Do as I say, not as I did
Last month I stumbled across this article and it has been on my mind since. In case you don't care to follow the linky, the upshot is this: the city of Burlingame, California was considering requiring a permit to be applied for in advance if you want to BBQ at any of the city’s 16 public parks. Mind you, this was not in response to an incident, but because they were concerned that someone *might* get injured. As chairwoman Karen Dittman is quoted in the article she, "has witnessed barbecues near picnic tables within 50 feet of the playground area at Village Park on California Drive (emphasis mine)." Good-bye spontaneous Saturday afternoon BBQ's in the park - not that I ever BBQ in a public park, or even live near Burlingame. But it's symptomatic of much more.
I'm constantly fighting the urge to overprotect my kids. I don't let my 8 year-old son ride his bike the four blocks to school without my husband or I accompanying him, but I do let him hang in our cul-de-sac with his friends without constant adult monitoring...unlike my neighbor who insists that the boys be CONSTANTLY watched.
I don't let my daughter sit inside the shopping cart (that's just gross), but I do let her stand on the side while I push it...unlike my husband who thinks that is a recipe for a cracked skull. Because those two extra inches of the floor are going to make ALL THE DIFFERENCE.
A friend of mine has four kids, the oldest my son's age, the youngest my daughter's age, and a couple thrown in-between for good measure. The three oldest are boys, and they are rough and tumble and tough and spirited, and their little sister can keep up with her brothers. They are one big force field, whirling through the neighborhood stirring up the energy level of every kid with whom they come in contact. They have more freedom than most kids I know these days: roaming further throughout the neighborhood, checking in less frequently, jumping off things I can't imagine how they got on top of, exploring places most kids don't know exist. And they get injured; the family is familiar with the ER.
Those kids are having SO MUCH FUN. When I am at their house I am reminded of my own childhood, when my brother and four cousins (also all boys) and I would take off in the morning, stop in at one of our homes for lunch, go back outside and make it home in time for dinner. Often we went back outside afterward to play flashlight tag. Sometimes we'd pack ourselves lunches and take off for the entire day. We rode our bikes to school through woods on trails that we made ourselves, bouncing over tree roots. Without helmets. Sure we had our share of contusions, scrapes, sprains, and even a couple of broken bones and one concussion. But we were also learning self-reliance and confidence; we were exploring the world around us while fostering bonds that last to this day. Not to mention we were getting exercise, lots and lots of exercise. I'm sorry, but the Wii doesn't compare.
Clearly things are better now in many ways...the helmets, the seatbelts (I still remember the car accident I was in as a kid; my brother and I slid around the back seat bumping into each other and giggling as the car spun in circles) and carseats, the lack of metal shards that attack you on merry-go-rounds. But...where are the swingsets? Gone because KIDS FALL OFF THEM! They don't build forts because they can GET A SPLINTER. Kids are rightly being taught all of the things that they should be afraid of: strangers, choking, falling, mosquitoes, poison berries, etc. But I fear we are going too far, because the fallout of this fear is that many kids aren't learning how to function independently. They are huddled in their homes, safe. But at what cost?