Based in Vancouver, Canada, this is a blog by Michael Argast. My areas of interest include travel, economics, technology, the environment, personal development and other eclectic topics.

Getting lost gives us the confidence to explore (the nanny state)

I've been seeing a rise in articles and posts on courts telling parents that they can't roam free, can't take the city bus, can't walk to and from school on their own, can't play at the park on their own.

First - the kids.

I'll admit I'm biased here - I was raised a free range kid basically out of the economic necessity of working parents. I took the city bus to and from school at the age of seven - with other kids, but no adult supervision. I wandered in the woods, picking wild blueberries, watching bears from across fields, exploring with my imagination. Got lost and un-lost, scratched my knees, hung out with friends and on my own.

Kids need space to be kids. Parents usually have an intuitive understanding of when kids are ready to walk to school (or not), to play in the park, bike over to a friends house, enter a store, go shopping, take themselves to a public restroom without having their hand held.

Gradually backing off and giving kids the space to explore, learn, get lost, succeed and fail is an essential part of their learning independence and becoming capable adults.

It's not that there aren't risks - there are - but sheltering our kids from every risk - padding them in pillows and preventing the bumps and scrapes of life does not prepare them for real life. Getting lost gives us the confidence to explore. Getting the scraped knees and getting back up again builds the confidence to go out in the dirt.

Second - the economic and structural biases.

Being a parent is tough - being a single parent I have to imagine is even tougher. Trying to find work that offers the flexibility to parents - dropping off and picking up kids from school, various activities, is a challenge for most dual-parent let alone single parent families. There aren't enough affordable and accessible child care options that offer before and after school care.

Forcing parents to accompany capable kids to and from school and activities is not only damaging to the kids development, but also puts parents that struggle economically and time-wise in an even more difficult position. For parents like myself, who work from home (largely) and have the flexibility to pick up/drop off kids, and can afford care and activities, life is busy enough. For single parents trying to work to put food on the table, court decisions like this can perpetuate poverty and make it more of a struggle. In BC there are over 150,000 kids - 1 in 5 - who are living in poverty. The risks and threats of poverty are real and much greater probability than the imagined risks that these courts are trying to protect kids against.

Obviously, the ministries and departments in charge of this are unable to make rational, risk based decisions in these cases - they are forced to fall back on cover-their-ass case law. This is why, unfortunately, we'll probably need proactive charter protections of parents rights to prevent this sort of nanny state action.

Review: Arrival

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