Friday, January 14, 2011

Do I have style?

The Family Almanac column in yesterday's Post had a question about how not to be a helicopter parent.  Generally I read this column for the same reason I read Carolyn Hax, Ask Amy or even Miss Manners - I like to read about other people's train wreck lives to make me feel better about my own train wreck, not really because I'm looking for advice.  But there was a little piece of this column that got me thinking about my own "parenting style" (I use this term loosely since I'm really just doing this by the seat of my pants and hoping it looks stylish).

Marguerite Kelly talked about how modern appliances really freed up a woman's time so she's more able to focus on her kids.
Although a lot of the housework disappeared - hallelujah! - so did the benign neglect that children had always enjoyed.
Even though children seem to be programmed from dawn to bedtime these days, they actually need to be ignored and unnoticed - or to think that they're ignored and unnoticed - for a little while each day. This gives them the privacy they need to imagine, to invent, to think their way out of a problem.
I'm not sure why, but I'd never looked at it exactly this way.  It makes sense, but I don't think it really applies to me.  My kids are plenty ignored.  I do spend time reading to them, we play games sometimes or do puzzles or play with dolls but a lot of the time they play with each other or on their own.  I'm also that mom at the park that makes other mothers nervous because I let my 20-month-old run rampant and climb whatever she wants with little or no help.  I stand nearby, but I have competent monkeys for children, so I let them climb.

I am involved in my oldest's elementary school PTA, but I haven't volunteered in her classroom since kindergarten (they frown on bringing two additional small children to distract everyone from the work they should be doing).

My biggest downfall as a parent is that I probably let them have too much screen time.  Violet is a Spongebob addict and Lorelei is a "Math First" addict (this is a website where the kids generate points for the math games they win and the school also uses it; I'm a little embarrassed at how often she comes home and tells me that she was the class winner for number of points). 

Wow, with all this (mostly) benign neglect, you'd really think my house would be cleaner.

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