ( by threat of her being cut off).

You've got to be kidding.

Any parent who thinks that controlling their kids to that extent once they've reached college age is delusional and probably doing damage.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:30 AM on June 17, 2010


'Any parent who thinks that controlling kids is a good idea...' is what I was trying to type ...
posted by krinklyfig at 9:30 AM on June 17, 2010


I think I've locked three posts in my seven years on Livejournal. I just don't see the point of it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:37 AM on June 17, 2010


> "When you don't have walkable neighborhoods, when kids live miles apart from each other and there are no sidewalks and there's a highway between you and your closest friend, of course more kids are going to stay inside and more play dates will have to be arranged (all the better to work around parents' busy schedules). What's the alternative?"

You get the kids bikes and tell them to meet each other halfway, maybe even play under the frickin' highway if they have to. The very point of childhood is to learn how to navigate these obstacles.

I get that urban planning in the US is bloody awful, and there can be nothing but soulless houses for miles (we bought a house last year and saw many of these areas), but if you can't choose to live in a better area, you have to learn to deal with it. For example: kids might live miles apart, but childhood obesity is on the rise, and there are miles of well maintained sidewalks to bike, walk and play on. There are usually very few other people that will get in your way while you're out there. I would have killed for all that undisturbed concrete to roam with my bike or a bouncy ball or walk the dog. Walking miles as a kid is a great habit to get into.

I see this issue like recycling, or switching from brand name cleaning products and paper towels to baking soda, white vinegar and reusable cloths. The solutions are sometimes obvious and beneficial, but it's taking a lot of effort for our generation to break out of micromanaging and consumer loyalty. I'm not sure why - I know it's not laziness, because all of this hovering takes so much space and time. But it's irrational and a certain type of mental weakness that we all need to start working on.
posted by saturnine at 9:42 AM on June 17, 2010


Everybody talks about the helicopters, no one's so keen on talking about all the empty airports, little passengers waiting forlornly in the hangar for a ride that's never gonna come.

So true, and so sad, all summed up into a devastating image. +100 favorites on that comment.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 9:50 AM on June 17, 2010


But the classic best-friend bond — the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together every day after school — signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying.

Because nothing has ever gone awry by adopting a herd mentality. Nope. No siree.
posted by squeak at 9:50 AM on June 17, 2010


You know what else I don't like? All the gosh darn Satanic ritual sexual abuse and murder, that's what!
posted by Mister_A at 10:00 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, in theory, I could see how it would be healthier to have a large group of friends instead of one best friend. But in practice? I mean, what kind of heartless bastard could tell their kid they couldn't hang out with their buddy because they've been hanging out with them too much?

Anyways...

I don't have kids or anything, but every time I read some article about "the right way to parent," I have to laugh. I mean, parenting trends have come and gone throughout history, some of them flatly contradicting each other. And you know what? Kids usually turn out fine. I mean, yeah, very few of them become millionaires or rockstars or whatever "living up to your fullest potential" is supposed to mean. But a vanishingly small percentage actually become homeless winos or serial killers. And in fact, most people live pretty alright lives.

So you know what? Fuck it. Let little Johnny hang out with his best friend. Maybe he'll remember you as being a good dad, and not a controlling prick.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:06 AM on June 17, 2010


I biked everywhere when I was 10 or so, and by everywhere I mean "gone into the woods/down the railroad tracks/following the stream/miles away." My parents would have had no idea where to start looking if I didn't come home when the streetlights came on. Cellphones didn't exist.
This was my childhood, too. My friends and I biked everywhere, as soon as Mom gave the OK to cross "big" roads (by big I mean five or six lane major streets). No cell phones, but sometimes if it was starting to get late and we were still four miles away at Universal Mall I'd call Mom from a pay phone to let her know I was still alive and on my way home. Her admonishment as we left the house was always "make sure you've got a dime for a phone call!" Today I live on a street that has an elementary school on the corner. Unlike the steady stream of kids walking to and from school in the morning and afternoon like when I was a child, there is instead a line-up of cars down the block. Not only do the parents who live half a block away drive their snowflakes to school every day, they wait in a motorized line, holding up traffic, in order to drop their kids off right by the door. The school has a playground and a huge playing field, but it seems to be mostly used after school hours by local lacrosse and softball teams.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:07 AM on June 17, 2010


Oriole Adams wrote: "they wait in a motorized line, holding up traffic, in order to drop their kids off right by the door."

