Free Range Kids. I'd heard already a few times that various experts feel that children today do not have enough opportunities for unstructured, outdoor play. I'm personally alarmed to hear the shopping list of activities in which my neighbour's kids are required to participate - cross-country skiing, Ukranian dancing, horse back riding, piano, violin, biathlons, and every other sport or art you can think of. These kids love Jacob and are always wanting me to bring him over for a visit, but typically when I ask their Mom, the answer is, "well, today's no good, and neither is tomorrow, but I think two weeks from Friday you guys could come over for half an hour although it'll be a bit tight."
So, I was happy to peruse Skenazy's blog and see if she had any great ideas for how to give today's kids a more generous dose of unsupervised play. I wondered though, if the topic could really be worth blogging about. Do you actually have to do anything special, or is it more that you need to not do a few things and allow your kids to play on their own?
Skenazy argues that modern parents are terrified of letting their school age children out of sight. She blames much of this fearful attitude on the media and TV dramas that hype up child abductions. She coolly provides some data showing how American cities are in fact safer than they were a few decades ago, and suggests that we give our kids more independence so that they can grow up learning how to make their own decisions and run their own lives. All this sounds fine to me.
Skenazy loses me though, when she says that we needn't try so hard to be superparents, for example, by breastfeeding our babies. She writes,
"80% of moms are using some formula by the time their children are 6
months old. That’s a lot of guilt about something very common and not
harmful. A lot of parents today (including me) were raised on formula.
It’s not rat poison."
Just because you're doing something very common doesn't mean it isn't harmful. Many people smoke, yet smoking is harmful. Many people spend too long at their desks, yet leading a sedentary life is harmful. The fact that 80% of people are failing to provide their babies with biologically normal food ought to be a serious wake-up call.
I agree with Skenazy that those who have ended up bottlefeeding their babies formula should not feel guilty over it. Breastfeeding is hard in a society where so few people practice it for a decent length of time. But this doesn't make bottlefeeding an acceptable choice for the majority of babies.
I am eternally grateful for all the support that I've received that has made it possible for me to breastfeed despite being a transgender man with virtually no breast tissue. During Jacob's first two days of life, my close friend and La Leche League Leader came over to our house to check on our latch about four times. She was also available by phone at any time, day or night. And it is now a total of more than twenty remarkable women who have donated breast milk so that Jacob can have the kind of food his little body fully expects and deserves. I wish that this wasn't an unusual or special or lucky or particularly fortunate situation to enjoy in this society of ours, but it really is. I am deeply appreciative, though I don't think I'm a superparent for being able to latch Jacob onto my chest. I'm feeding him in the most biologically normal way I can, despite the chest surgery that was part of my transition. And if I am capable of doing this, then anyone, with the right information and support, is too.