“The Anti-Helicopter Parent’s Plea: Let Kids Play” is a fantastic back-and-forth between two neighbors: The author, an average (read: risk averse) mom and author, and her quarry, Mike: “a Silicon Valley dad decided to test his theories about parenting by turning his yard into a playground where children can take physical risks without supervision.” There’s no Psych 103 mumbo-jumbo here as the author struggles with the fact that when most of us were kids, we’d walk to the nadi / go play in the woods / head to the beach while on vacation — without parental supervision. Get past the sexism inherent in Mike’s worldview — our resident nine-year-old is a girl and rightfully convinced “Anything a boy can do, a girl can do better,” including taking physical risks — and the piece will make you think. And think again:
Mike thought I was putting my son at risk of turning into what used to be called a sissy — a concept whose demise he regrets. And I was of the opinion that Mike was putting his son at risk of being a bully, a label Mike thinks is now used to pathologize normal, healthy, boyish aggression.
Mike came out to the yard, his wineglass in one hand and a piece of cheese in another.
“Uh, can you keep an eye on them?” I asked Mike, reluctantly gathering my stuff to leave. “The society of 5-year-olds is fragile and may fall into savagery.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he replied affably. “I’m a believer in that Rousseau theory — what’s it called?”
“Something about a Noble Savage?” I said. “I’m more a believer in the truth of ‘Lord of the Flies.’ ” My smile was thin and conveyed, For the love of God, can you please put your drink down and watch the kids?
His smile told me he wanted me to leave already. Tap here to keep reading in the New York Times Magazine.