When I was growing up, the world was a lot nicer. There, I have said it. There were no computers, no Internet (and I like both), cars were simple, roads were narrow, but life felt free and full of adventures. Now, there are way too many dangers everywhere. Or are there really?
When I was growing up, my parents had no idea that lead was bad for me or what things contained lead, so I just played with things. As soon as people found out about lead poisoning, kids’ freedom was restricted and some of their toys disappeared.
When I was growing up, people were nice to one another. There was hardly any TV, there were fewer newspapers and magazines and no Internet, so my parents did not know about any pedophiles and other creeps lurking in my home town and let me walk and ride my bike anywhere I wanted, as long as I came home for dinner on time. Nowadays, child molesters are “common knowledge” and kids spend most their time supervised by some adult or another, indoors if possible.
When I was growing up, parks were fun and many women enjoyed walking, jogging and sitting on the benches in them. Parks enhanced the quality of life. There may have been bad people in parks then, too, but not many people knew about them. In modern times, women completely avoid some parks, stay away from parks during darker hours and carry various protection devices with them, “in case somebody tries to attack them”.
When I was a kid, riding the train was great fun, especially looking out the window and waving at all the nice people I could see, many of whom also waved back. Pickpockets and other criminals must have ridden other trains than mine, because I certainly never saw any of them. Now, despite the enormous access advantage the train provides, living close to a train station is considered dangerous and property prices are lower there than they are further away.
When the Internet started spreading, many parents found it a great resource for their kids, full of new and exciting games that were a lot better than passively watching TV. It was easy to post your kids’ latest photos and anecdotes and share them with family and friends. The Internet was a positive thing. These days, open any newspaper or browse the news online and you are sure to find items about the dangers of the Internet, especially for kids.
For many years, a friend of mine used to spray water on his driveway in the winter, let it freeze and then use it as a fun slide. When his kids could do it, they joined in the fun too. But one day, his mother-in-law came to visit and slipped on the thin layer of ice. She sued him for damages (Get it? She sued her own daughter). My friend’s insurance promptly raised his premium and he has had to pay more insurance every year for having a “dangerous spot” on his property. My friend no longer waters his driveway in the winter. No more winter fun, kids!
How did all this happen? Who did this to us?
We did it to ourselves, I think.
You see, we are served up a lot of information each day, but what do we choose to pay attention to? What do we choose to buy? When do we tune in for our updates?
More importantly, what do we choose to do with the new information? How do we fit it into our model of the world and into the way we live?
I would say that, for the most part, bad news travels faster and hits deeper than good news. I would say we “want to be on the safe side” and avoid problems and pain, so we retreat further and further into our homes, behind our fences and our sunglasses, where criminals and other dangers cannot get to us. I would say that we are exposed to so much bad publicity of “other people” we generalize everybody into the “dangerous” category and start protecting ourselves from family and friends.
But I did not write this to make you sad. Of course not! I wrote this to give you hope!
You see, the power is in your hands to change all of this.
I say trust your environment enough to let your kids play in it. Even if there is some small amount of stuff they should not touch, trust their bodies to handle it when they are healthy and active. It is your choice to set your kids free and let them have fun everywhere they go.
I say ignore the newspapers, the magazines and the news on TV. Unsubscribe from instant messages to your phone and news-bearing email services. Not only will this free up your time, it will make your life a whole lot happier. Sure, things will keep happening, but your current state of mind is not due to what happens, it is due to what you choose to wash your brain with. Turn off the negative buzz in your life, relax and be happy.
I say keep an eye on your kids and practice sensible safety, by all means. Walking through a dark alley in the small hours of the night is never a good idea. Neither is leaving your 3-year-old kid alone in the house. But for the most part, parks, malls and other public places are fun and the people in them love kids in the most innocent way. Go out, touch the grass, sit under the trees and talk to other people with kids who also come to enjoy the park.
I say ride public transport and when you do, sit next to others and talk to them for a bit. When you block out everyone else with earphones or a mobile, you are only encouraging others to do the same. Smile! 99 times out of 100, the other person will return your smile and “defrost” in front of your eyes.
I say teach your kids to get you involved whenever they need to provide personal information over the Internet and gradually show them how to do it safely. There is so much safe fun to be had online your kids have the right to enjoy it too. Teach your kids it is safe to consult you and it is safe to let you know when something feels wrong. Then, learn to trust them and let go.
I say see yourself in the context of your family, your social circle, your community and the world, because we are all affected by other people and by working together we can always come up with better solutions. Whenever you make lifestyle decisions, always ask yourself “What kind of a world will this create for my kids?”
What do you say?