This is what really annoys me. Thankfully I no longer live near a white-people school, so I don't have to deal with them blocking the roads like the morons that they are so intent on demonstrating themselves to be.

That said, even when I was in elementary school in the 80s, there were about 60 kids out of the 350 or so who went to the elementary school I did whose parents would pick them up at school every day. Most of them lived in my neighborhood.

I guess it still boggles my mind that cities/school systems pay for crossing guards near schools. Where I went to school elementary was K-6. The 6th graders got to be crossing guards. Everybody wanted that job. I have no clue why, as it meant you had to be at school early and stay late, but whatever.
posted by wierdo at 10:21 AM on June 17, 2010


wierdo: "The 6th graders got to be crossing guards. Everybody wanted that job. I have no clue why, as it meant you had to be at school early and stay late, but whatever."

I don't know the solution to allegedly well-intentioned parenting trends, or less well-intentioned lifestyle fluff articles, but this! This I know the answer to!

Or at least, I know what the answer was at my school. It was because the "Safety Patrol" got a free trip to the Chicago-area Great America amusement park.
posted by Drastic at 10:30 AM on June 17, 2010


wierdo and Oriole Adams, I agree, this is a problem. My kids go to school a couple miles from home; we do a carpool and send 4 kids in one vehicle right now, but when they're old enough they can't wait to ride bikes/scooters/walk to school.

I think part of the issue with the crossing guards and so on is that cars nowadays are larger and more powerful than they were when I went to school (this is probably true of you as well, judging by your comments), drivers are less patient and more distracted and self-entitled, and of course there are the constant liability concerns. It's really unfortunate that more kids don't rely on their own 2 feet to get to school.
posted by Mister_A at 10:30 AM on June 17, 2010


Can you imagine an angry Dodge Charger driver heeding the signals of a 6th grader? I cannot. The full-grown woman crossing guard at my kids' school is routinely ignored by people who simply must run the red light (it only just turned red a second ago!) to make a left turn into a group of kids crossing the street. It really sucks that some people are like that behind the wheel.
posted by Mister_A at 10:32 AM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Come on, folks; RTFA. This is all about parents and teachers encouraging children to be inclusive; it's not about banning pair bonds at all. When my kids (4&6) have friends over, we make sure no one gets locked out of the fun or teased relentlessly. We make sure everyone is included. Sometimes my 6-year-old son invites his 7-year-old friend from down the block over; more often than not her little sister tags along. We let them know that they can't be mean to the little ones. Usually, the two older kids eventually pair off, and so do the two younger ones. It's lovely, we encourage that, as long as it's not, "Hey let's go hide from so-and-so; she's a poopy-head." When that happens we put a stop to it. Is that helicopter parenting, or is it teaching your children to be kind and to respect other people?"
It sounds like you've found the happy medium, Mister_A. If only more parents paid that much attention to their children's social interaction.

In the end, there's no one size fits all solution for children. Some will naturally thrive in a free flowing group of peers, while others may prefer to spend their time with one or two friends, or even alone. The best kind of childhood, I think, is one where the child gets to experience all these different kinds of social interaction, so they can figure out for themselves what they like best.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:38 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


What was that movie that depicted children that were perfectly behaved, safe at all times, all had "equivalent" friendships and held hands in supreme and constant bliss?

Oh yeah, that's it.
posted by de void at 10:39 AM on June 17, 2010


What exactly is a 'a white-people school?'
posted by ericb at 10:51 AM on June 17, 2010


My daughter felt like queen of the world when she finally got to be The Crossing Guard in the 90's. Cars obeyed her like she was a cop. Reminds me of the time I got to Wear the Striped Canvas Strap across my chest as a kid in the 50's.

And while I'm here I should say as everyone does every time one of these FPPs comes up: yes, things were better in the old days. No, really. Kids need freedom, not more computer game time. And, ideally, they need to play in the woods with sticks and throw rocks into the creek. How can parents not understand that?
posted by kozad at 10:54 AM on June 17, 2010


"The 6th graders got to be crossing guards. Everybody wanted that job. I have no clue why, as it meant you had to be at school early and stay late, but whatever."

