“In some ways, we have mortgaged our kids’ childhood, in exchange for the chance at a grand future” proclaims, Julie Lythcott-Haims in Chasing Childhood, a documentary tackling the struggles of being a kid in a grown-up world. With mounting pressures from parents, the future, and a culture of excellence, directors Margaret Munzer Loeb and Eden Wurmfeld seek to shed light on the growing Free-Range Kids movement. Having roots in creating more independent children, Free-Range Kids focuses on empowering the youth to take charge of adulthood. Through experts and kids alike, the film provides a sincere look at what it means to be a parent or student in the 2020s.
Chasing Childhood takes the audience across the country investigating kid’s free time, or lack thereof. Throughout the movie, students consistently note the massive amounts of commitments placed on them as young as 3-year-olds. Due to the hyper-focus on resume building, sometimes even 15 years in advance, youngsters are faced with more mental struggles than ever before.
But what is the solution? According to Let Grow president and the Free-Range Kids movement founder Lenore Skenazy, it’s allowing children to have more freedom and trusting them in their world. Focusing on the consequences of “helicopter parenting” and the joys of empowering your children, the documentary takes audiences into the lives of kids and parents alike.
“…provides a sincere look at what it means to be a parent or student in the 2020s.”
Even if you do not agree with everything the documentary or experts claim, it is well made. I do not agree with everything preached here, but the filmmakers do an extraordinary job framing the arguments being made. Moments that seem wildly irresponsible to an outsider (such as letting a nine-year-old ride the subway alone) are displayed in an academic format. The film delivers insightful research but never misses the heart of every issue: the students. As someone who watches a lot of education-based documentaries, I always appreciate it when a movie focuses on the students and how they are changing.
Throughout my life, I have worked in both underfunded and wealthy schools. Chasing Childhood excels at giving a voice to students and parents who are struggling with mental health. The film offers several narratives of students and parents. However, Savannah’s story truly hit close to home and is, unfortunately, a commonality in education.
Despite the rich insight into student lives and family dynamics, the movie ends very abruptly. The personal stories are powerful and create an empathetic experience, but the ending does make the film’s structure awkward. The lack of a conclusion had me questioning, “what were we building toward?” Beyond the finale, the movie provides an engaging look at the struggles of children and parenting in the modern age. I would recommend Chasing Childhood to those involved in education or anyone who loves unique perspectives on parenting.