The Vanished Wilderness of Childhood

"Art is a form of exploration, of sailing off into the unknown alone, heading for those unmarked places on the map. If children are not permitted—not taught—to be adventurers and explorers as children, what will become of the world of adventure, of stories, of literature itself?"

Michael Chabon mourns the loss of freedom for today's over-protected children in a wonderful article for the New York Review of Books. Read the whole thing here.

This chimes with thoughts that have been bothering me a lot lately, not just as a author struggling to make space for fictional children to have adventures, but as a mother who would love her children to grow up independent, resilient and confident in their world. (See also Free Range Kids.)

We're lucky that our local school is literally over our back fence; Alice can, and sometimes does, walk home around the corner alone. But the last time she did it, she was stopped and questioned by a (no doubt well-meaning) teacher. Alice is small for her age, but she is in Grade 2, and she has only to walk round the corner of the block; there are no roads to cross. She had asked to walk home by herself. She was so proud of her independence, and as a solitary child, relished the few minutes of private time between school and home.

But since she was stopped and interrogated, she hasn't walked home alone; she wants me to walk her home every day. This tiny morsel of freedom and achievement has been spoiled for her, and that makes me so sad.


  1. It strikes me that the most threatening force for most kids is all those 'well-meaning' adults telling them how dangerous the world is, framing them as tiny and threatened and vulnerable.

  2. We parents love our children deeply, but sometimes our communication with them gets muddled. Disapproval, impatience, or indifference clouds our interactions with our children when we're overworked. We have to play many roles with them: sleep monitor, cleanliness checker, homework prodder, educational guide, the list goes on! And as we juggle those roles, our ability to feel our hearts lift when they walk in the room can wilt.
    *BluePixo Entertainment - A place for mom and dad to share topics about parenthood*