I don't know the solution to allegedly well-intentioned parenting trends, or less well-intentioned lifestyle fluff articles, but this! This I know the answer to!

Or at least, I know what the answer was at my school. It was because the "Safety Patrol" got a free trip to the Chicago-area Great America amusement park.


Free hot chocolate, and a movie out at the end of the year. Ours was Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. Not bad!

posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:54 AM on June 17, 2010


What is a "white-people school"? When I was growing up, it was the school across the street, the same one quoted in the best friends article: Mary-Institute-Country-Day School. Suburban St. Louis.
posted by kozad at 10:56 AM on June 17, 2010


My neighbor's daughter's elementary school implemented this thing this year where the kids were kept inside and fetched out one by one by staff as the parents arrived to pick them up. This was a security measure, apparently. It turned the 30-minute minivan parade/traffic jam into closer to 50 minutes, if you weren't one of the first to arrive, which you had to be at least 20 minutes early to achieve.

The school isn't within walking distance of our home, but my neighbor took to parking a few blocks away in the neighborhood where the school is and walking over.
posted by not that girl at 11:13 AM on June 17, 2010


That was apropos of kids walking to school etc.
posted by not that girl at 11:13 AM on June 17, 2010


ericb wrote: "What exactly is a 'a white-people school?'"

A school mostly attended by white middle to upper middle class people. Or a private school.

Since moving to a more mixed area, both economically and racially, I've noticed that I don't see long lines of cars waiting to pick up little Susie at the door.

And we didn't get anything for being a crossing guard. It was still fun, though.

Mister_A wrote: "I think part of the issue with the crossing guards and so on is that cars nowadays are larger and more powerful than they were when I went to school (this is probably true of you as well, judging by your comments), drivers are less patient and more distracted and self-entitled, and of course there are the constant liability concerns. It's really unfortunate that more kids don't rely on their own 2 feet to get to school."

Obviously I wasn't driving then, but I don't really see drivers as any more maniacal now than they were in the mid 80s. Cars aren't even, on the whole, that much bigger. Minivans were traded for SUVs, that's all. They do have more horsepower, though.

I agree that kids need some outside time. I had a computer at home starting around 1990. At first it wasn't a huge time sink, but it got worse as I got older, and now I'm pretty much joined at the hip to some sort of computing device and have been since shortly after graduating high school. I can only imagine how things would have been if I'd spent all my time in elementary school using the computer and playing video games. (Don't get me wrong, I did plenty of the latter)

Otherwise I would have missed out on many of the autonomous experiences I had as a kid and I'd be even more reluctant to do things outside of my comfort zone than I already am. We'd go play in drains, wander through the woods, or whatever else struck our fancy. Unless it was 95 degrees outside, in which case we'd stay inside and play with GI Joe or Transformers or play video games.
posted by wierdo at 11:44 AM on June 17, 2010


I think people are drawing a false dichotomy in this thread, arguing that we can only care/complain about the neglectful parents or the helicopter parents. They're both ends of the extremes and they're obviously both problems. Discussing one doesn't take away from the other.

I'd love to extend that wonderful image about kids waiting in empty airport hangars, but I fear my phrasing of "finding a happy medium and letting our youth fly on their own" would be so corny Iowa would blush.
posted by Chipmazing at 11:54 AM on June 17, 2010


I'd also like to give a hearty UR DOIN IT RITE to not that girl. You go girl.
posted by Chipmazing at 11:56 AM on June 17, 2010


In a really weird sort of way, and for what might be the first time, I'm actually kind of sad that I'm not going to have kids. Because I know what kind of useless absentee parent I'd be, and it'd be fun to watch from a distance as my child (with all the fucked up lunacies my genetics would give them) would absolutely destroy the kids of helicopter parents. (And probably the parents themselves, knowing how I was.)

It'd be like unleashing a rabid jackal into a room full of baby chicks.
posted by quin at 12:12 PM on June 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


kozad:yes, things were better in the old days. No, really.

I feel the same way. It's like an inversion of the cliche grumpy-old-man-to-callow-youth: "When I was your age I had to walk uphill through the snow to work in a factory..."

