wsj mothers day illustration

What Happens to Childhood When Kids’ Super-Structured Schedules Get Tossed Out the Carpool Window?

“Thanks to the pandemic, children have been stepping up to the plate—and sink, bike, lawn mower and toilet brush. Sprung from their super-busy, let-me-do-it-for-you-honey lives, they’re becoming the kids they might have been if they’d been born a generation or two earlier, back when parents seemed to expect more of kids independence-wise and less of them achievement-wise.”

That’s what I wrote in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, taking a look at how this year’s Mother’s Day is different from last year’s, because this year a whole lot of kids have started doing things on their own. For instance, one mom told us, “My kid came in to ask if she could organize her clothes because she just saw a ‘cool tutorial on folding pants’ online. She’s obviously incredibly bored, or a pod-person has taken over her body.”

Another mom said that the game-changer is that now her family is no longer under incredible time pressure every morning:

“Here the elementary school kids get on the bus a little after 7—it’s insane,” says Jennifer Jackson, a mother in Northern Virginia. “I’m not a morning person, and my first grader isn’t, so before, when school was in session, the first half of the day was me saying, ‘Get up! You need to get up! Go downstairs.’”

And now? “She’s waking up pretty much when she wants, she’s getting dressed by herself and she’s going downstairs to make her own bowl of cereal. Sometimes she’s even getting me out my banana, and she’ll butter my toast.”

Clearly this child was perfectly capable of being a self-starting toast-butterer all along. But kids are like seeds. They need water to grow. Free time is that water.

Read the rest of my essay here (if you can — it is behind the Journal’s paywall).  And I’d love to hear how you’re seeing kids change and grow, too. Drop a line to [email protected] . And have as wonderful-as-possible a week! – L


Illustration by the great Greg Clarke, in The Wall Street Journal

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