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Have we "become too obsessive about running our kids lives"?

 
 
nimh
 
Reply Sun 22 Aug, 2004 08:54 am
Thats a generic "we", cause I don't have any children myself, just a nephew. Here's the article the line's from:

Quote:
A Camp on the Rebound

By DAVID BROOKS
Published: August 21, 2004

The most successful institution I've ever been involved with closed down last year, and is now being resurrected. It's the teen summer camp section of the Episcopal Camp and Conference Center in Ivoryton, Conn. It takes mostly New York area kids out of the familiar context of their lives and sticks them in tents in the forest, where they have to cook two meals a day over an open fire and socialize with people nothing like themselves.

I've never been to a place where race and class mattered less. For two years, while I was a counselor, I had Robert Rubin's son in my tent. I knew a lot about that kid, but I had no idea who his father was or how much money he was making. On the other hand, we had poorer kids from Brooklyn and the Bronx who had never been out of the city before. One looked up at his first night sky and exclaimed: "Wow! It looks just like the planetarium!"

I went to and worked at the camp for 15 years, which was a not uncommon tenure. Such was our fierce love of the place that we just kept coming back. A friend returned while at law school and used to lead discussions on jurisprudence in a rowboat on the lake. I returned year after year from the University of Chicago to teach classes - absurdly - in machismo.

But over the past decade, the camp withered. Parents and campers lost interest. College kids didn't want to work at a place like that. It fell victim to a series of broad social forces that are still devastating generalist camps across the country.

First there is the liability crisis. Camp was a place where teenagers learned to build courage. There was cliff diving. There were river rapids. There were survival-style camping trips, with kids sleeping alone in the forest.

But society has become more risk-averse, and liability costs have escalated. So in the 1990's, the people running the camp banned most of the activities that scared and thrilled us. Camp became safer, but also more tepid and less meaningful.

The second broad social change is the professionalization of childhood. Parents have become more involved in running their children's lives, even by remote control when the kids are away at summer camp. So over the past few decades, camps that promise to develop a specific skill - music, basketball, computers, video-making - have prospered while generalist camps have suffered.

In fact, the Episcopal Camp and Conference Center, which is the second oldest camp in the country, was self-consciously cultivating leadership and self-confidence. But these are cultivated through spontaneous and, often, kid-run activities. We used to mount elaborate games with bizarre names like Investment Opportunities in Zimbabwe. What's a parent supposed to make of that? If parents choose a camp with a tennis or computer curriculum, they can sit at home and know what their kids are going to be achieving.

Third, society has become more stratified. Ambitious kids are supposed to do summer internships or work on skills. That means they spend their summers doing the sorts of things they do during the year, around the same sorts of people. It's become harder to get upper-middle-class parents to send their kids to a place where they will be crammed into little tents and showering in outhouses 75 yards away.

In short, over the past few decades, parents have made childhood more to their liking. The side effect is that camp became less exciting, less meaningful and less compatible with résumé-building lives.

I'm happy to report, though, that the Episcopal Camp and Conference Center is now on the rebound. After spending a decade trying to adapt to the social forces, a new director, Peter Larom, has been brought in, and one of my former campers, Peter Giles, is running the teen section. They've got the blend of traits required of great camp leaders: they are mature enough to run something, but deep down they're immature enough to get excited by the things that excite kids. It will take years to rebuild the camp, but this first rebound summer was a success. More than a quarter of the teenagers who went to camp in July opted to stay for an extra two weeks.

And it could be that even we boomer parents are finally acknowledging that we've become too obsessive about running our kids' lives. There needs to be at least one place where teenagers can go, at least one month out of the year, that is totally different, where kids can build themselves.
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princesspupule
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Aug, 2004 12:10 pm
Hm, perhaps for some in the United States, but here on an outer island in the Hawaiian Archipelago, many are only one step removed from living in tents with outhouses year 'round... I'm thinking that this article may explain why my neighbors were so gung-ho on sending their dd to "surf camp," and to make her experience more enjoyable, they paid for my dd to go as well...

There does seem to be a shift toward civilizing the experience of self-discovery, limiting it by boundaries that weren't set in place just a generation ago when I was running wild over cliffs just to collect food for our table and practicing my swimming technique in the natural river flume that created the equivalent of a rapids here...
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 01:52 pm
I think parenting has become a competitive sport.

I came to parenting late and in a round about way so my introduction to this sport was very eye opening.

Mo and I just kind of hang out most of the time and I find myself grilled on our activities by other mommies. Our lack of structured activities often leaves the other mommies aghast.

