Like most kids of my generation, I spent much of my childhood outdoors, free of direct parental supervision. In the summer, I'd go out the door at 7:30 a.m., return for lunch, and disappear until dinnertime. My wanderings on foot and bike in the Brooklyn of the 1960s took me miles from home, to schoolyards, parks, backyards, alleys, empty lots, a bike path adjacent to New York Harbor, and a municipal golf course where we built forts in "the woods" and got chased by maintenance guys whom we easily outran. My days were rich with experience; I usually came home happy, though often bloodied, bruised, and streaked with sweat and dirt. Today, my parents could have been arrested for giving me such a long leash; it's evidently now a crime to let your kids roam beyond your field of vision.
True parental neglect is a terrible crime. But the more prevalent problem today is parental hypervigilance, and I include myself in the indictment. When my daughters were young, I hovered over them whenever they went outside, even on our quiet, dead-end street. Karla and I always knew where the girls were, and even their soccer games, biking, and skating had adult supervision. Most of the other parents I knew were just as protective. Consider the message we were sending with our constant, worried surveillance: The world is a deeply scary place, and you can't handle it without Mommy's and Daddy's help. My daughters have become pretty independent despite me, but I regret that their childhoods were so much more circumscribed than mine. The process of growing up has a purpose, and it's not solely to survive until adulthood.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- Pope Francis' American problem
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- Vox, derp, and the intellectual stagnation of the left
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- A brief history of the Christmas present
- The week's best photojournalism
- 10 things you need to know today: December 20, 2014
Subscribe to the Week