Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Child-Proofed Society


When I was a kid, the day following Halloween consisted of dumping the contents of my plastic orange pumpkin on the living room floor and eating mini Butterfinger after mini Snickers until every last piece was gone…or until I felt sick (whichever came first).  Of course, I would be sure to first pick out the Almond Joys and any other gross candy I could pawn off on Dad–including those orange and brown wrapped peanut butter candies that NO KID EVER ATE.  Why do they still sell those??  Anyway, I look back on my past Halloween memories with fondness and nostalgia–and also with a bit of a sweet tooth!
I was disturbed to discover recently that my mom’s friends carefully monitor the candy intake of their kids and after a few pieces, toss the remaining treats in the trash.  Oh, the horror!  All that perfectly good sugar gone to waste–not to mention the $30 or $40 each household shelled out to stock up on said treats.  Now I’m all for preventing your kids from running amok and eating everything in the house (are you aware of the ridiculousness that is childhood obesity in this country??).  However, can’t we reserve a single day of the year to let kids indulge their desires until they puke?  I started thinking about how much has changed since I was a kid in the early 80s.  (Pause for a moment as I climb up here on my soapbox.)  Hello, down there.  So as I was saying, it’s amazing how times have changed in the past 20+ years.  When I played  tee ball as a kid, we kept score.  What a concept.  There was a winning team and a losing team, and no one gave a crap about how losing the game might affect our future self esteem.  So we all got to play regardless of our skills (we were three years old, after all–so we all pretty much sucked).  My point is, though, that no one tiptoed around our feelings by preventing us from failing.  There were three strikes and then you were out.  Period.  None of this “you get as many strikes as it takes” business.  My goodness, we would still be sitting in the bleachers at that ball field, waiting on some kid to finally make contact with the ball, perched atop the rubber tee.  How do I know this?  BECAUSE I STRUCK OUT.  Looking back on it now, I laugh at how I managed to strike out in tee ball.  What does that say about my eye-to-hand coordination that I couldn’t hit a stationary ball off a tee?  Even still, striking out at age three hasn’t hindered my adulthood success in any way.  If nothing else, it taught me that I am not going to achieve pro status at everything I try in life, but the point is to simply try.

tee ball

Whenever I visit my child-rearing friends’ houses, I can barely open the fridge or a cabinet for all the child-proofing devices.  God forbid I need to plug in my iphone to charge because I’d first have  to remove the protective cover to the electrical outlet.  Please don’t mistake me–I believe in protecting kids from danger.  I wouldn’t allow my unborn children to play with matches or juggle knives, but I do  think we’ve taken protective practices a tad bit too far.  You may find it interesting to know that I once stuck a metal key in an electrical outlet when I was about two or three years old.  It shocked the $#&* out of me, but you know what?  I never did it again.  Live and learn.


You’ll be happy to know that I’m a strong proponent of seat belts.  In fact, I never ride in a car without mine buckled, but I find it interesting that many cars didn’t even come equipped with seat belts back in the day.  We would climb over our siblings in the backseat, all the while yelling and fighting on long road trips.  God bless my parents!  If I was feeling particularly bratty (oh, how I reveled in aggravating my big brother), I dared cross the unseen but very real “dividing line” in the backseat that was put in place to keep us from killing each other (and of course, to keep my parents remotely sane).
I also spent the better part of my childhood riding my bicycle up and down potholed-riddled streets, and not once did I don a goofy-looking bicycle helmet.  However, I’m yet to drive through my current neighborhood and cross paths with a child riding his/her bike helmetless.  I just feel like parents are overly protective of their children these days.  A child may fall off his/her bike, but chances are, they won’t sustain life-threatening injuries as a result of scrapes and scratches.  Such experiences and minor injuries help build character.
Perhaps someday, when I have my own children, I’ll be forced to eat these very words.  It’s possible I could become an overbearing, overprotective mama hen to my kids–the exact type that currently annoys me to no end.  But for now, my biggest personal concern is not raising a future generation of whiny, sissy kids that feel a sense of entitlement and demand an easy life with everything handed to them on a silver platter.  To the contrary, it’s keeping my dog, Charlie, from falling into the swimming pool.  But please know that, in order to prevent a potential drowning, I once threw him in the pool and forced him to become familiar with the tanning ledge step, should he fall in someday when we aren’t home.  He needs to know how to swim to the edge of the pool if an accident occurs.  You can’t teach a baby bird how to fly without pushing him out of the nest and forcing him to spread his wings.  It may be harsh, but it’s true.