Single parenting

Stephen W. Browne

Monday morning my little girl asked if her friend could ride to school with us.

'OK sure, no problem,' I said absent-mindedly.

'And could you sign these papers?' she asked.

OK, permission slip for Park Day. Oops, discipline slip. A blotch on a usually perfect record, this one for late work. Grades " hey, advanced in reading! So glad.

Friend's mother drops her off. We drive to school me still musing in the car.

Then I hear from her friend, 'And I have to answer a lot of questions to see if I'm depressed or have anxiety.'

'Honey, sometimes you're not depressed, sometimes you're just sad,' I told her.

'Yeah,' she answered. 'Sometimes I'm sad because the boys make fun of my name.'

'Well listen,' I told her. 'In a few years they'll all be wanting dates and then you can be mean to them if you want to.'

I should mention that she, like my daughter, is nine. And like my daughter she's very pretty and will probably grow up to be beautiful, so the possibility of being mean to the boys is no idle threat.

She and my daughter have frequent sleepovers either our place or hers. Never been a problem. I've never seen any signs she's anything other than a happy normal little girl.

Of course there could be things I don't see. But I've got this feeling the schools are looking for psychological problems when the problem is childhood.

Kids can be pretty rotten to each other. I was physically bullied as a child in school because I was puny and kind of a smartass. (I dealt with it by learning to fight " and to be less of a ****.)

My son has a different problem. At 14 he's bigger than I am " and I'm not little. He's not a target for physical bullying, but the teasing, slanging, insulting are just as hard to take. Maybe harder because he can't fight back.

My daughter may be the most well-adjusted person I know. She's physically active, popular, has lots of friends, and is kind to kids who are not so popular.

It worries me. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. She lives in a broken home and is being raised by an eccentric older single father. Shouldn't she have some problems?

Lenore Skenazy, founder of the Free Range Kids movement and official 'Worst Mother in the World,' has pointed out that statistics prove this country at this time is the safest it's ever been to be a child.

Yet we are full of anxiety for our children.

My children have more freedom to venture further away from home than pretty much all of their age-mates. And their confidence shows. Other little girls look to my daughter to accompany them on walks. Neighborhood boys are beginning to cultivate my son's friendship. Perhaps because they like the idea of having a big friend.

It's not that I don't worry about my children, it's that I get a grip on myself when I do. I've lived in dangerous places. I know the difference between the reality of danger and paranoia.

It's not that I discount the possibility of psychological problems. My immediate family has many cases of depression, hyperactivity, and Aspergers. It's that I know the difference between those kind of problems and the **** life throws at you.

So why are we so worried?

Some of it has to be the technology. We didn't have iPads, the Internet, or smart phones. It is having some kind of effect on our kids but we have no idea what the long-term effect will be, because there hasn't been a long term yet.

And of course the media has something to do with it as well. Criminal predation on children is rare " but because it's rare it's news. Which gives us the impression it's more common than it actually is.

And could it be we're worried about ourselves and projecting it onto our children?