Kids These Days: Is It Too Much?
Not too long ago I was chaperoning a field trip for my son’s class. We went to a museum that had an authentic exhibit about everyday life in Colonial days.
For those people who aren’t history buffs, this is a time before Cheez-its. People didn’t have cars. Couples didn’t get in fights over the thermostat, because basically, you either had a fire or you didn’t. Also, dinner was whatever had been killed alongside whatever was in the spooky root cellar with the spiders and possibly snakes.
It was a dark, dark period.
One plus, kids ate everything because they literally didn’t know when they would eat again.
Knowing how rough people had it though, makes me feel a little useless as a parent if I’m honest. As a kid, Laura Ingalls books were magical — but as an adult, the fact that Ma Ingalls never sat down unless she was darning socks, produces a little Stouffer’s Lasagna guilt in my otherwise stellar mom track record.
I comfort myself by believing that Ma Ingalls would have made a frozen pizza at least once a week if she had had the option.
On this field trip, I was pretty mesmerized by the authentic cabins we toured and the different areas where we learned blacksmithing, how to wash clothes with no Tide and how to make Pumpkin Spice Lattes from ingredients found in the garden. Talk about roughing it.
What really stood out was the description of what kids my son’s age (roughly 8 at the time) did to help around the homestead. Things like staying up all night to keep the fire lit, predator lookout (this involved unsupervised rifle handling), intensive field labor and lastly, let’s not forget the 10-mile marches, sometimes in the dark, to retrieve fire from the closest neighbor in the event that the family let theirs die out (also involved unsupervised rifle handling — in the dark).
And I’m standing there taking all of this in while holding a giant bottle of filtered spring water and a can of SPF 155 sunblock spray in the event that my own 8-year-old began to show signs of dehydration or was unintentionally confronted by the sun while on an overly chaperoned field trip.
I could almost hear the judgment of my foremothers as they cackled to one another and commented to each other on my DVR lineup.
My defense, though unimpressive, is our society just isn’t about survival anymore. We don’t have a lot of natural predators in these parts — unless you count pollen season in Atlanta.
It’s true though. A few years ago, parents were arrested for letting their kids walk to a park, unsupervised, in broad daylight. It’s called free-range parenting and it’s apparently illegal?
Not that long ago, it was called, “You’re 3 and 1/2, Phineas. It’s time to go get a job three towns over, here’s a lunch pail with a half a sandwich and a still twitching hog tail. You’ll find some water along the way.”
Let’s put all the life-risking stuff aside. I was born in the 1970’s and I don’t remember ANYONE caring about my water intake as a kid. My mother didn’t know the signs of dehydration. If she had, she probably would have handed me a Tab. I would hit the door at 8 am on a summer day in Georgia, play all day, never take a sip of anything except a half a glass of Five Alive at my friend’s house midday out of her Smurf glasses courtesy of McDonald’s’ Happy Meals. Noone dehydrated. All of our suntan lotion was single digit in it’s SPF and smelled of pina coladas. Life was glorious when no one knew what caused any type of cancer so we just carried on until told differently.
I was basically the Phineas of the 1980's…except without a rifle…or imminent life danger.
And yet, I feel like, we are supposed to be SO cautious of everything these days with our own children:
Dear Colonial Parents:
Coyotes have surrounded the school, please send your kids to class with their loaded rifles to help protect our building.
Dear 2018 Parents:
Tomorrow, Mrs. Smith’s class will be heading to lunch via Hallway B instead of the usual Hallway A. This will route us past a fairly large window. We’d like you to make sure your child is prepared for all possibilities by making sure he/she has:
1. Light-colored breathable clothing as the window lets in a lot of light and heat
2. Layers in case it’s chilly
3. A light jacket in case it’s windy
4. A heavy jacket in case there’s an ice storm
5. An umbrella and rain boots in case the window is leaking
6. A comfort item for emotional support during the change in route
7. A snack for hallway congestion which would keep us there longer than expected
9. Sunblock to avoid skin cancer.
10. A bottle of filtered spring water so no one DEHYDRATES
11. Will be sending a sign-up list for volunteers to chaperone the hallway change.
Two years ago a well-meaning nurse scared my son into a summer of water terror with her drowning statistics. Simultaneously, I was secretly happy as I racked up my own stats on dry drowning, which come to find out, IS BARELY EVEN A THING.
What happened to that John Wayne movie where he tossed a kid into that swollen from flood waters river because the kid said he didn’t know how to swim?
I guess this is just the world we raise kids in now. I too think it’s ridiculous. BUT…I’m STILL worried about my son’s electrolytes.
I don’t like for him to walk to our mailbox in the middle of the day. I tell him to not talk to ANYONE he knows or doesn’t know that’s in a car or a van, talking about puppies or offering candy or doesn’t know the secret word we’ve never actually discussed.
I sometimes, and for no apparent reason, Google and subsequently administer a quick lock jaw test in case he doesn’t remember stepping on something rusty when his antibodies were having a, “do nothing day.”
I want him to eat more carrots, though I’m not sure why.
I’m sometimes afraid he’ll get scurvy, even though I don’t actually understand how you get scurvy.
You know…just like my foremothers did.
I just think there has to be a middle ground. A place where we continue to encourage kids to be brave and independent but with, I don’t know, fewer black bears and dysentery.
Originally published at http://www.rachelwriteshere.com.