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Monday, June 21, 2010

Cotton wool kids

It’s a sad reflection of the age we live in that parents are now so over protective and so fearful of their children’s safety that their children are growing up scared.

It used to be normal and even healthy for kids to walk to school or catch public transport. Now parents are considered negligent if they allow their children to venture out on their own. I remember walking home with my friends in all kinds of weather, even slushing our way through mounds of snow. It was our time to chat and to chill out. My own boys walked home from school nearly every day, sometimes I joined them, if I was out walking whichever baby I had then, sometimes they managed on their own. Nowadays kids are shunted from school buildings into cars and back into their homes, with hardly any time to pause or catch breath. No wonder they head straight for facebook – they still need that time to chat and chill with their friends.

I grew up moving from one place to the other, if you count kindergarten I went to six different schools. Our biggest move was from USA to Australia when I was ten. I hated my parents for that. But in retrospect, at least my parents gave me my independence. I was allowed to ride my bike, go for walks, meet my friends, play by the creek or walk the dog from the age of 6 onwards. Earlier still, when we lived in an apartment block in White Plains, NY I remember playing in the open backyard with some other kids and no parents in sight! We even crossed the main road to the playground by ourselves.

As soon as my boys could walk I would push them out the back door and let them play in the yard. They had a sand pit and, depending on where we lived because we also moved a lot, they also had a cubby house, swings and a trampoline. Yes, they got hurt. Yes, there was blood. They would run inside crying and I would clean up their wounds, rub them better and send them outside again with a hug and a kiss, telling them to be careful.

As they got older, around 8 or 10, they would wander to the local park and kick the football or play cricket or just have fun with other kids. Its only now, at ages 17, 19 and 21 that I’m discovering what they got up to. They climbed trees and roofs and cliffs (where they lost my best screwdrivers), they skateboarded, roller bladed, rode their bikes, fell over and hurt themselves and each other, but generally had fun.

These days it is rare to see kids playing outside their fenced backyards, if at all. We are bringing up kids who don’t know what it’s like to run through parks, roll down hills, pop tar bubbles, play chicken, coast down snowy hills on your mother’s baking trays or kick a ball and retrieve it. We are bringing up kids who can’t cross the road by themselves or get themselves from point a to point b on public transport. We are bringing up kids who are too fearful to go anywhere on their own, too scared of germs to get dirty and too wrapped in cotton wool to enjoy themselves.

And when these kids eventually grow into adults will we, then in our old age, shake our heads and wonder why they have turned into scared, fearful adults who lock themselves in their homes or offices and refuse to venture into the wide world around them?


  1. This is sadly true. The world is a much different place now than it was when we were growing up.
    Thanks for your supportive comments on my blog, Ca88.
    Have a good week!

  2. I was talking about this just the other day.

    I feel sorry for kids now. When I was little during the summer I'd be outside all day. My mom HAD NO IDEA where I was.

    I was expected to be home for lunch and dinner. And if you heard your mom's voice calling for you during the day, you'd better hightail it back home or you'd not be sitting for a couple of days.

    We had so much more freedom to dream and think and do.

    Great post! And apologies for this missive.

  3. I am one of those paranoid moms who is outside with their child when she is playing. Everyone says the world we live in is different than when I was younger, but I know there was kidnappings and murders back then, so not sure where the fear really began and when freedom was taken away.

    I too, remember playing outside (with no parent in sight) and the only rule was I had to be home once the streetlights came on.

    It does make me sad.... I guess I have a fear that the one time I let her outside the fenced backyard by herself will be the times something bad happens. :(

  4. So much truth to this. Many of my first graders are so sheltered, they are not even able to play at a friends. As for my kids, sometimes I wonder if I give them too much freedom - they have more than I did as a kid. I think it is so important to let them stretch their wings. I loved this post.

  5. I shelter mine because of the neighborhood I am in, I don't trust it one bit! I hate it here.They go to their dads and he lets them roam free. So they get a little of both. I do worry though. It is a scary world, there are a lot of bad people out there. Neighbors need to link up and ALL watch out for "OUR" kids.

  6. I blame the media and the scare tactics used on the news and other shows for this!!

  7. In my neighborhood, some kids are restricted to their fenced-in backyards. I wouldn't even know what they or their parents look like, as around here it's all those privacy fences that you can't see through.

    But others do freely roam the streets and play, going from house to house throughout the day.

    Mine stay indoors, by their choice, for the most part. My son is autistic and doesn't care to have a social life at this point. When he used to try socializing with the neighborhood kids, they'd bully him because of his differences. I've been told by his teachers and his intervention specialist that he is friendly at school and does talk to some of the other students, so I know he is capable of getting along with others.

    My daughter is the social one, but isn't friends with any of the neighborhood kids. She tells me that they're usually the ones at school who are bratty and in trouble all the time. This summer she's become interested in visiting with her friends from school, but they need to be driven back and forth, as they live many miles away out in the country. (Our school district is rural, but we are located in that district even though we're on the edge of the city.)

  8. A many a roasting pan we did destroy by using them for tea parties in the park.

    It is sad, I was staying with friends about two years ago, and even though the school was literally across the street; at lunch one adult always went across to get the kids and take them back.
    Ten feet and you could even see the classroom from their living room.

  9. It’s sad that today’s environment doesn’t provide the same freedoms of youthful exuberance that I was able to enjoy.

    More and more children are playing the video games or spending time on the computer.
    The sad thing is that they don’t even know the joy and freedom of playing outside they’re missing.

  10. Those are great memories being a kid and having son had that too but we live in a rural setting. Cities are absolutely not the place for raising kids. Hard on the imagination to be so stifled.....

  11. So true. t makes me realize what a Mark Twain world I grew up in out in the country!

  12. What a poignant post. I recall the same sentiments from my childhood. I too moved around a lot, just like you I think I went to at least 10 different schools and then I became the child of immigrants as well. But we were not afraid of the dark and we definitely walked to school alone since we were six years old.
    The world is a very different place today. Even just a few decades ago it felt quit safe, much safer at least.
    Thank you so much for stopping by my place and for your very kind comment,

  13. Robyn - I sometimes wonder if the world is that different or if we just know more about it than we did then?

    Deborah - your childhood sounds like mine!

    Martha - I don't know what to say. I wish you didn't have to have such fears.

    Cheeseboy - I believe freedom is important, without it our kids will never be independent or grow into their potential. Thanks for stopping by!

    Seductress - at least they see both sides of life!

    Betty - I agree!

    Brenda - sometimes kids do choose to stay inside and I guess we have to respect their choice. When my boys were little I didn't give them that choice - I just shoved them outside to give myself some sanity time! But as they grew older video games tempted them into staying inside more.

    Domestic - I think we ruined cookie trays more than anything! They were great in the snow.

    Donut girl - I totally agree.

    Susan - very true and my boys mostly grew up in the country. However I'm a city girl and I hated country life.

    Kazzy - I grew up in the country too - well from the ages of 5-10 anyway. But from 10 onwards we lived in the city.

    Zuzana - I'm not sure the world is so different. I think we are just more aware of the bad things. Thanks for stopping by!