Today, I'd be like: "yeah kid, when I was your age I rode bikes, wandered the woods, startled deer, crawled through storm drains, climbed trees and built treehouses, explored houses under construction, had dirt clod fights, and...well, you don't look like you want to hear any more, and it's time for your soccer class anyway."
posted by bitmage at 12:21 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Chipmazing: I think people are drawing a false dichotomy in this thread, arguing that we can only care/complain about the neglectful parents or the helicopter parents. They're both ends of the extremes and they're obviously both problems. Discussing one doesn't take away from the other.

No, I'm arguing that your post is irresponsible on two counts:

1) You present links that have nothing to do with helicopter parents as evidence of them as a problem. Worse, the article by Hilary Stout appears to say the exact opposite of what you claim in the FPP. Mrs. Shreeve as a parent supports her son's best-friend relationship. It's a school administrator and camp director who do not support best-friend relationships.

2) You echo the media hype that there's this nebulous War on Childhood. But here again, your own links don't support your claim. What is claimed to be the only empirical study of helicopter parents (a conference presentation, which makes it only a few steps up from the hurr durr we've seen in this thread) only found that 10% of freshmen had parents that could be considered to be overprotective.

My point isn't that we can only complain about either this or that. I'm advocating a bit of skepticism regarding how these stories are framed given that the MSM appears to be creating simultaneous hysteria over permissiveness and overprotection. The "War on Childhood" reminds me too much of the mythical "War on Christmas" here.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:32 PM on June 17, 2010


There may be a crisis in the way parents are raising children. I don't think that giving us a basket-full of thinly veiled and crappy editorials about litigation-adverse school policies does much to support that.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:41 PM on June 17, 2010


WE FUCKING DEALT WITH IT.

Beep beep, Ritchie.
posted by Evilspork at 1:02 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the future, this won't matter as kids will never physically interact anyway:

Video Playdates
posted by bitmage at 1:03 PM on June 17, 2010


KirkJobSluder, I'll admit a bit of confusion with what you're saying. Every link substantially involves overprotective child-rearing. Helicopter Parenting is a neologism that makes the concept more engaging and accessible (and open to metaphors and wordplay) that fulls under that guise.

Additionally, there is no media hype for a War on Childhood, nebulous or otherwise. Perhaps there is a hype that the dreaded MSM is creating a hype? A google search for the term War on Childhood, minus the word obesity so as to exclude Michelle Obama's "War on Childhood Obesity", brings up only 7,000 hits. They're basically all from blogs where normal people are airing concerns or from academic sources/NGOs concerned about the effects of ACTUAL war on childhood. A google search for War on Christmas turns up 9.6 MILLION hits. That is a MSM driven hysteria piece. Conflating that crock of shit and a tag line I used that could have been replaced with "The newest development in the gradual erosion of Childhood?" for less impact is at best disingenuous.

If I was part of the MSM, I'd hope I'd be getting paid a lot more. Dismissing the opinions of others as MSM-conspiracies alleviates the burden of critical thinking, which is a burden that those of us who look outside the mainstream narrative about groups gladly accept.

Perhaps considering and weighing information makes me irresponsible, but how do we even know that responsibility isn't just some basket-full of thinly veiled and crappy editorials the MSM is hyping, mannnn?
posted by Chipmazing at 1:27 PM on June 17, 2010


Today, I'd be like: "yeah kid, when I was your age I rode bikes, wandered the woods, startled deer, crawled through storm drains, climbed trees and built treehouses, explored houses under construction, had dirt clod fights, and...well, you don't look like you want to hear any more, and it's time for your soccer class anyway."
posted by bitmage at 12:21 PM on June 17


Well, I'll tell you one of the turning points between our childhood and now - Adam Walsh. Adam Walsh was abducted by a stranger and murdered, and his father John Walsh was subsequently invited to host America's Most Wanted, one of the longest-running shows in the history of American TV (along with a couple other cop shows).

Walsh was murdered in 1981, when I was 12. Suddenly every church and elementary school was hosting "Child Safety" fairs, and police departments were taking kids' fingerprints to keep on file, in case you were kidnapped and murdered and they needed to identify you. It was the beginning of the modern era of Stranger Danger - all over TV and all over newspapers. All of a sudden my mom wanted to know where I was all the time. I had to come straight home from school, when I had already been running wild for years on a bike and on foot. When kids at my school wanted to get out of trouble for getting home late, all they had to say was, "Some guy stopped his van and tried to drag us in, and we ran away, and we just got back now."
posted by toodleydoodley at 1:40 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Chipmazing: Every link substantially involves overprotective child-rearing.