I'm a total "slacker mom".

But Mo digs it. We have a blast. He is smart as a whip so I don't "fret" that he'll be behind when school time rolls around.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 02:10 pm
Damn straight.

I have this notebook where I jot down writing ideas and I liked this one so much I thought I'd save it for an essay or something. But what the heck. The title would be "Boredom is Good."

I thought of it when we were talking about how we, as kids, would be kicked out of the house and told to go play outside. "We're bored!" we'd say, and we'd be kicked upstairs and told to entertain ourselves.

I think there are a few elements that are conspiring to make parenting a competitive sport and childhoods way too regimented:

In the social class that we are talking about anyway, parents usually have a choice of whether they stay home or work. If they stay home, then they have to prove that it is a valid choice. It just ain't very respected, so these workplace sorts of goals and evaluations are overlaid -- how many things have you accomplished? How busy is your schedule?

I really noticed this one since I moved here. I'm the only stay-at-home parent I know. When I see my neighbors, they say, "So what did you guys do today?" If I say, "Uh, we hung out." They say, oh. If I say, "We went to the zoo, and planted some flowers, and made dinner, and made chocolate chip cookies, and sewed a costume", they say "OH! That's great!" There's a definite value judgement on what we've DONE.

BUT, as we've talked about on those other threads and also the TV thread, I don't think it's actually good from a child development perspective to have the kids be busy busy busy and yes, never have to deal with boredom. The other day I was doing something here, sozlet wandered off, came back and said "Mama come look!" and I went upstairs and she had made this totally amazing intricate abstract sculpture with clothes hangers. She's constantly finding weird interesting things to do, and is having a childhood a lot more like mine and like the "what we did when we were bored" stories than a lot of her peers.

I'm lucky in that my main parent friend up 'til now was exactly the same. We both got annoyed when other parents would do the grilling, but we were on the same wavelength so didn't have to deal with it with each other. He's a guy, which might be part of it, I dunno.

Anyway, those kids (sozlet and this guy's son) would play and play and play and play and make up all kinds of weird imagination games. Kids that sozlet is playing now want to watch videos or play, like, store-bought games. Or (grrrrr) VIDEO games. It sucks.

Dare to be a slacker mom! (Or dad...)
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 02:22 pm
Sorry for the interruption, but without pm's, this is the only way to go.

boomer/Soz - got any advice for this frazzled woman ...
http://www.able2know.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=896452#896452
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 02:23 pm
Well said, soz!

But it is funny, in a sad sort of way, that people think if you're not enrolled in classes or doing flash card drills that you are doing your child a disservice. I've often wondered if I'm being selfish by just enjoying hanging out with him, enjoying the exploration of following our whims.

Mo and I went to the zoo today (we go about once a week or so mostly because its a nice place to walk - no traffic) and I found myself being dazed by the mom chatter. Everything is about learning and nothing is about fun.

I guess I just believe in quantity time.

Slack on!
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 02:25 pm
My Sweetiepie just spoils them little dogs . . . no pressure for them, but, boy do they keep her running . . .
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 02:25 pm
boomerang wrote:
I guess I just believe in quantity time.

<smiles>
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 02:38 pm
Quantity time! Yeah!

Let's print up some t-shirts or something.

For what it's worth, from a gal who got a master's in this and has kept up with the field best as she can since, it's the following whims thing that is educationally most useful. Not "this is a picture of a bug. B-U-G, bug", but wandering outside, seeing a cicada husk, talking about what it is, talking about cicada life cycles, "it's kind of like a butterfly", yes kind of, talking about how it is or isn't...

The other day I was filling out some long complicated form and sozlet was chatting with some people for quite a while as I did it. When I finally finished and I turned around, one of them said, conversationally, "So, your daughter's starting first grade?" I laughed, and then when I saw their confused faces said, "I'm sorry, did she tell you that?" They said, "She's not starting first grade?" and I said, "She's THREE!!" They had been asking her and made a guess, and she said yeah (dunno why, she's kind of annoyed that she's going to PRE-school rather than school-school).

But anyway, they were all moms, and actually believed she was a short first-grader from how she was carrying on a conversation.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 03:06 pm
That's worth a lot to me, soz! It seems to me that Mo learns more when we're not trying to learn anything.

Mo's a pretty good conversationalist too but it talks about some crazy sh*t sometimes! I don't think anyone is going to mistake him for a first-grader anytime soon, though they might think he's a novelist or something.

