Originally Published: June 29, 2014 2:11 p.m.
I'm fairly conscious of giving my daughter, nearly 3, some space to screw up, learn how to do things, and to not worry about me watching her every move. Even when she has buddies over to play, I keep an ear out, but I don't get in their way. I joke that I get up only for blood. It's really not that far from the truth.
I think it is really important for children to get to have personal adventures without adult criticism or interference... that doesn't mean I don't peek around corners to see what she is up to and that I'm not obsessively interested in what she's doing... I just feel like it is important for them to have privacy and space.
With this in my heart, I was absolutely shocked when a friend shared some photos from her elementary school-aged son's summer camp. The photos were beautifully taken by someone who knows how to use a camera. The child's face was one of joy and determination - hitting a tennis ball, making something during a craft period, etc. They were gorgeous pictures. It made my stomach flip flop. This wasn't just a candid, "today we all went down to the baseball field and made up a new game" photo of the group, this was focused on an individual child and what they were doing, face to the camera, processed through Photoshop, and shared with the parents.
When did we take away their privacy like this? Isn't camp supposed to be a time to practice things like tennis without being watched? Isn't summer supposed to be the time you get to tell your friends fart jokes and practice your swears without anyone knowing it? Isn't it when you get to try out new sports and hobbies without the competition and pressure of the school year? How are children supposed to have the space to practice being themselves - making mistakes and being simply goofy - if we're constantly a part of every second of their life?
This seems to be a growing cultural phenomenon: Web feeds in classrooms so parents can look in, camp counselors documenting every summer elation, parents practically haunting their children at sporting events, arts experiences, etc. The helicopter parent isn't just swooping in at the moment of trouble, they are tracking their kids throughout the whole day. I think kids need space to fail without us watching. They also need space to be happy, make friends, learn skills, break stuff, get in trouble and to be human without the most powerful and influential people, usually parents, in their lives constantly keeping tabs.
I, too, am exceedingly interested in what my daughter is doing when I'm not around. I love reports on interesting things she said, sweet things she did, scoundrel behaviors she demonstrated and problems she's had. I just don't think it is important for me to be a part of the moment at every moment. As parents, let's back off a bit and respect their space so that our kids can become strong on their own.
This summer, let's all give them a little room to be kids - bored kids, busy kids, dirty kids, lazy kids - and let's not try to be a part of every potentially overshared second.
Kat Gautreaux is a non-native species to Arizona and occasionally reverts to calling groups of people "ya'll." Her daughter is potty trained and that feels like her life's greatest accomplishment. She is a Work-at-Home-Mom with a rabid interest in parenting a little human into a tolerable citizen. So far, so good. Oh wait. The kid just poked the dog with a stick. Never mind.