Fret-free parenting? Not on this planet

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

"Free-range parenting" is supposed to be the latest trend. I say "supposed to be" because I'm always suspicious when the media think they have discovered a trend.

What is free-range parenting? I'll let Time magazine explain it: "There is now a new revolution under way, one aimed at rolling back the almost comical overprotectiveness and overinvestment of moms and dads. The insurgency goes by many names - slow parenting, simplicity parenting, free-range parenting - but the message is the same: Less is more; hovering is dangerous; failure is fruitful."

People are fed up, said Time, with the hectic lifestyle required to give kids the best of everything. They're tired of worrying about distant threats, such as kidnappings. They're through intervening in their kids' academic lives from preschool to high school in an effort to get them into Harvard.


It seems to me that for this "trend" to be legitimate it would require nothing less than the rewiring of the human brain.

Taking the race to get into the best college as an example, does Time really believe that the inborn human trait of competitiveness has all of a sudden withered away and died? I have no doubt that some parents have worked themselves into a state of exhaustion, and perhaps bankruptcy, in their frenzy to ensure the best possible future for their children.

I also have no doubt that if a few of them have decided to drop out of the race for the Ivy League, there will be more than enough replacements out there to keep the competition as fierce as ever. It's just how we are.

Back when the economy was roaring, it was financially possible for more and more parents to go all out for their kids. Now that it isn't, some have had to back off. But what do you think will happen when prosperity returns?

What I find particularly amusing is the notion that parents are getting calmer and gaining some perspective about health threats to their children. Are you kidding me?

We live in the Age of Too Much Medical Information. Rarely a day goes by without some new study detailing the dangers that await our offspring. One of the latest is the threat of concussion. The stories about what those injuries can do to young brains are highly alarming.

Parents aren't going to ignore that information: They're going to act on it. If you're a coach who thinks football can't be made less rough and tumble, just wait until you have 22 moms standing with you on the sideline demanding that young skulls be spared injury. Believe me, the rules will change.

My guess is that Time and other outlets that think they have detected a trend simply interviewed too few second- and third-time parents.

I know from experience that the impulse to overprotect is most fierce with the first child. Bring along one or two others, and pretty soon you're too tired to supervise little Susie's science project. If it doesn't win a Nobel Prize, well, there's always next year.

Joe Blundo's column, So to Speak, appears in the Life section of The Columbus Dispatch. It's a mix of humor, human interest and information. A collection of his columns has been published in the book Dancing Dads, Defective Peeps and Buckeye Misadventures. He lives in Worthington with his wife and two children.