As I read this insightful and engrossing article (have you read it yet? That's ok, I'll wait...) I thought about my own parenting experience. I, like most of my peers, have pretty structured kids. I'm always telling mine to "go out and play," but their fenced-in backyard is not nearly so appealing as were the nether-reaches of my wooded backyard when I was their age. We used to go on "journeys," filling Tic-Tac boxes with juice (don't try it, it dribbles) and leaving for a couple blissful, unsupervised hours. My kids don't.
Does it matter?
Ms. Rosin thinks it does, and intuitively, I am inclined to agree. But the Atlantic brought to mind a book my daughter loved as a three-year-old: Be Good, Gordon, by Angela McCallister and illustrated by Tim Archbold (Bloomsbury Paperbacks, 2002). A little boy named Gordon, who is very very well behaved, is convinced by his babysitter, one Lily Jigg-Popsicle, to be naughty. The two get muddy and howl at the moon and Gordon makes it back into bed just as his parents return home.
I said my daughter loved the book, but I have to be honest; she doesn't actually remember it (a fact that surprised me). I chose the book so carefully for her after searching the library for a picture book that would encourage a very, very good little girl to let loose and be naughty (even roar!) once in awhile. This mad search through the stacks was prompted by her refusal to leave my lap and dance during the music portion of our library's story time.
How could I get my toddler to feel free enough to stand up and "shake her sillies out," as the song went, with the rest of her toddler buddies? I couldn't exactly fill a Tic-Tac box with juice and send her on a journey at that age (or, as I admitted above, in the years that followed, either).
So did it work? Did Lily Jigg-Popsicle build her confidence and sense of adventure? It was only a part of the campaign I went on, which also included my vow never to answer for her and never to "guide her hand" as she drew pictures or made crafts. (Her bird-seed encrusted name poster was a big old blob during crafts time, yes, but who did the other moms think they were kidding with their own kids' perfectly scripted bird-seed creations?)
Hard to say. She is who she is, and I guess I'll never be able to pinpoint one book or one blobby craft project as forming her sense of adventurous self.
But when I asked her the other day if she remembered Miss Jigg-Popsicle, my daughter laughed at the name and said nope, not at all. I told her the story-time shyness dilemma and how I'd hoped Gordon's story would help solve it, and she asked "did it?" I considered the question and thought about who she is now, as a young teen: confident and dependable and willing to try fencing or karate or theater or honors math.
"I'll say yes," I told her.