No, only three of them do. Let me break it down for you:

"screwing up their kids": About parents but only finds that 10% of the surveyed freshmen have overprotective parents.

"parents": Mostly a set of scary definitions with unsubstantiated claims and shaky conclusions. (Is the decline in home ownership and late marriage due to overly-protective parenting, or is it due to changing values regarding marriage and the end of the post-war economic boom? How does this reconcile with the fact that late marriage was common in the second half of the 19th century?)

"stickball": Briefly points the finger at parents but spends more time talking about schools and electronic media.

"skipping": Reports changes in behavior but does not address overprotective parenting at all.

"treehouses": Now this one is actually funny, because the story is that parents built a treehouse for their kids and were told to take it down because it violated local building codes.

"interwebz": Doesn't mention over-protective parenting at all, but suggests that parents AND educators should talk about cyberbulling more than sexual predators.

"The Best Friend": Again, the parent interviewed is supportive of best-friend relationships. The people opposed to best-friend relationships, a school administrator and a camp director.

So you have 3/7 sources that explicitly address overprotective parenting, one of which says that it's a minority of students who are affected, one that spends one paragraph on the topic, and one that makes sloppy causal claims.

That is a MSM driven hysteria piece. Conflating that crock of shit and a tag line I used that could have been replaced with "The newest development in the gradual erosion of Childhood?" for less impact is at best disingenuous.

No, it's not when you admit to using hyperbolic language to frame your argument. It certainly would have less impact. But I think it also would have been less, of a problem in using articles that don't support your claims that there's something wrong with parents.

If I was part of the MSM...

I didn't say you were. If you were a part of the MSM, you might have actually presented your argument in a way that wasn't so full of crap. Heck, even the New York Post opinion piece you cite considers that there might be a lot more going on than just helicopter parents in the decline of street games.

No, what I'm suggesting is that you've unwittingly bought into a media framing that helicopter parenting is ubiquitous and the primary cause of a bunch of current social ills. Perhaps it is, but you don't show that by linking to articles of parents building treehouses and supporting best-friend relationships.

Perhaps considering and weighing information makes me irresponsible,...

You've shown no evidence that you even read the articles you cited, much less considered and weighted the information in them.

How are parents over-protecting children by building treehouses?
How are parents over-protecting children by encouraging best-friend relationships?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:29 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ooo. you make me live
whatever this world can give to me
Bottle of mine, it's you I've always wanted!
Bottle of mine, why was I ever decanted?
Skies are blue inside of you
The weather's always fine;
For
There ain't no Bottle in all the world
Like that dear little Bottle of mine.
...no, wait...

“We try to talk to kids and work with them to get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive about friends.”

Because everyone belongs to everyone else, by Ford.

No one can teach you what a great friend is, what a fair-weather friend is, what a treacherous and betraying friend is except to have a great friend, a fair-weather friend or a treacherous and betraying friend,

One of the principal functions of a friend is to suffer - in a milder and symbolic form - the punishments that we should like, but are unable to inflict upon our enemies.

However, the bottom line is that if we find a best friend pairing to be destructive to either child, or to others in the classroom, we will not hesitate to separate children

Mother, monogamy, romance. High spurts the fountain; fierce and foamy the wild jet. The urge has but a single outlet. MY love, MY baby.
No wonder these poor pre-moderns were mad and wicked and miserable. Their world didn't allow them to take things easily, didn't allow them to be sane, virtuous, happy.
What with mothers and lovers, what with the prohibitions they were not conditioned to obey, what with the temptations and the lonely remorses, what with all the diseases and the endless isolating pain, what with the uncertainties and the poverty–they were forced to feel strongly.
And feeling strongly (and strongly, what was more, in solitude, in hopelessly individual isolation), how could they be stable?
*pops soma*
posted by Smedleyman at 2:34 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I feel I should point out that I'm not certain the MSM is capable of conspiracy. I do think that the MSM has some deeply entrenched biases that tend to exaggerate issues for the purpose of selling advertising. Which is why bad claims get many more hits than corrections. To use the best article of a bad lot as an example:

'Helicopter' Parents Have Neurotic Kids, Study Suggests

Really? The study authors are able to diagnose clinical mental illness on the basis of a questionnaire?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:50 PM on June 17, 2010


Decent post, great discussion.

