Today's parenting advice is all about attachment and bonding and helicoptering your children. The need to protect them from every scrape and mishap that they may encounter in life's hurly burly. Everyone seems to want to wrap their child in a soft cuddly blanket and ferry them around in the back of their big SUV car with climate control. My parenting style was a little different to that.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
When I grew up, kids were pretty much left to their own devices. We roamed the neighbourhood, made up games, fell over, got cuts and bruises and pretty much looked after ourselves. I don't remember my mother hovering in the background making sure no misadventures befell her children. She was not in the slightest bit sympathetic when there was an injury and we usually put on our own bandaids.
By the time I had children I thought it would be good for them to have some boundaries because the world wasn't quite as safe as it used to be. I didn't want to ignore them and let them raise themselves, but I still wanted them to have the freedom they needed to find their feet and have confidence in their decision making and their ability to define themselves as people in their own right - not glued to our sides too scared to step away.
When we had our first baby I'd look at the children in the neighbourhood playing cricket on the road because their backyards were too small and I felt a bit sad. We decided to move to a couple of acres in the country so that our kids could roam free and climb trees and make cubbies and have some good old fashioned fun.
I didn't feel the need to be out there climbing the trees with them, or checking for snakes or spiders, I didn't lurk in the background ready to save them if they got in a fix. Instead, we were always nearby - close enough if there was a disaster, but not helicoptering over the top of them, stifling their spirit of adventure.
Children today miss so many of the benefits of detachment parenting. They cling to their parents and are often too timid to test their limits because they haven't been given the opportunity early on. They second guess themselves and often won't try something new for fear of failure. Failing is part of learning, coming last in a running race is part of life, trying again, getting back up, finding your feet, knowing your weaknesses - these are all part of the big picture for children whose parents don't hover.
Looking at my children as adults, I am so glad we didn't make life too easy for them. They are managing so well as independent adults. They knew how to look after themselves when they left home and went on from there to forge really strong lives for themselves. They weren't afraid to leave the nest - they were eager to stretch their wings and expand their world.
Often young people are still living at home in their late 20's - they've stopped and started university courses, dabbled a bit here and there, and ended up still sleeping in their childhood bedroom while their mum does their laundry and cooks their meals. Some mothers may love the idea of having an adult child to look after - I'm not one of them. Our aim was to produce independent, capable adults who could fend for themselves without fear of the big wide world. Who wouldn't want that for their children? If you don't start early and give them some freedom then when will they develop these skills? If you do it all for them and don't let them try their wings (in case they fall) how do they learn to fly by themselves?
Modern parenting in the world we live in today has many scary aspects to it that we were lucky enough to avoid, but I look at a lot of children wrapped so tight in their mothers' apron strings and I wonder what their future holds. How will they successfully separate themselves without their mothers falling in a heap or without the need to return home all the time to be molly coddled? Give me strong, independent, well rounded children any day! Knowing they are doing well makes the empty nest a lot easier to bear.