What’s on your holiday shopping list, now that Black Friday has come and gone? Are you planning to forego Starbucks in effort to stoke the coffers for gifts for the kids? Will Cyber Monday pre-empt your trip to the gym?
Despite the $12 billion advertising blitz directed at children this holiday season, parents also are getting snookered.
What until recently was just a metaphor for overparenting has now become a tantalizing reality: personal GPS devices to keep track of the kids! OK, I know they are being promoted as emergency locators, but let’s call a spade a spade. “Every parent should have one,” says one mom who admits that she is always losing her keys, remotes, etc.
Does that mean it’s also all right to own a GPS tracker or a sex-testing kit for teenagers or – get this one – Semen Spy CSI Edition for your spouse?! I couldn’t make it up; you can find it by Googling “spy equipment.”
It’s also true that car GPS logs are regularly added into evidence during divorce proceedings.
Personally, I advocate for the method used by the title character in “Harold and the Purple Crayon” by Crockett Johnson over the Brickhouse Distance Alert. You see, when Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight, he drew himself a landscape for his journey. But, because he had (presumably) been raised to become an independent fellow who could rely upon his own good decision-making, he sketched landmarks for himself to preclude his getting lost! Indeed, Harold took the necessary purple-crayon precautions when he created a boat while afloat in the sea and a purple-pie picnic when he was hungry.
Clearly, Harold was able to navigate his own path, especially since he was clever enough to depict only one tree in the forest as a reference point. If we rely upon navigation systems to keep our children safe, we will sacrifice not only our own sanity but also the ability of our kids to grow their own “better brains.”
It’s a slippery slope. I understand the temptation. But I’ve seen the poor outcome for so many children whose snowplow parents felt it was in their job description to clear the roads of any obstacles so that their children could jog down the trail of life unchallenged.
There was the 12-year-old who called to be rescued from a campout because he couldn’t bear to be away from home, the 8-year-old who was afraid to eat anything that his mom didn’t prepare in her own kitchen (no allergies!), and the 15-year-old who couldn’t decide what toppings to order for her pizza without consulting her dad.
Those kids grew into the college student who had to transfer back home, the young bride who couldn’t survive one year of marriage, and the new professional who couldn’t hold onto a job.
Yes, we live in an era of anxiety and uncertainty. But we have to resist the lure of false security in deference to our children gaining resilience by bouncing back from life’s adversities.
Instead of reaching for the child locator, reach instead for “Harold and the Purple Crayon” – and talk about Harold’s adventure and the excellent choices he made.