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Did we f*** up these kids?

By Jessenia Nozzolillo

I see extreme generational polarities in my work. We flip flop from one extreme to another. Extreme gender conformity and judgment to the extreme gender fluidity. Extreme work to work less make more. It often makes sense and has little repercussions as we learn from the massive wave of overcompensation. I myself have six children and am getting to a place where I realize these kids were just raised differently. I have accidentally overcompensated for my terrifying childhood and childhood trauma, helicoptering my children and taking away their experiences because my own was sprinkled with such trauma. Like so many other parents at this moment, we found it easier to keep the kids home, let them use their devices, call or text friends, and keep space. Now we have COVID that continues to take away their experiences and freedoms.

Maybe you are like I was months ago, seeing nothing wrong with this. Maybe you just thought, “Who cares? They are safe. Whatever makes them happy.”

Three of my children are now teenagers raised in this same world where we assumed they were safe and that was good enough. But today, we had a conversation about adult plans and their future, and I realized just how little they had lived. I mean, really lived!

I grew up with no rules. I was out at whatever hour, doing whatever, at whoever’s house in whoever’s car. Yes, it was dangerous, and I probably shouldn’t be alive today. Yet, here I am! And I learned a lot!

I learned how to trust my judgment. I learned to take healthy risks. I learned to make friends and connect with people. I learned different languages. I saw how other families functioned and got to observe what I liked and didn’t like. I got to find work and make new friends outside of my typical circles. I got to know kids outside of school, which meant getting to know what made them TRULY tick. I walked miles a day. I was constantly thirsting for adventure. My teenage years are when I felt the safest and we’re the least abusive years of my life, yet I was entirely free to experience the world. Take a plane, Bus or T. Go into the city. Wander. The most dangerous place in my childhood was my family.

Now I sit here preparing these children for life, realizing we haven’t kept them safe at all. We’ve stolen all of their lessons and abilities to judge their environment, trust their intuition, test their limits, explore their world, meet new people, learn new languages, and TRULY LIVE. The world is just as dangerous now as it’s always been. We cannot protect them hiding them from the world. We can only stand by while they learn to take SAFE RISKS now while we are here to be their cushion when they fall.

We need to remember to let these kids live before it’s too late and there is no time to make the memories and connections they should have been making all along.

Yes, we do things as a family regularly, but it’s not the same.

Look around you. These teenagers today are socially awkward, uncomfortable in crowds, lacking life skills, are afraid of anything stressful, are not great problem solvers, and easily disempowered. Those are all skills we learned from safely exploring our environment. Many of them are on multiple medications and therapies disconnected from all humans outside of school and family. What created this? The aggressive seclusion they have been exposed to in this overcompensation where we believed we were “keeping them safe.”

How can we use technology to make this a safer experience? We have cell phones and tags to track children. We can use cameras. We can gather their friend's numbers and have them check-in. We can open communication and ensure they are where they say they are. We even have portable chargers and electric scooters/skateboards and bikes! All amazing things we didn’t have while we were running the streets at 12. We can create a fun and inviting situation for their friends, so they have the opportunities to make memories. We can encourage them to see the value in these experiences. “It’s not safe” is really no longer an excuse. We need to adjust to the world we are living in and make sure our children know how to thrive here, or they will be easily manipulated and confused, like the rest of us. It's not too late!

We didn’t really fuck them up. But we might if we don’t see the value in human interaction, experience, adventure, safe risk taking, exploration and socializing. Let’s work to make this a summer they will never forget. They deserve it.

Copyright Protected 2022 Jessenia Nozzolillo

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