Southern Man

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hurt The Children

Eleven-year-old daughter and Southern Man spent most of today at the State Fair. Daughter had saved up enough allowance to chip in for half the cost of a ride wristband and so we slapped on on her and Southern Man watched her gleefully run from ride to ride. Then we would take breaks and go through the exhibit buildings and watch kitchen-gadget demos and eat unhealthy but delicious fair food. Repeat, several times. It was great fun, lasting from just after lunch until well after dark. At this point Southern Man will admit that he is not as young as he once was; she flat smooth wore him slick today.

There were several "fun houses" of similar design with moving floors and oscillating stairs and various other amusing obstacles. Many featured a large rotating cylinder through which the children would exit. And at one the cylinder wasn't rotating on its own so the kids would all get together and run up the side and make it spin anyway, to the great amusement of all. And as Southern Man stood idly by watching these laughing children at play a worried female voice behind him caught his attention.

Those kids are going to hurt themselves!

And Southern Man thought, what's wrong with that?

We coddle and protect our children far, far too much these days. The 'net is full of articles with titles like "Should Your Child Play Sports?" and "Game Of Tag To Be Banned At Recess" and "Are Playgrounds Safe Enough For Our Children?" We overreact when children are hurt; Southern Daughter's last school actually banned running in the playground after a child tripped and busted a lip. Heck, Southern Man can hardly remember a childhood game of Red Rover when someone didn't get hurt. It was just the way it was.

The truth is there's never been a safer time or place to be a kid than today in the United States of America. And as a result our children aren't getting some of the life experiences they need as children to function as adults. We need to let our kids run wild a little more often; let them wander and explore and even get lost every now and then; let them get into minor scrapes and figure out how to get out of them on their own; even let them get hurt from time to time. The last thing we need to do is treat our kids as though they were porelain dolls that must be confined in padded rooms to protect from the unknowable dangers lurking around every corner.

And there are plenty of parents who understand this. Southern Man recalls reading about the New York City mom who let her young son take the subway by himself. This actually made the papers. And her reaction, when interviewed, was to look puzzled and say "Well, how is my son supposed to function as an adult if he doesn't learn things like this now?"

Southern Man applauds her and hopes to atone for past sins by giving his kids a chance to get lost and fall into trouble and even get hurt every once in a while.


At Sunday, September 19, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a child of a "helicopter" mom, and a mother who tried really hard to not be one with her own son, I agree with most of what you say. However, since neither of us lives in NY, we really don't know how dangerous the subways are. Like I told my son, it's not necessarily that I'm worried about what he will do, it's the rest of the world, full of people (as we all know) who are ready, willing and able to kidnap, abuse, and murder the little ones, that I worry about. Mo.


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