Before I am accused of contracting the sickness of "Good Old Days-itis" let me say that I understand that fond recollections of one’s own childhood can be misleading. The grand adventures we recall now probably did not seem so wonderful and enchanting as they happened. I get that. But this pediatrician discusses what he views as a trend away from allowing children to develop their own games and imaginations and toward adult hovering and over-thinking (and, as he sometimes sees it, over-commercialization) of everything from classrooms to playgrounds. I have often thought that so much of what my kids experience today is just a bit too "scripted" compared with the fun we used to have as kids. But I think there is a long list of causes (commercialization being probably the least among them).
I will just throw out a couple for consideration: first, people are having kids much later in life. I wouldn’t say that older parents have more invested in their children than younger parents, but they probably have more invested in the decision to have them. It is possible, on occasion, that they may have over-thought the thing--thus the delay. Further, such parents may not have one foot in the grave . . . but they are more keenly aware of the graveyard. There is a pressure to do right in more urgently felt time constraints. Plus, they’re often wealthier than younger parents. They tend to be more indulgent materially. Birthday parties in the backyard with pin the tail on the donkey for a few friends won’t do. They can and do have marvelously and extravagantly scripted events at places created specifically for the purpose.
A second reason for this "scripting" may be that neighborhoods tend to empty out of children and mothers during the daytime. I remember wandering through the neighborhood as a young child (i.e., 5 or 6) and chasing the ice cream truck, riding tricycles, searching for treasure, pretending to build clubhouses, etc. My kids don’t really do that and, if they wanted to, they wouldn’t have anyone to join them. No one is ever home during the day. If the mothers aren’t working, they’re out with their children on scripted outings.
I’m not saying that all of this is a bad change, but it is a change worth considering. On the up-side, I think my kids have seen much more of the world than I ever did at their ages. They’ve been to classical concerts; Broadway quality plays; first class museums, zoos and aquariums and; of course, to some really amazing birthday parties. But I do worry sometimes that there is such a thing as over-doing it. And sometimes, late at night, when I sneak into their rooms to give them one last kiss for the night, I wonder if they’ll ever know how much fun it is to build a fort in a tree and fight the battles of a mighty empire of princesses and pirates.