June 21, 2007

WE CAN DANCE IF WE WANT TO

Via Photon Courier, an article about the effect of protecting children too much:

Children are so cocooned by their parents that they rarely venture far from home and have little concept of space, volume and how the world actually works, David Willetts, the shadow education secretary, said yesterday.

The area in which children were allowed to range freely by their parents was a ninth of what it was a generation ago, he said.

CaliValleyGirl and I have discussed this at length and how we hope to address it when we have our future children. And boy do I think it's tricky today.

Remember when Lileks wrote about the new Winnie the Pooh character?

This year the new Pooh series will introduce a six-year old girl in Christopher’s stead. I’m sure she’s spunky and adventurous and kind and empowered, and I’m just as sure my daughter will find her boring, because kids can smell pedantic condescending twaddle nine mile off. (It’s one of the reasons many girls love Arthur – his little sister is sixty-five pounds of smart, devious, narcissistic, naughty sass.) Here’s the part that makes me truly sad:

The little girl wears a bike helmet.

Because you could fall down in the 100 Acre Woods and hurt yourself.

I swear, they’re going to put airbags on Barbie’s Pegasus next, and require thick corks on the point of all unicorn horns.

That's how ubiquitous safety has become: cartoon characters need helmets.

On my last day of fifth grade, my mom let me ride my bike to school. Some of my friends who lived closer to the school got to ride their bikes often, but we lived in a neighborhood that was further away and so I was a bus-riding kid. (Oh, and every day my brother and I walked down the street to the bus stop and waited alone.) But finally my mom said I was old enough to earn the right to ride my bike to school. I just google mapped it, and it seems I rode roughly two miles. And I felt SO COOL. I was one of the big kids now. I was independent. I had Done Something Awesome. And without a helmet.

My mom and I talked about that not too long ago. She says looking back she can't believe all the parents let their kids ride bikes to school. And she's not sure she'd let me do it today. Even she has a hard time remembering when cartoon characters didn't need helmets.

I needed to ride that bike to school. Heck, I still remember it. As a crowning achievement, as a milestone, as a step on the way to Growing Up. The thing that scares me is wondering if I will be able to let my kids take those steps too.

"A study by the Children's Society found 43 per cent of [British] adults thought children should not be allowed out with their friends until they were 14 or over." And apparently there's a debate in England over whether kids should be allowed to climb trees.

I fell out of a tree once. I also broke my front tooth playing tag once. I broke a kid's finger playing flag football in school. And once I fell in a ravine and couldn't get out, which was perhaps one of the scariest moments of my childhood. And I didn't tell my parents about it because I didn't want to lose my freedom to go play near the ravine.

I don't have kids yet. I nearly had a heart attack when brand new Charlie puppy ran out into the street in front of a car, so I know that I am going to battle overprotection. But it's a battle I'm going to have to have with myself if I want my kids to at least grow up with the independence I had, much less what my parents had.

Posted by: Sarah at 03:25 AM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
Post contains 663 words, total size 4 kb.

1 It's such a hard, hard subject to figure out. I thank the good lord we live on base, because those times we have lived off base I did not allow my children to have the freedom they do now. My youngest daughter was allowed to go to the park alone starting at age 5. I would not let my second daughter go to the park alone off base, and she's 9. And often people off base will look at me like they are considering calling Child Protective Services for the things we allow our children to do. The parenting peer pressure is enormous. I think one big difference that I had growing up (and I'm 3 years older than you) is that everyone in the neighborhood where I lived was a part of our upbringing - I got yelled at by more than one friend's parent for doing stupid things, and they would report my transgressions to my parents despite every plea I made. Now, so many people just ignore what is going on around them. And no wonder, really, with so many parents being hypersensitive about their children's behavior and making excuses for their spoiled brattedness. Just for the record and for anyone who lives near me - please do not hesitate to correct my kids if you see them doing something wrong. PLEASE. I'll send you a fruit basket in thanks.

Posted by: airforcewife at June 21, 2007 06:43 AM (0dU3f)

2 I don't know whether to laugh or cry over that bike helmet thing. I mean, it's like someone took a silly SNL sketch way too seriously. My kid is 2 so a lot of this doesn't apply just yet. I'd like to think that he'd have the same freedom I did to take off on his bike and then come home when the street lights came on. But he probably won't, mostly because the other Moms' won't let their kids. My question is, though, how much of this is really necessary? I mean, it's not like there weren't dangers out there before. Hell, there may have even been more danger between homemade bike ramps and those burning hot, dangerously slick slides that could shoot you a good 5 feet off the bottom. And yes, there have always been flashers and pervs around. I also wonder, in the end, if we aren't doing more harm to our children by trying so hard to protect them.

