Dear Falls Church parents: chill out

Parents in the Little City will go to great lengths to make sure their children are safe and sound. While this is a worthy cause, we should consider taking measures to prepare our youth for the road that’s ahead of them. Photo courtesy of

Parents in the Little City will go to great lengths to make sure their children are safe and sound. While this is a worthy cause, we should consider taking measures to prepare our youth for the road that’s ahead of them. Photo courtesy of

West Hagler, Staff Reporter

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I wish I was a kid during the 1980’s. Not because of the mullets, leg warmers, corny romantic comedies, or the Pet Shop Boys; Those I can do without. Instead, I wish that my friends and I could have the freedom that so many of our parents experienced.

My dad always tells me stories about the shenanigans he would get into back when he was a kid. Things like the time he climbed the TV antenna on the roof of his childhood home, or when he snuck my mom into a drive-in movie in the trunk of his Camaro because he didn’t want to buy another ticket. Call me a bad kid if that’s what you feel, but I want those experiences.

He told me about some of the crazy things he and his classmates did. I won’t go into detail, but I will say that that man enjoyed his high school experience. If you are judging my father, then that’s exactly what I anticipated.

Jeff Hagler graduated his high school valedictorian of his class and went to the United States Military Academy. He graduated top of his class there as well. He is now a Colonel in the Army whose list of achievements is so long that I’ve lost track.

My point is this: freedom as a child is undervalued in this generation, but especially in our community. In fact, it’s rather frowned upon.

Nowadays, if a parent doesn’t know where a child is, they can usually check their location using Find My iPhone or a number of tracking apps, a strategy I have seen used on many of my friends and classmates. Not only that, but if a parent sees that their kids are in a strange location, they will text them repeatedly asking what they are doing, and then they will make them go home immediately.

What happens when these kids go to college and the perfectly maintained bubbles their parents have put around them are seemingly popped? I’m constantly hearing about how the kids with the strictest parents in high school went on to be party animals in college. Even in high school, It seems that parents who express a bit more leniency produce more cautious children. I knew someone whose parents rarely let him leave the house unless they knew that it was school or sports related. Now he is at college doing various illegal drugs and drinking heavily.

Not only can restricting children too much lead to questionable behavior in the future, but it can also affect children’s social skills. Making connections is not only applicable for finding a school one feels comfortable in, but it can also be necessary to get hired as employers are more likely to hire someone they connect with.

I am a military brat, so I have lived in seven different places in my life. Falls Church is the only city I’ve heard of where parents worry about how their six year old, booger eating kid is going to get the IB diploma and get into UVA when they’re still studying addition and learning social skills.

A while back, I was working at a restaurant and I gave a child his plate of spaghetti that his mother ordered for him. He looked about six or seven. I informed him that the plate was a bit hot so that he wouldn’t burn himself. The mother went into a bit of a panic.

“Is that safe? How hot is the plate? Will it burn him? Should he have a hot plate of spaghetti?” I reassured her that it would be fine after a couple of minutes. However, while I thought this rather funny at the time, I couldn’t help but think that if she isn’t careful, one day the big hot plate that is life is going to burn her son and he won’t be prepared for it.

Not only are these parents overprotective, but they are very judgmental of children when they hear of them making a mistake, no matter whose kid it is. The more social parents tend to get together and talk about their children and their children’s friends. Falls Church City is a tight knit community, so news spreads like wildfire, and these parents are fueling the blaze. News of a person’s mistakes will inevitably circulate, ruining someone’s reputation. Kids shouldn’t be subjected to such judgement at a young age — most are still learning right from wrong.

I ask these parents: have none of you made mistakes? In an age where communication travels much faster than it used to, kids are now being scolded more harshly and unfairly than ever.

Please don’t misconstrue this as me trying to tell you how to do your jobs. I am just asking these parents to consider the merits of a different approach. Maybe don’t question your children so stiffly, and you might be surprised to find that your children know right from wrong based on the examples you set each day. Consider giving them a bit of freedom now before they experience real independence in life after high school, and don’t know how to handle it safely.

One day we’re going to have to learn for ourselves how the world works, and we’ll have to pay for the mistakes we make like everyone else. I just think it better that people make these mistakes as kids when they have much less responsibility and the consequences aren’t so grave.