Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Safety Paranoia

I hate Ann Widdecombe. Which means that when she actually does go off on one on a topic I agree with I wind up transferring that hate to the aforementioned topic and then compound it based on the level of stupidity that she's pointing out.

In this case it's an article that I first had my attention drawn to by Murdoch Propaganda Incorporated – UK Edition. Or, as you're probably more familiar with on this side of the Atlantic, Sky News. This is what happens when my parents visit. I get my news junkie tendencies from them, but while I prefer Al Jazeera or BBC World News (and Russia Today for comedy purposes) they're inexplicably happy to watch Sky. Well. At least they didn't try bringing a physical copy of the Daily Mail into my home. However, I digress.

Having flicked the TV on for the first time in seemingly days I came across a piece about how the August 7th is National Play Day (traditionally held on the first Wednesday in August) and that there's an alarming number of parents who pretty much bubble-wrap their offspring, hover over them like a Cold War era U2 spy plane and start having palpitations as soon as their precious darlings show any sign of risk taking. After scowling in disbelief at the screen I poked around online and found that one of the only recent news articles confirming the statistics was courtesy of Ann Widdecombe in the the Express, voicing as much outrage as I was feeling.

Now I do have some sympathy for the fear of harm befalling one's child. Christ, just read my last post if you haven't. (By the way – I'm leaking far less at the eyeballs and the terror is far more manageable now, although there remain a few lingering fears and niggles scuttling around the back of my brain like vermin trying to chew their way into the rest of my mind.) However in my not especially humble opinion, depriving your children of the chance to clamber up trees, frolic in dirt, and generally take risks is another form of child abuse. Something like 25% of parents are guilty of this. So. That's a swathe of one in every four kids (give or take) whose childhood will consist of sedentary blandness.

So well done there. In addition to your behaviour making you agree with Ann Widdecombe (almost as bad as Mitt Romney's idiocy making me side with Boris Johnson over the London Olympics), you and your paranoia are also probably going to make the obesity epidemic that much worse, not to mention just outright denying your children the chance to have a “normal” childhood.

I think about some of the stuff I got up to as a child and aside from a few incidents (jumping off a 15 foot diving platform to capsize my brother's rubber dinghy when I was six springs to mind.) there isn't much I wouldn't want my kid doing. Well. Not now, obviously, but the fact he can only hold his head up for about five seconds a a time sort of limits the mayhem he can wreak.

I grew up in the developing world so I was lucky enough to spend most of my spare time in the outdoors since television was mostly propaganda and nowhere near as interesting as the wildlife in my garden. I was forever climbing up trees, or gates, or walls, or just about anything that could serve as a climbing frame. At least one knee or elbow would be skinned at any given point. Sure, I'd scream my head off at the time when I initially fell off my bike or took a spill on my skates, but it wouldn't stop me from getting right back out there as soon as I was disinfected and patched up.

Now as an adult I've taken up kickboxing, I enjoy paintball, and tend to spend more time in the pit at gigs than I do at the bar (unless the queue is really bad or the sound is so dire I need a veil provided by alcoholic haze to be able to hear what it is the band is allegedly playing). I've had crowd surfers dropped on me, combat boots to the back of my head, and been winded and sent flying by overly enthusiastic fans.

I'm not saying that this sort of thing is going to be everyone's cup of tea. But what I am saying is that the knocks and scrapes I got as a kid have taught me a few things; how to handle pain, how to keep my senses about me when I'm in a situation likely to result in pain or injury, and how to take risks within reason. I want my boy to be able to do the same.

I'm sure there'll be some parents who'll think of me as a dreadful parent myself for allowing my child to risk injury and harm to himself by climbing up trees or riding his bike with friends on his own or taking him with me to a festival. That's fine. They're entitled to their opinion just as I'm entitled to mine. What I am fairly certain about, though, is that I'll be having a whole lot more fun than they will with my little hellraiser. 

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