A shorter version of this article caught my attention in today’s paper. An anthropologist at Utah State University says “there’s no real evidence that children benefit from playing with their parents.”
Now I obviously haven’t read the study and I can guess that there’s all sorts of flaws with the way it’s being spun by the reporter into a controversy between this anthropologist and the director of a treatment center for emotionally disturbed children. Does this study let parents off the hook for playing with their children? Is it one more tool to manipulate parents’ sense of guilt? I question whether there’s too much focus on “play” specifically. And whether cultural norms of Kalahari foraging groups should even apply to 21st century American family life. Frankly, it seems irrelevant at best and disingenuous or dishonest at worst to try to apply one culture’s practices to another culture. As if these things exist in a vacuum and are not part of a tightly woven fabric. But really, that’s not what grabbed me in the article.
Here’s the sentence that made me want to blog this piece: “A 2004 article published in Science famously reported that parents found spending time with kids about as appealing as doing housework or commuting.” Again, it might be misquoting the original. I don’t know what question the parents were really asked or how they answered. But if it is even close to accurately reporting the sentiments of parents, then that’s just sad. Poor parents. Poor children. Our poor society.
And yet I can believe it, sad to say. So many parents hardly see their children. The parents work all day, the kids are in school or daycare. The parents interaction with their kids is as chauffeur, cook, maid, or homework coach. Play becomes another chore to check off the to-do list. Something those “experts” say is good for the kiddies.
This is precisely why homeschooling appeals to me. It’s part of a lifestyle choice, the decision to spend my days playing, learning and working alongside my children. I can think of few things I find more appealing than spending time with Isabella. She is my joy and my delight. And I pity the parents who have lost that joy, who view spending time with their children as just one more chore.