“One winter morning Peter woke up and looked out the window. Snow had fallen.” Jack Ezra Keat’s board book filled with a day of humble adventures celebrates this story of boundless possibilities – experimenting with footprints in the snow, knocking snow from a tree, creating snow angels, trying to save a snowball for the next day….” This day, you see, is the very first snowfall Peter has ever glimpsed, and the young boy cannot wait to explore this new world.
Pure fun. Pure glee. Pure homage to the wonders of childhood.
But wait. Do we, as parents, sometimes spoil the scene by plowing the snow off the road for our children? Do we clear their path to the extent that we eradicate the awe of first-hand discovery?
Before I go any further, this is not a holier-than-thou essay; it is, rather, my way of joining all the well-intentioned parents who keep their engines idling all the time to prevent a stall in the journey through childhood. Mea culpa – my own children are in their 30s, and I still find myself cutting off the motor forcibly on my own metaphorical snowplow! I respectfully raise our awareness with these observations:
Instead of mesmerizing our children with the myriad and unending designs of snowflakes, we heap the accumulated snow into blinding snowbanks, unintentionally preventing them from navigating the world on their own. The snowbanks we construct in the name of good parenting preclude our kids from making their own decisions and from being accountable for those actions. You could say that today’s youth are adrift on the road to adulthood because we have blocked the side roads- paradoxically in consequence of our best intentions.
We get caught up in the syndrome of road maintenance! We aren’t doing our kids any favors. What happens when, eventually, they have to find their own way, cultivate their own future? After all, we will have to turn them over to their own internal navigation system eventually. Will they have the psychological equipment to get the job done without our intervention, our smoothing the path?
I’m not so interested in our reputations among the anthropologists and the media who seem to have jettisoned the “helicopter parent” moniker in favor of “snowplow parent” (apparently, we have moved way beyond hovering into the realm of pushing obstacles out the way). Rather, I am invested in our children’s eagerness and adeptness to jump into the piles of snow to uncover the snow angels and to build the snowmen – and to figure out for themselves that snowballs will not last until tomorrow.
I say, let’s let our kids uncover the mysteries in the flurry of life – one snowfall at a time. What do you think?