'Wolfpack' Dad Keeps 7 Kids Locked in Apartment for Protection

The WolfpackThe leader of The Wolfpack, a documentary that’s causing a stir at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, might go down in history as the ultimate helicopter parent. The movie explores a Peruvian-born father who kept his seven children insulated from the outside world by confining them to a small, New York City apartment where they were homeschooled and weaned on the more than 5,000 DVDs in his movie collection. 


The six boys and one girl, who are now in their teens and early 20s, rarely left the apartment and spent their days re-creating many of the props and costumes they saw in movies like Reservoir Dogs and The Dark Knight. The father, a devout Hare Krishna, explains in the movie that he was just trying to shield his children from the dangerous city.

Talk about overprotective!

For a brief period of time when my four children were young, I toyed with the idea of homeschooling. I was intrigued by the prospect of hooking their little brains up to all of the art, literature, and cultural influences I felt would shape them into the brilliant, inquisitive, irreverent, compassionate, and remarkable creatures I just knew they were waiting to be. Essentially, I thought I would just let them mainline on Free to Be, You and Me videos and Shel Silverstein poems all day long.

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But, alas, that fantasy lasted about two minutes and then someone started to cry and I quickly strapped everyone into the minivan and drove to the playground where they ran around like maniacs until dinnertime.

It turns out, I didn't have the stamina to shelter my children from all of the outside influences -- like video games, Family Guy, and the neighbor who knew his way around a four-letter word -- that would corrupt their personal growth.

And in the end, that’s probably a good thing.

We all start out in our parenting careers pretty energetic and well-intentioned. We want to protect our children from the many dangers lurking around each corner. We want to shield them from everything we’ve been made to fear as parents, like soda and Grand Theft Auto and the creepy guy trying to lure kids into his car with candy.

But sometimes parents can take protecting children to the extreme. I have a girlfriend who didn’t want to download an app on her smartphone to help her keep track of her periods because she didn’t want her three young sons to see it.

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And I’ve been guilty of parental micromanaging as well. One summer my children were only allowed to watch an hour of television each day and were restricted to shows on PBS and Animal Planet. That was a really long summer. My fourth child, who’s 10 years younger than his oldest sibling, now has free reign over what he watches on television -- not to mention the Internet -- and he’s the one who’s usually outside kicking a ball around.

Are we really doing our children a favor by shielding them from strangers and SpongeBob and menstruation?

As with most things in life -- like wine, dieting, and Botox -- parenting should be all about moderation. Of course you don’t want your 8-year-old wandering alone in the mall, but you also need to know when it’s okay to let your middle schooler go to the bathroom by himself during a movie. There needs to be a time to let go.

I want to keep my cubs safe and healthy. I’d rather see them exposed to great art and literature. But the world is a little bit of everything. And as much as I’d love to keep my own wolfpack together forever, they’re going to grow up and have to pick and choose what they think and who they’re going to be. They’re going to have to learn to navigate the world without their mama wolf.

What do you think of this unorthodox way of raising kids?


Image via The Wolfpack Film

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