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Idle parents in search of a slow, free range childhood

“It seems to me that today we are speeding up children too much in some ways (academic hot-housing, for example),” explained Slow Movement chronicler Carl Honoré to the New York Times’ Lisa Belkin, “while slowing them down too much in other ways (not letting them walk to school alone until they’re, um, 23).”

This loss of childhood freedom has ushered in a modern age of parenting styles focused on returning some of that innocence to our kids.

The Slow Parenting movement- a reaction to parental pressures on kids to enroll in the right activities and build the perfect resume- urges parents to cut back on all those classes and let kids have more unstructured time.

Free-Range parents are reacting to the increase in parental fear over the past few decades at a time crime has actually dropped in many communities; they advocate giving kids the same freedoms we experienced in our childhoods.

As a way to make sense of what these theories for children really mean, I applied them to my own family. I went back a couple decades and looked at my 5 siblings and myself as we were raised in a hyper-competitive community of Silicon Valley. Despite all our activities, I think we were able to live by some tenets of the Slow Parenting movement. As Honoré describes, slow is less about lentitude and more about finding the right speed.

To examine the idea that less can be more in parenting, I took a look at my family today- the faircompanies family- as we try to step back a bit from over-parenting and aim for more happiness for all.

“It should be the ongoing goal of the idle parent to inject pleasure into the day, constantly,” explains Tom Hodgkinson, author of The Idle Parent: why less means more when raising kids. “It is one of the tragedies of serious Western attitudes to raising children that fun and enjoyment seem to vanish from the agenda in favor of money-making and conversation about the kids.”

In this video, I examine how my active childhood still had elements of slowness built-in thanks to my mother’s uncluttered mentality for our home (no toys, tv or shopping). I also take a look at us faircompanies parents and how our currently downshifted status (working less, spending less) has allowed us to spend more time with our 2 girls, but our working from home has also forced us to carve out independent time for our 2-year-old (unstructured time).