I was thinking about your "boredom" thoughts and remembering my parents dragging us to civil war battlefields when we were kids. Oh Lord we were bored - but I remember spending that time with them.

And, I'm still pretty good at keeping myself amused.

Have you seen the latest "Newsweek"? The cover article is "How To Say "No" To Your Kids". People are actually conducting seminars on how to teach people to tell their kids "No". Six year olds wanting iPods? Ummmm.... NO. Another funny, in a sad sort of way, thing.
0 Replies
 
fishin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 03:35 pm
A few years back when I was a Scout Master with teh Boy Scouts I got to do teh week away with the troop at camp. The first year I was amazed that the other scount master's actually made up schedules of events with the idea that every kid had to be booked solid for their entire week.

My 2nd year and all my years at camp with them after that I'd post a list of camp-wide activities going on and then I'd post a list of troop specific activities the kids could choose as optional activities.

The camp-wide things were stuff like Orienteering, Swimming lessons, Rope skills, etc.. My list would be "Skipping rocks across the pond", "Tipping over a canoe", "Short Sheeting beds", "Scary campfire stories", etc..

The people running the camp hated me but the kids loved it. They got to be kids instead of little adults with dayrunners.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 03:55 pm
Sooooo. The plot thickens!

There are other slackers out there mentoring our children!

I hope that those boys have go on to teach others the art of rock skipping and camp pranks, fishin, for goofing off is becoming a lost art.
0 Replies
 
fishin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 04:14 pm
I dunno Boomer. I guess there have always been "planner parents" but it was never my style.

We'd get into discussions about kids at work and people would invariably talk about how they wanted their kids to grow up to become doctors or lawyers and such. I just wanted mine to stay out of jail and be happy.

People thought I was nuts for not setting the bar high for her. I guess it's all in how you measure things.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 04:46 pm
Yeah, I think a lot of it is measurement. "Be happy" can be a higher bar than "get a job that makes a lot of $$".

One more part to the filling-out-forms story, it doesn't really go here but... After we were done, I went out to the car and realized I had locked my keys in the car. ACK! Told the saga of last time that happened here on A2K, then recently (the "handbag" thread maybe) saw something from mac saying that my story had scared her into getting a spare key for her purse, I though hmmm I should really do that. (I didn't have a spare even after the ordeal.) Anyway.

So, happened to be close-ish to E.G.'s office, I asked the nice people if I could use their computer, they said sure, I emailed him, he was there (whew!) arranged for him to come get us and unlock car (he has a key, too.)

So once that was solved, kneeled down to talk to sozlet about what was up, the ladies we had been talking to were right there too. I said, "Do you understand what happened?" And she said, "Yes. You locked your keys in the car" pause "AGAIN."

Everyone cracked up. One of the women said "they don't always say what you want them to, do they?"

Then a little later, when we were waiting for E.G., sozlet was talking about her friend "who looks a lot like you, Mama." Her friend's name was Jo(e)? Lock. "Do you know why she's named Joe Lock?" Nope. "Because she always locks herself out of the car!!!" <giggle fit>

Grrrrr...
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 04:53 pm
LOL!
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 06:02 pm
Ha ha!

You really gotta teach that kid sign language, soz! At least then Ms. Chatterbox will be speaking privately.

Everyone I know says they just want their kids to be happy.... and then they drag them around until the kid is exhausted. I see way, way to many "happy" stage and pageant kids at the studio.

<sigh>

I like the way you measure things, fishin. And I must say that it gives me comfort to know that men can be judged as harshly as women in these matters.

Do I recall that you had a daughter headed off to Mr. B's alma mater (Go Pokes) a while back? Is she still there?
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 06:11 pm
boomerang wrote:
Do I recall that you had a daughter headed off to Mr. B's alma mater (Go Pokes) a while back? Is she still there?


She just begin her junior year down there. I was down there 2 weeks ago to visit and see how things were going (and to drop off the tuition check! Wink ). She's made the dean's list 5 semeters straight now so I guess she's figuring out the whole college thing.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 06:22 pm
Excellent! Bragging rights are yours, for sure.

I guess this relaxed form of parenting works out just fine.
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 06:31 pm
I'll have to ask her parole officer and see what he thinks. Doh! Just kidding. Very Happy

She'd be mortified if she was ever arrested for anything. lol
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2004 08:57 pm
You know, Mr. B tried and tried to explain to me how that school just assigns you a parole officer when you enroll but frankly, it never made a lick of sense to me.

(If being arrested was the most mortifyiny thing that ever happened to me well I'd consider myself an absolutely lovely, wonderful girl.)
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