Saturday, January 26, 2013

Bubble-Wrapped Children

I was very pleased the other day, when approaching the house, to see children playing cricket (that’s a funny game with a ball, a big stick, and some smaller sticks stuck in the ground, for the American audience) across the road. How terribly dangerous, I hear you say. How could the parents be so irresponsible? Well, bollocks, I say to that. Ours is a quiet street; and to see children actually outside, actually touching things, actually moving their arms and legs, and not just their fingers and thumbs, was a delight.

When I was a boy (he says, rinsing his teeth under the tap) we used to play outside all the time. Nowadays, we are too concerned with wrapping our children up in bubble-wrap, to protect them from the evils and dangers of the world. The children themselves are more concerned with virtual than “real” reality. Schools have regulations forbidding children to climb trees. Our children have to be driven to school and picked up afterwards, to protect them from the evils that lurk in the streets. We are constantly sending a message to our children that the world is a dangerous place. We protect them all the time from difficulty and hardship, to such an extent that they will have no idea how to deal with these things when they inevitably face them later in life. We obsessively (but futilely) protect them from bacteria and viruses. If we were successful, they would have no natural defences in the future. Because we are not, they have no psychological strategies for coping with illness.

It is a cliché, but we learn from our mistakes. It is a cliché, because it is true. Learning generally occurs through struggle and hardship. Because we make life easy for our children, they are unwilling to make the effort. Effort doesn’t always feel good, at the time. If our children are taught to avoid all pain and discomfort, is it any wonder that they have no desire to subject themselves to pain and discomfort in order to attain a goal? It seems that we want to create a flat world, a world without hills and mountains. It hurts, after all, to climb a steep hill; and pain is to be avoided at all costs. Actually, the world is a dangerous place, and that’s a good thing. It provides us with opportunities to strengthen and better ourselves. Protect us from this new breed of “flat-earthers.”

The truly ironic thing is that, in this world full of dangers, probably the most dangerous place is the home. The evils lurk, not in the streets, but in the home. When children are harmed, it is far, far more likely to be by someone who “loves” them, than by a stranger. So let’s get the kids out on the streets again, where it is safer.

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