Childhood Bookmarks.

Kids these days.

I’ll tell you, we are the most overprotective paranoid society of parents. What happened?

When I was a kid, we rode our bikes, down a hill, without training wheels and possibly without shoes. Now, parents raise their eyebrows if your kids aren’t clad from head to toe with elbow and knee pads, gloves and helmets, just to ride down their driveways. What the fuck? No one even watched us ride our bikes. If we fell, we got banged up, skinned the shit out of our knees and palms and rang our bells so hard that we saw animated blue birds chirping in circles of fairy dust around our heads. And you know what? We learned, pretty quickly, how to ride a bike and not to fall, because it hurt like shit. Now when a kid falls, mom, who’s been nervously chewing her cuticles watching from arm’s-length away, runs over and helps him up, hugging his overly protected ass, while walking him inside to feed him a bowl of organic, fair trade, vegan ice cream as she hops on her iPad to research safer bikes.

It’s bullshit people.

We rode in the front seat, we hung our heads out the window, we ran and played in the woods and got scratched up with stickers. We ran free all day with the neighborhood kids and only came in when it got dark. We were kids, and we were allowed to learn from our mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that our world has changed and that there are things we must do to keep our children safe from the crazies of the world, but the general over-protectiveness has simply gone too far in my opinion.

My kids don’t wear helmets or knee pads to ride their razor scooters, and they have torn up knees to prove it.

My scars are like bookmarks through my childhood, each with a story to tell. The two large ones that cover my knees are reminders of the hot summer day when I ran and fell, skinning them down to the bone on the pebble-stone stairs of Jackie’s front sidewalk, and the band-aids and scabs that peeled off again and again until autumn. The long scar on the inside of my right elbow, a souvenir of a broken arm, bent completely backwards doing a cart-wheel down a wet, grassy hill at the bus stop, landing me on my back in traction for two weeks. The dent in my right eyebrow, a memento of the rock that split my head open during a mud-ball battle in the dirt foundation of a house that was being built down the street. The pencil lead in my left palm, a keepsake from second grade. All of these are little heirlooms which decorate my youth. Although they hurt at the time, the memories attached to them are happy ones of simple times dipped in the sweet nostalgia of innocence.

Just because I don’t have my boys geared up to ride scooters and bikes doesn’t mean I don’t love or care about them, just the opposite. I love them enough to let them fall, let them learn to get back up and try again, because that is life. There are consequences, and mommy is not always going to be there to fix it for them. Of course I worry, and I hate to see them get hurt, but I want them to learn their lessons from their actions and mistakes. I don’t want them to be afraid to get back up and do it again, I want them to get back up in spite of it and try again and again until they get it. It’s a basic fundamental lesson and skill set that I want them to have firmly in place.

We all need to get a little banged up to learn that lesson effectively, and my hope is that one day their scars will remind them of simple, happy times, as they continually get back up on the proverbial bike of life.

Just one of my many lessons.

Just one of my many lessons.

25 replies

  1. Tracy, you bring up an interesting perspective on child-safety and childhood “fun”. I too have some of those childhood bookmarks all firmly and graciously seared into my memory. Parents can indeed be detrimentally over-paranoid to where kids only learn ‘by word-of-mouth’ which has its limits. If I may humbly suggest an additional factor compounding the paranoia: American business marketing to drive more revenue, e.g. highest insurance premiums, safety equipment, mega alarm systems for homes, et al. It all feeds a consumer-driven economy.

    I guess we are all suppose to eventually live in impervious bubbles, huh?

    • I absolutely agree it’s the marketing further feeds the paranoia, but only because there is a market for it. The thinking is this; if you buy safer equipment, you are a better parent. If you do not, you do not care about your children.

      It’s stupid. I’ll stick to band-aids.

  2. I was reading about how our new über-safe playground equipment fails to challenge kids. They don’t learn to risk the leap from one ring to another. They cannot go fast on a new safe plastic slide. There are school districts banning dodgeball, because it’s “mean”. I think that kids miss so much. There’s nothing better than being the little kid and taking out a bully with that dodgeball!

    • I couldn’t agree more. Having young kids I see this shit all the time, and it drives me crazy. Now when they play sports, ALL teams get a trophy at the end, to “be fair”. That one kills me, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It’s about learning to accept defeat as well as celebrating victory. If I ruled the world…sigh.

  3. That was hysterical! I had pretty much the same experiences but no broken bones which is quite amazing as I was a horrible bike rider. I remember all of the nieghbor kids running beside me while I was trying to learn to ride a huge but beautiful teal colored bike that was too big for me. Everything was too big for me, I was little. I have a scar on my right big toe from another huge bike that was too big for that I was riding with no shoes. No helmet. No pads of any kind. I even got in trouble for splattering blood in the bathtub. No sympathy for bleeding to death from a toe wound. Oh the good old days.