What bitmage describes above was exactly my childhood, even the approximate timeframe. During the summer I would leave out sometime after dawn, and come dragging home bruised and bloodied as darkness rolled in. Repeat the next day.

And my bicycle was without question the most important and valuable thing I owned. From the age of 8 years till 15 years and 364 days. It was a tool. It was my freedom.

For fuck's sake, I walked to the community pool by myself! And swam unattended (except of course for the lifeguards)!

And, like bitmage, my mother was also mocked some by her cohorts for being overprotective.

However, there is no way I'd let a 10 year old child walk to the community pool and swim unsupervised. No way, no how. Why is it different?

My best friend/roommate (I'm in college now) has a helicopter mom who decided we spend too much time together so we're not allowed to live together anymore ( by threat of her being cut off).

The only logical conclusion is that the parents thought you were going to be lesbians. While backwards and narrow minded, that's the only possibility I can come up with that isn't abusive and desperately controlling.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 3:21 PM on June 17, 2010


On the skipping thing. Why would children just stop skipping? I don't see where they're being discouraged from skipping -- the article just states that skipping "often" is down from 94% to 24% (in Britain) without really saying that anyone has any idea of why.

Skipping is not an activity -- it's a state of mind. a thing kids just... do... when they're happy and carefree. I hope it's not a sign of a deeper problem.

However! Skipping is not entirely safe! My daughter actually fractured a metatarsal skipping down the hall at school last year. Maybe it should be banned!

Actually, I rib her about it pretty frequently. ("You could put an eye out!!") She crashes into stuff all the time, but that's just what happens when one year, your body is suddenly half-again as big as you thought it was. She's adjusting, and I love watching it happen.

My god though, her driving...
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:42 PM on June 17, 2010


I found it hilarious that the article about not having 'exclusive friendships' quoted as an example a pair of twins.
posted by jacalata at 5:06 PM on June 17, 2010


> For example: kids might live miles apart, but childhood obesity is on the rise, and there are miles of well maintained sidewalks to bike, walk and play on. There are usually very few other people that will get in your way while you're out there. I would have killed for all that undisturbed concrete to roam with my bike or a bouncy ball or walk the dog.

I don't think you understand what I'm saying. There are sidewalks in the suburbs. There are no sidewalks in the exurbs. I grew up in the exurbs. I live there now. The biggest differences to me between the older suburbs of the 50's-70's and the newer exurbs of the 80's-today are:
1) greater distance between houses (larger houses, larger yards)
2) the complete absence of sidewalks

I grew up on a street with no sidewalks, which was off of a well-travelled road also with no sidewalks. I could walk or bike to a convenience store about a mile away, but I was taking my life in my hands because there was maybe a foot of space to walk on the side of the road and there was a sharp corner around which cars whizzed by at generally ten miles over the speed limit. I remember walking along those tiny little triangles of pavement on the sides of the road. That's the only sidewalk I had. That's the only "undisturbed concrete" many children have.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 5:56 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


If kids don't learn to deal with social stuff when they're young, they'll just get blindsided by it when they're older. When a kid started being mean to my four-year-olds at school, I sat them down and told them this: the next time he is mean to you, tell him he's being a bad apple and you don't want to play with him until he stops being a bad apple. Then walk away.

And you know what? They did it. And the kid is now one of their friends, because he found out my kids wouldn't play with him if he was a jerk, so he decided to try being nice, and it worked. That's how this is supposed to go; your kids have a problem, you give them a tool to use, they use the tool, and it works (or it doesn't and you give them another tool to try.)

Does it really need to be harder than this? I mean, how do people expect their kids to become self-sufficient, anyway?
posted by davejay at 10:26 PM on June 17, 2010


I guess I'll be the only one to stand in support of the "trend" and also say my parents and contemporaries basically had the same opinion.

Exclusive, obsessive, "best friend" relationships can be sometimes one-sided, stalkerish, based on fantasy, or otherwise destructive. "Best friend" relationships can often end up excluding boys and girls who don't have certain social or financial privileges.

Having lots of diverse friends encourages a broader world view, no? I think parents and schools should encourage students to be friends with all the children in their class. Sometime, a very intense "best friends" relationship can prevent that from happening.

I don't see anyone talking about "outlawing" anything, just discouraging such behavior.

