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?