HAPPY Mother’s Day! Today is Mother’s Day, and I am on a vacation airplane to San Diego with the beautiful mother of my two children. Planes aren’t a bad place for me to read our weekly book, especially with Lisa’s sleepy head resting on my shoulder. On the title page of this week’s reading, I immediately focused my eyes on the book’s dedication, “For our mothers, who did their best to prepare us for the road. JOANNA DALTON LUKIANOFF, ELAINE HAIDT (1931–2017).”  This fit in perfectly with what I wanted to write about this week, specifically with parents doing their best to prepare children for the road.
Most of us have heard of “helicopter parents” with their incessant hovering over their children, never letting the kids experience anything on their own. As a coach and referee for the last 30 years, mainly in basketball and soccer, I have witnessed many parents helicoptering when my teaching or calling did not match up to their expectations. Take little Johnny out of the game and ask him to play a tad harder on defense, or make a call on sweet Suzi for high kicking and WATCH OUT for the wrath of the helicopter blades…
Now with travel teams and parent expectations at an all time high for a potential college scholarship, even as young as elementary school, a new descriptor has entered the scene. We now have “lawnmower parents”, which was new one to me. What is a lawnmower parent? Helicopter parents hover over their child; lawnmower parents are one step ahead. They don’t just hover, assessing danger — they make sure their children experience no danger or obstacles to begin with, by moving ahead of their child and clearing the way, like with a lawnmower. 
Greg Lukianoff with Jonathan Haidt, in CODDLING OF THE AMERICAN MIND: HOW GOOD INTENTIONS AND BAD IDEAS ARE SETTING UP A GENERATION FOR FAILURE, explain in Chapter 9 titled “The Decline of Play”, “…the brain is ‘expecting’ the child to engage in thousands of hours of play—including thousands of falls, scrapes, conflicts, insults, alliances, betrayals, status competitions, and acts of exclusion—in order to develop. Children who are deprived of play are less likely to develop into physically and socially competent teens and adults.”  Both helicopter parents, and worse yet, lawnmower parents, deprive their children any blood loss or broken skin to “protect” their precious bundle of joy, but may be harming them in the long run.
My purest memories of sports was not in the organized play of my college basketball or soccer teams. Rather, they were in my backyard as a child with no parents, referees or coaches close by. Us neighborhood kids made up the rules of many a game, yelling at the tops of our lungs, taking risks and getting bruised in the process. No one told us to watch out for glass shards in the field of play, we figured it out for ourselves, and benefitted later in life because of it.
Was I too protective as a parent? Probably, especially with my firstborn, and a daughter at that. I loosened up with child number two, maybe a little more because he was a boy. If I had 7 children like my parents, I for sure couldn’t have cared less, due to parental exhaustion. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a perfect parent (just ask my son) but at least I understood the blessings of unstructured time.
I already respected Jonathan Haidt, after prior reading of his book, THE RIGHTEOUS MIND: WHY GOOD PEOPLE ARE DIVIDED BY POLITICS AND RELIGION. Now I am an even bigger fan, especially when I read the cautions to avoid, “Childhood as Test Prep”  and “The Resume Arms Race” . Today, free play is replaced with more homework, more technology, and more parental structure. Why? According to Lukianoff, for the almighty college scholarship and admission. In fact, we are pressurizing college expectations at an even earlier age, “In response to things like the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, state preschool standards, a general emphasis on testing, and then the introduction of Common Core standards, the preschool and kindergarten landscape has changed enormously.  I was always taught that 70% of kids would not need a four year college degree, rather they would benefit from a certificate or technical training in countless industries where job possibilities are at a premium, like mining, welding, or computer repair.
I kinda understand how we got here—“The decline in free play was likely driven by several factors, including an unrealistic fear of strangers and kidnapping (since the 1980s); the rising competitiveness for admission to top universities (over many decades); a rising emphasis on testing, test preparation, and homework; and a corresponding deemphasis on physical and social skills (since the early 2000s).” 
Sure, not everyone agrees with these two authors. says the Atlantic, “It may be possible to coddle more with some aspects of child raising, for instance trigger warnings from microagressions. 
But, the closing of chapter 9 is a real jewel in my opinion, when it powerfully explains, “Free play helps children develop the skills of cooperation and dispute resolution…upon which democracies depend. When citizens are not skilled in this art, they are less able to work out the ordinary conflicts of daily life. They will more frequently call for authorities to apply coercive force to their opponents. They will be more likely to welcome the bureaucracy of safetyism. 
Safetyism! Something to be concerned about, but not something to consume over. I am going to let my grandkids make a few more mistakes as I encourage them to play, maybe even a little recklessly. Take a few risks, bump your noggin. Just don’t tell Grandma.
 Lukianoff, Greg, and Jonathan Haidt. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting up a Generation for Failure. Allen Lane, 2018. xi.
 Clark, Nancy. Five Signs You Might Be A Lawnmower Parent: and what you can do to fix it. firstforwomen.com. November 4, 2018. Assessed May 12, 2019.
 Lukainoff and Haidt. 182.
 Ibid., 186.
 Ibid., 189.
 Ibid., 188.
 Ibid. 194.
 Haidt, Jonathan, and Greg Lukianoff. “The Coddling of the American Mind – The Atlantic.” SoundCloud, September 2015. Accessed May 15, 2019. https://soundcloud.com/user-154380542/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind-the-atlantic-greg-lukianoff-and-jonathan-haidt.
 The Atlantic. Ibid.
 Lukianoff and Haidt. 194.