FAILURE TO LAUNCH
By Kristen Munson
david lancy’s book raising children: surprising insights from other cultures is not a parenting
manual. he does not offer prescriptions. there are no how-to instructions. but if you are a parent, reading lancy’s book may lead to a thought that plagues you with each turning of the page:
AM I DOING IT ALL
Illustration by Elizabeth Lord
Lancy won’t say. As an anthropologist, his expertise centers on studying childhood across cultures; he isn’t in the business of dispatching parenting advice. He will, however, assure you that are you probably worrying too much about doing it right: “Less is more. Whatever your expectations are for the amount of work or concern goes into childcare, chances are, you are doing way more than parents have done cross-culturally, and you’re probably setting the bar for yourself too high. Lighten up, that’s a message I can give out freely.” Reservations about swaddling? Attachment parenting? Agonizing over the perfect original name? Lancy argues Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democracies (WEIRD) countries, like the United States, can learn from societies that have 6 UTAHSTATE I SUMMER 2018
not yet mastered the creative pregnancy announcement on social media, but do let young children play with knives—that is how they learn to handle them properly. Kristen Munson: Utah recently passed one of the nation's first free-range parenting laws. What do you think of it? David Lancy: I am very good friends with Lenore Skenazy who wrote the book Free Range Children. She lives in Manhattan and was vilified years ago for letting her 9-year-old son take the subway by himself across town. She was referred to as “the world’s worst mom.” She embraced this, saying ‘Look, he’s been to his aunt’s house hundreds of times. There are dangers, but there are also dangers getting out of bed in the morning. Where do you draw the
line?’ As soon as news came out of the possibility of some legislation here I got very excited and sent it to her. Lenore says it’s becoming a national movement. She started an organization Let Grow to promote free-range kids. So I joined and sent a check for $500. KM: Why are you such a fan of the movement? DL: It really gets at the crux of some of the most deleterious changes happening in our culture over the last 50 years. And those have to do with the increasing restrictions put on children for their protection, limiting their ability to explore, limiting their ability to be creative, to be inventive, and limiting their interaction with other children.
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