I went to school in the 70s and 80s, and my parents were strict, but not helicopters by any measure. We hung out on our block most days playing whatever game was going on with the local kids. (One of the things I miss most about the old days is kids playing in the streets. I live in a neighborhood that's lousy with kids, and I rarely see anyone playing in the street ...)

Anyway, like I said, my parents basically shared the same view of "best friend" relationships. They made it a point that I was friends with everyone, even the unpopular kids. I think I agree.

Nonetheless, I was very keen to have a "best friend" when I was a kid. Unfortunately, the kid I thought was my best friend had another "best friend." So, I likely have some subjective distaste for the concept. ^_^
posted by mrgrimm at 10:46 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


"You see young adults now, and they have social networking, a big pack of people with whom you have little intimacy."

I have a big pack of people AND intimacy. You probably can't tell who my really close friends are via facebook, you know?

It's also nice that I have a lot of people with whom I can share things and not feel self-conscious. Lots of people to rely on and be open with. I guess that's what you mean by people sharing "too much", but I think that it's a good thing if you're not sharing anything that is harmful, cruel, manipulative, whatever. We're all people with problems and triumphs, why keep them to ourselves if we want to share them and other people are willing to be cool about it?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:20 PM on June 17, 2010


These were interesting to read, because I've been watching some of it myself and wondering about it.

I've grown up watching some of this stuff change; I'm 27 right now and I've got a niece and nephew who live with me (along with their parents). They are currently three and a half and eight months, so most of this hasn't come up…but when I take my nephew out for a walk and go to a par how much watching is reasonable?

That said, having ensured that he isn't a moron I've gotten a lot more hands off. Just making sure I can see him is enough.

I suspect part of the underlying issue is issues with risk calculation. There's a fair amount of media coverage of any calamity that might befall an area, be it a kidnapping, a killing, a school shooting, or whatever. See the stuff on Adam Walsh above for an example, or look at school shootings. Events like these are vanishingly rare, but do happen. I'm really not sure how much could be done to mitigate risk of statistically rare but well-published traumatic events, but some people try.

At least, that's my perception of this; the illogical extension of "don't talk to strangers", coupled with the "group is always right" mentality that children's media has been doing for ages now. At least, I think it's been ages; some quick searching seems to indicate it started in the '90s, which happens to have been when my TV watching peaked.
posted by caphector at 1:32 AM on June 18, 2010


Nonetheless, I was very keen to have a "best friend" when I was a kid. Unfortunately, the kid I thought was my best friend had another "best friend." So, I likely have some subjective distaste for the concept.

Yes, yes. My best friend got run over by a truck when I was 16, so I presumably would have been better off without the experience of having known Victor, them the attendant pain of having him ripped from my life. Better to keep people at a safe distance so that when they die, I feel as litle as possible.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:14 AM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


New Yorkers fencing in their patios to keep their cats indoors. They call it "the catio".

I thought about doing this for a while. My city has ordinances against out-doors cats. But, for now, Lola is living with my parents on their 40 acres, becoming wild. I'm kinda apprehensive about how she's going to take to being an inside cat again.
posted by rubah at 7:39 AM on June 18, 2010


Not naming names, I remember this one kid from there, at age seven, still wasn't wiping after having a bowel movement. "He doesn't do it right," said his mother.

゚Д゚
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:35 AM on June 18, 2010


Yes, yes. My best friend got run over by a truck when I was 16, so I presumably would have been better off without the experience of having known Victor, them the attendant pain of having him ripped from my life.

The idea is not that you would have been better without the experience of knowing your best friend.

The idea is that you would have had a richer development (and perhaps been better equipped to deal with his death) if you had a larger social circle, instead of an exclusive BFF relationship.

If he was your best friend and you did have other friends, that is not the problem we are talking about. We are talking about specific types of BFF relationships that might be problematic.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:58 AM on June 18, 2010


I really don't think having a best friend and having multiple good friends is mutually exclusive. Of course, best friends should be mutual, like any relationship. I've never thought of it as anything other than an agreement between 2 people.

FWIW, Victor & I were the ringleaders. There was often a small horde of us who wandered, scanning the landscape like army ants, destroying everything in our path, the two of us leading the charge. I miss him like I miss the sun.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:22 AM on June 18, 2010


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