Monday, August 13, 2012

Aiming Low.

The buzz word in parentville this week is 'underparenting' the antidote to helicoptering (is too a word.) It is the art of letting your child make their own mistakes, play a little out of sight, spend large parts of their days unstructured.

I am very comfortable with this concept. I think that I may even bump up against the limits of the (Californian) law on this one. I believe in letting my children be independent in some things. I don't consider tree climbing reckless endangerment. I think my nine year old should be able to walk to our local shops for a loaf of bread if we need one. I despair for the child who's parent fills each day with crafts, games and activities and never allows them to be bored or without purpose.

That said, this past week found me with a large knot in my stomach. We signed the nine year old up for one week of camp. Truth be told I would never have chosen this camp but several of her friends were doing it and the husband nudged me into letting her join in.

It's interesting how danger can be perceived differently. I am happy for my kid to wander in bear country with what could only be described as a perfect bear picnic on her back. I will blithely encourage her twenty feet up a tree but water - water scares me. I think because she has no fear of it.

The camp in question was a kayaking camp. Five days out on the San Francisco bay on kayaks, paddle boards or sit on tops. Five days of tides, waves and sea creatures. She had a life jacket all but velcro'd to her body and she can swim so I felt some confidence in that. The trouble came with the overnight. She kayaked an hour to an island and camped the night. I feel a bit nauseous just typing that and she's already home safe.

Usually I know exactly where she is. I can picture her in my head at a friends house, in their car, on the school bus, right outside my front door. This was unchartered territory. I kissed her goodbye at 9am and would not see her until 4pm the next day. For thirty one hours I wouldn't know her exact location. I wouldn't know when she was on land or on water. I wouldn't know where she was sleeping except for vague things like "in a tent, on an island." I wouldn't see if she ate her meal, brushed her teeth, applied sunblock or drank enough water.

It was a terrible, horrible feeling, full of conflict and teetering towards panic.
I remember going to sleep away camp. It was the most exciting, thrilling, liberating time of my young life. I LOVED it. I want my girls to have that. Extended but limited moments of freedom. I know it's important but I don't know how I'll make it.

That's the problem with buzz words - they roll of the tongue with no hint of the implications of actual implementation. I support underparenting but are there enough hugs in the world to get me through it?


  1. Soooo understand where your are coming from! Good for you for doing it afraid!!!

  2. Tomorrow Morgan comes back after two weeks at camp. I had no clue how I'd make it. Seeing her face as she left though? I knew it was the right thing. Her letters have made me realize even more how much this means to her.

  3. I felt this way about leaving my kids alone with my husband for BlogHer. Ha! But in my (his?) defense, that had a lot to do with his big talk about bring my special needs 7year old and 5 1/2 year old twins to the beach for the day. Luckily (for me?) that didn't work out...

  4. Well of course but you are completely missing the point.
    (Switches to whiney tone) What about me?

  5. I wonder if there is any part of raising a child that isn't harder on mom than it is on them? My mother's old sayings become truth. Damn her.

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