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A Really Rambly Post on Parenting

From infancy children are given immense freedom, but without any responsibility (obviously one can't really expect a 6 month old to be responsible).  To keep from having to "stifle" their curiosity, we baby proof the whole house (we is a general term, and is not actually referring to everyone, and not even me most of the time), put up things they can't touch and allow them to roam the house.  Even though we did all this baby-proofing, they still can't be trusted to move freely around the house, because they are not capable of making ANY reasonable decision, or of obeying almost any commands.  So we follow them.  All day long we follow them around the house.  They are our whole day, and not in a fun way.  In a stressful, "oh look its 5 o'clock and the house is a mess and I have no idea what to do about dinner" sort of way.  

We also let them pick and choose what and when they eat (breastfeeding on demand with small infants is healthy and necessary to keep up milk production, that is not what I am talking about) as soon as they start eating "solid" food.  When we talk about them we give them amazing power "I try to feed him his vegetables, but he just won't let me feed him anything green".  Did you see that he just won't LET me?  That baby was just given control of an adult.  A baby will eat what you feed him, although you may have to be tough about it and let him go hungry for a little while, he won't starve to death.  

As they grow into toddlerhood they get a few more freedoms, such as picking their clothes, because we don't want to stop them from expressing themselves "creatively".  

But then it stops.  Until they are much older they don't get anymore freedom.  Once they are teenagers they start to earn new freedom, but from 3-13 they are at the same level.  They get more responsibilities (sometimes), but not many more privileges.  

What if we changed that?  What if babies were only given the freedoms that they could handle "responsibly"?  Back in the day (according to my internet research, so it could be faulty, if you are old enough to actually KNOW about back in the day, I would LOVE to hear from you about it!) tiny babies were mostly contained in strollers.  Basically mom would put the baby in the yard and only bring it inside if it was nasty weather or it was time for baby to eat.  Once the babies got a little older, they would be contained in playpens (more freedom than a stroller, but still contained) until they learned to obey.  

*In other cultures (both modern and way, way back when) babies are not allowed the freedoms they have today in the USA either.  Many times babies were worn while the parents did their work until they were nearly four years old, either by a parent or older sibling.  Because small children CANNOT obey to a level that allows you to do the things you need to do unless you are actively supervising them ALL the time.  If you watch the movie "Babies" you remember one of the babies was tied up in the middle of the room while his parents did what needed to be done.*

Since you can't keep a pre-schooler in a playpen all day (most would escape) it can be supposed that between 2-4 the kids started having freedom to roam around the house, helping mom and playing with toys, and learning to be more obedient.  By the time kids were about 5 they got put back outside, but told to stay in a certain area.  As they got older and could ride bikes, their radius of freedom increased even more, and they could go to the playground or a friend's house.  By the time they were teenagers and had the freedom that came with a car, they were (sometimes) ready to handle it.  

Mom got the house clean (a much harder task way back when) and sewed her families clothes, and ironed everything that got worn or put on a bed, and cooked three meals a day.  If we believe the television, she did it while looking reasonably cute too!  And *gasp* people turned out just as well as they do now.  

But we can't just let our children run around the neighborhood by themselves!  Without adult supervision they will be kidnapped and raped and murdered!  That was okay back then, but its a different world now, way more dangerous.  NO!  The only reason you can't let your children go to the playground by themselves is because someone will call the police, then they will bring your children back home and there will be a CPS investigation, which while I believe strongly serve a valid purpose (from what I can tell most removals are from parents abusing hard-core drugs), isn't really something you want to deal with, or that you should have to deal with because they kids wanted to go swing while you made dinner.  But anyways, crime statistics are back at the same levels they were in the early 1960's except your mass media overload neglected to tell you.  Sex and violence sells, safety and calmness - not so much.

Somehow, without any real evidence to support it, we have decided that vigilant supervision and a child-centric life are the best ways to parent.  We go so far as to say that if you DON'T parent the "neo-American" (I made that up) way you are either neglecting or abusing your children.  We watched babies, with that little boy tied up in the house like a puppy and didn't really care, but if it were your neighbors kid you would be all over that phone getting the government involved.  


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