Repost from February 21, 2012:
I watched the first half of an episode of Freakonomics last night. In my altered state of mind, much of it was vague, just some sad facts with funny faces. However, one thing did stick out. They talked about people attempting to…well, I guess attempting to “genius-ize” their kids. Playing Mozart, or teaching them different languages, enrolling them in various classes. As small children, infants even. It seemed so high-maintenance. Surely, with many dead genius’s recorded in history, long before all of our technological advances, this was not the way.
My parents didn’t raise genius’s, but we’re certainly well adjusted for our time period. We don’t seem to deal with the same difficulties of others in our generation. It made me wonder, if you throw out all the super-kid mumbo jumbo, how did my parents raise just decent kids? That’s maybe a better parenting question nowadays. And looking back-bear with me– it sounds bad at first-I think it was a little bit of neglect. Nothing dangerous or malicious. Certainly not to the extent that we felt unloved. But my parents both worked, sometimes very long hours. And working so much, they were tired and liked to just hang out with each other when they were home.
Because we were not helpless children, we were trusted to be home without a baby sitter. Because our parents didn’t want us to be lazy, or messy, we kept up the house. And our punishments-when we were outrageous, as we often were-involved a complete loss of all recreational devices. TV cords, computer keyboards, books, toys, all removed, sometimes permanently, depending on value.
So there we were, three kids of similar ages, with nothing but time and quiet on our hands. We did all kinds of things. Explored the hidden peaks of whatever apartment complex we were at. Started entrepreneurial enterprises. Actually, made pretty good money sometimes. Usually made friends with the apartment managers kids, because they knew where the good stuff was. We went into schools that were closed, tread through private property with the arrogance of explorers.
As we grew up, of course, our explorations began to vary. But through those earlier years, the lessons we learned have made adulthood much easier. The TV is not the only option. If it’s nice outside, go outside. It’s not where you’re at, it’s who you’re around. You actually can do this yourself. If you get in trouble, take your punishment and move on. If you’re gonna get punished, make sure it’s worth it. Don’t go it alone-it’s never as much fun, and if shit goes down, you want backup around.
We learned all kinds of things just from that magic combination of being kids and being free to go with it. And my parents, God bless them, were experts at letting us just be kids.