A Fairy Tale Adolescence

Here’s a topic that will either have Millennial and Gen X Parents staring each other down or on the flip side, rejoicing at finding common ground. The issue, how much freedom should be extended to kids today.

First, my story. I sit on the cusp between generations (can 1983 get a definitive category already) and was raised by a couple of Baby Boomers. Granted, I did grow up in the South, but in my conversations with Bay Area Moms, I find that our childhood experiences are strikingly similar. When I grew up:

  • We knew it was time to go home when the fireflies came out.
  • Day or night, our shoes always remained in the closet as our bare feet frolicked through the backyard.
  • We could always find a seat around any dinner table in the neighborhood, and
  • As everyone knows, a summer thirst is always best quenched by a garden hose!

Doing what I did may sound crazy to some parents, but for me my independence was a key part of a splendid childhood, and in talking to my own mother, it seems to have been a lovely parenthood as well.

I started thinking more and more about the pros and cons of letting children run free (so to speak) after attending a child’s birthday party last weekend. Kids were running around without shoes, climbing trees, exploring their environment, and honestly, having a blast! With minimal adult facilitation, the children at the party spent almost four hours playing games, imagining new worlds and developing skills that the greatest institutions try to bottle up for teachers to present.  It turns out that kids being kids and parents cutting themselves a break and allowing the kind of freedom I just described is a recipe for success.

My best birthday parties were those with yellow cake and chocolate frosting from the processed goods aisle at the the grocery store. My mom taught me how to spell, but she didn’t write my college entrance essays.  She also didn’t construct every moment of my life to look like complete perfection, and she also didn’t shield me from consequences when things weren’t perfect. My mom was completely willing to let me fail, and in turn, I had the privilege of learning from my mistakes, something for which I am grateful.

The only thing that I really needed from my parents was love – I could come up with the rest on my own. It still seems to be that simple, our children won’t die if they fail a spelling test. Their childhood won’t be destroyed if we can’t afford to have ten costumed superheroes show up to their birthday party. Having to play outside instead of load a new video game on the computer may actually be even more fun, with or without shoes.

We all want our children to thrive and experience a fairy tale adolescence but despite all of the hurdles I encountered as a kid (and trust me, there were PLENTY), I would still say that my childhood was utterly magical.

Take a look at one bloggers thoughts about the “freedoms” teens should be extended to make them more self sufficient.

These are the thoughts of Guest Blogger, Keli Ollis. She is a Georgia native, a functioning adult, a follower of the Makers Movement, and a longtime educator. She still enjoys bare feet, boxed cake, and dinner prepared by her neighbors.