    Nowadays though the hospital might be the one who calls social services on you for not protecting your child enough.

    • See, that’s what I’m talking about. How clearly you remember the big teal bike, your size, the neighborhood kids and your bloody toe. I bet that’s a GOOD memory now. Kids need to learn to shake it off, not be coddled at every bump and scrape. Jeez.

  4. Oh those damn pebble-stone thingees!!

    I loved flying down that hill on my bike, no hands, no helmet, no worries.

    My husband thinks it’s weird bc I’m so not worried about my kids breaking bones, bleeding, etc but I’m still my mother’s daughter…she and I never met a situation we couldn’t turn into a disaster waiting to happen. So I’m not worried about them walking on top of the monkey bars in the rain or doing flips off my bed but I’ll make myself sick to my stomach thinking about the apple I sent in their lunch. Surely they’ll take too big of a bite and right then someone will do something hilarious and they’ll laugh getting it lodged in their throat. Then they’ll be too embarrassed to get an adult and their friends will think they’re being funny and before you know it, it’s all over. That’s a mild version of what I worry about all the time! And…I do make them wear helmets, though, and took Connor out of football bc brain stuff does scare me.

    Thanks for the memories!

    • Those pebble-stones ruined my future career as a knee model, that’s for sure. I’ve carried those scars my whole life, but the memory attached to it is a good one. I remember I got a brand new shiny red bike, banana seat, and training wheels. I rode it down to your house, and your Uncle Jack took off the training wheels and sent me flying down your driveway. I was terrified, and amazed as he yelled “NOW PEDAL” as I hit the street, and it worked!

      I worry about the little crazy stuff too, like Wyatt splitting his head open playing in the bathtub. Never mind I caught him with his tongue out licking the conveyor belt at the grocery store last week, or jumping out of trees like a lunatic. He’ll learn.

      Just think of all the crap we did, and we survived.

  5. My mom kicked us out the door during the summer and then locked it, just as all the other parents in town did to their kids.
    I think I’m sometimes too protective not because my kid might get hurt, but because I will likely have a stroke upon receiving the medical bill.

  6. I agree with you a thousand thousand percent. And I agree that we’ve been marketed into it, and that there’s thinking like you say that the safer the kid the better the parent, but I also think we parents as well as everyone else has taken on a judgemental holier than thou attitude where we’re just dying to whisper about how so and so fucked up and didn’t get/do/make the right whatever. It’s like what the media does with celebrities, drooling to find things to judge. Why do we do that???? I had leanings towards letting my kids run free but I also dreaded not only them getting hurt but also the censure of the others and the feeling that I had messed up. Man. As if we can prevent every bad thing from happening! We can’t. We can do things smartly to try and avoid the worst but sometimes bad things just happen. Blaming is too much a part of what happens next. Sorry to rant but I so agree with everything you said.

    • You are so right. Mother’s freaking get off on feeling superior in their parenting. They feel better about themselves by making others seem inadequate, it’s so stupid. It’s like a herd of Mom’s, they all follow along with the trends and the judgement, until some of us stand up and say fuck that, as we send our kids down a hill without pads to skin his knees like a normal person. More women need to open their eyes and see that we are buying the fear that they are selling.
      Thanks for your awesome comment.

  7. I agree with everything you said as well. A parent’s
    job is to prepare their child for life.the good and the
    bad, the wins and the losses and manage disappointment with grace.

    • Absolutely. It’s our job to let them learn, because as we all know, there is nothing worse that a bratty, entitled, overprotected kid who’s mommy fixes everything for him. Barf.

  8. You mean I don’t need to put on a safety helmet to read this post?

    I agree 100% – and it’s even HARDER to let go and let a child do what he/she needs to do when they’ve been sick in the past – but we have to stop hoooooooooooooovering over them – b/c they can’t cope with the real world as they get older.

  9. I agree with helmets and better food, but after that, I think parents need to relax. They not only overprotect them, they overschedule them with lessons and tutoring and sports and other activities, so that kids don’t have any time to just be kids. They don’t have any imaginations because they don’t get to have any alone time or imaginative play. Everything is supervised and carefully controlled. On top of it, everyone seems to think that they need to be medicated because they fidget and have short attention spans, hallmarks of childhood if I ever saw any. I wish more parents were like you.

  10. it just isn’t the same world anymore, Tracy.
    But at least you’re showing your boys a different, simpler way of living. I just hope they survive it!

  11. I’m more over-protective of my children than my parents were of me, but I also don’t cripple them either. My children have never worn the protective gear, even though they received them as birthday gifts. “Aren’t you going to make them wear them?” somebody once asked me. “Nope. I never did and I’m still here, aren’t I?”

    • I had 2 steel pins through my elbow in traction hanging like that for almost a month, then once it finally came down, a full cast for another month or so. It was awesome. And by awesome, I mean sucked.

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