Parenting implodes in a social monoculture.
The social ecology we’ve depended on as parents until recently, is today many times frail and tattered. There is little social cohesion around our homes, few of us have a living community in which to plant our children.
In a few generations, the communal life that held our children even in cities has been replaced by single-parent households, frequent divorces, forced schooling, estrangement from neighbors, urban sprawl into forests and meadows, booming traffic, repeatedly moving homes, scattered blood families, exhausting work-schedules, urban commutes, globe-trotting teenagers, business travels, busy or absent grandparents, rampant digitalization.
Overparenting is an understandable response to communal collapse–we anxiously attempt to control our children’s lives to shield them from a world that seems increasingly fragmented, erratic and hostile.
Surrounded by communal disarray, we try to be all we can for our children, serving as fathers and mothers, as grandparents, as playmates, as teachers, elders, supervisors, guides, protectors, confidants, supportive listeners, storytellers, personal assistants.
Maybe you recognize something of that. I’ve certainly heard from enough parents now to know this is not uncommon, not unknown. Yet overparenting is too much to ask of any one of us.
And it’s not healthy for our children. Our conscious or unconscious attempts to compensate for communal erosion deprive our children of their need of failure, frustration, discomfort, disappointment, adversity, uncertainty as well as free play, timelessness, aimless wandering and all other ways we learn to become resilient humans.
The quick fix? No, there isn’t one. But if you’re the parent of a young child, or an expectant parent, mending community is good parenting. You still have time, just.
Cultural repair mends the family, and lessens the stresses on all, but it’s a long haul. Few of us know what we’re doing, or how to proceed. Yet the signs are there, and the obligation is upon us. And so we must proceed, not knowing how.