Posted by: Non-Essential Equipment at June 21, 2007 06:50 AM (ouGp8)

3 I think there are two types of danger: 1) children harming themselves 2) other people harming children There is a problem with the former, that some parents want to protect their children from every boo-boo, but then in the long run the children are more susceptible to big boo-boos, because they never learn how to avoid dangerous situations, because they can't recognize them as dangerous. The latter is the thing that many parents nowadays really have to worry about. A car hitting their child, or their child being purposely harmed by someone else. My parents gave us a lot of freedom to harm ourselves, but raised us in an area where they didn't really have to worry about other people harming us. But I would be very wary of allowing my children the same freedoms we had on a small island, in this big city.

Posted by: CaliValleyGirl at June 21, 2007 09:18 AM (deur4)

4 I guess it's not clear to me that there are more harms out there today than before. I grew up around the time that Adam Walsh was kidnapped. And then after, there was a rash of other kidnappings -- one attempted fairly close to our house. Did my parents stop letting me go outside? No. They talked with me about how I was to never, ever accept a ride/candy/etc. from strangers. I'm beginning to believe it's just a different mindset today more than anything else.

Posted by: Non-Essential Equipment at June 21, 2007 11:08 AM (MmG3L)

5 It's hard to allow your kids to do things that you know are so potentially dangerous. After you become a mom, hearing the freak accident stories really affects you. Well, it did me, at least, and the news is plastered with scariness. A kid drowns in two inches of water in a bucket while the mother is hanging laundry nearby, a child chokes on the venetian blind cord while the mother thinks the kid is sleeping in the crib, a kid gets run over by a family member because of the limited visibility of those satan-created SUVs, a kid is strangled on the slide by his hoodie while the mom sits in plain view.... All of these things happen to mothers like me (and someday, you)! Not the I-don't-know-or-care-where-my-kid-is-I'm-smoking-crack mom, but the ones that take precautions and ARE paying attention. That makes it even worse! The worry and the guilt are enough to kill you! I don't know about letting kids do anything anymore. My parents let me do *whatever* and I grew up in the 70's & 80's in a pretty major city. I rode my bike all over, without a helmet, all day and into the night. When I was 5 or 6, I was staying home alone at night if they wanted to go out, "Don't answer the phone and don't touch the stove. Watch TV and go to sleep. We'll kiss you when we get home." I didn't have brothers or sisters. There were no cell phones, and barely 911.... And I am still here. Oh, but I will tell you another thing! My oldest fell off of a retaining wall and broke her arm. Her uncle was washing the car outside 100 feet from where she fell.... The looks you get from people when you have a four-year-old with a cast? Holy shit. You might as well wear a sign around your neck that declares you completely unfit for motherhood! Glares, stares, nasty looks. It's ridiculous. I WANT to be the mom that isn't so over-protective.... And then you see and hear what KIDS are doing these days.... At ages that are shockingly young? Sex in school, drugs.... My 5 year old wants a cell phone and an i-pod. What the hell for? "PSHAAA, Mom! To, like, CALL my FRIENDS and, like, LISTEN to music!?!" To which I raise an eyebrow and say, "Uhm, EXCUSE ME?" Then the little girl comes back and sheepishly kicks her toe into the ground and mumbles, "I was just kidding." Sure you were. Little windows into what's really happening in the school yard. If it were just playing hide-n-seek or climbing trees? Maybe!

Posted by: Wochenend mit bier at June 21, 2007 04:35 PM (7xqZi)

6 Having fallen off my bike and smacked my blessedly helmeted head on concrete in a situation that would otherwise have resulted in at best a concussion and at worst paralysis, I must say I am a strong advocate of bike helmets. Much like seatbelt anecdotes. I think safety is more important than looking cool.

Posted by: Sabbrielle at June 21, 2007 10:22 PM (nMpWu)

7 OK...I tried to leave a HUGungeous comment here yesterday, and it was not allowed. I didn't even swear in it... However, it did spur an entire post, in my head. Now if I can type it out, so it does not sound like the oooompa band in my head. I do know, it will make people mad.... and I hate to do it.... I am expecting onc I get it up, I will get hate mail, like you get. nice.

Posted by: armywifetoddlermom at June 22, 2007 11:22 AM (PpMPm)

8 Son's nearly four, so far I don't have to deal with letting him outside by himself because he's still too young not to wander into the street in front of a car. It's going to be hard for me when he gets older.

Posted by: Anwyn at July 09, 2007 08:55 AM (dzxw9)

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