I used to puzzle over a particular statistic that routinely comes up in articles about time use: even though women work vastly more hours now than they did in the 1970s, mothers—and fathers—of all income levels spend much more time with their children than they used to. This seemed impossible to me until recently, when I began to think about my own life. My mother didn’t work all that much when I was younger, but she didn’t spend vast amounts of time with me, either. She didn’t arrange my playdates or drive me to swimming lessons or introduce me to cool music she liked. On weekdays after school she just expected me to show up for dinner; on weekends I barely saw her at all. I, on the other hand, might easily spend every waking Saturday hour with one if not all three of my children, taking one to a soccer game, the second to a theater program, the third to a friend’s house, or just hanging out with them at home. When my daughter was about 10, my husband suddenly realized that in her whole life, she had probably not spent more than 10 minutes unsupervised by an adult. Not 10 minutes in 10 years.
It took me a while to get around to reading this piece. Part of the reason I kept putting it off was because I couldn’t see how it wouldn’t just turn into a “kids these days/in my day” soliloquy. And it mostly does. There’s no hard data to back up the assertion that boring playgrounds are responsible for restless children, and while there is hard data to back up that injury rates haven’t really fallen with the advent of “safer” playground equipment, the author conveniently forgets to point out that there’s no way for us to know if they wouldn’t have risen had the equipment not gotten safer. I completely agree with the attention over-saturation issue, though, and I’ve already got my one year-old on a schedule that includes several times a day where she’s free to wander without interference from me.