Rebel without much of a cause

Rebel without much of a cause

In fear is shaping our children in the USA Today, Patricia Pearson begins:

“Summertime…and the livin’ is easy.”

Well, it used to be, anyway. [Now summers are] fraught with peril… for parents. Allergies, skin cancer, air pollution, injuries, drownings, heat stroke, West Nile virus … oh my.

Gone are the golden afternoons of my own childhood, when I left the house without a hat, or sun screen, to noodle about on my bike (without a helmet) and play hide-and-seek in the bushes (without benefit of mosquito repellant or pedophile spray) and invariably stayed out until supper (which consisted of fattening foods).

I’m a rebel. I’m sorry. I don’t think it’s right to be conveying to my bright, robust children that they need to be anxious, at all times, and never take risks…

Ok, so Pearson is brave and tough and cool. And of course she has a point. Plenty of parents go overboard and I’ve made similar observations myself from time to time. But I’m not sure things were so idyllic in the past or that they are so bad now.

When I was a kid in the early 1970s we certainly worried about most of these things, too. Maybe Patricia’s mom didn’t bother, but mine made sure I wore a hat and sunscreen; bug repellent too when we went hiking in the woods. There were also air pollution alerts (at least in Washington, DC), and we definitely were careful about drowning and injuries.

Maybe Patricia forgot about some of the other charms of olden times, such as:

  • Unbelted kids sitting in the back of station wagons while their unbelted parents drove up front
  • Kids with dairy allergies forced by their parents to drink milk even though it made them throw up
  • Air raid sirens and drills in school in preparation for nuclear attack. (Was this really less anxiety-provoking than today’s concerns?)
  • Bullying on the playground and in the neighborhood

I didn’t wear a bike helmet growing up. NHL players didn’t wear helmets then either. They do now, and so should Patricia and her kids.

September 7, 2006

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