Monday 31 March 2014

Clear and present danger? Not!

Last Sunday The Beloved and I went to a 60th bday party.  20 people, aged 9.3 to 93, sat down to a long table to a slap-up feed and then listened to some tribs to the birthday girl, then had cake and coffee.  On the way there, we stopped to buuy tea and milk in the village and found it heaving with people and chock full o' cars.  As I sat there live parked, I noticed a young mother struggling to get a push-chair out of the boot of her car and wrestle it into submission.  From the other side of the car trotted the load - a girl-child with two fully functional legs.  The distance from the car to the church whither everyone was bound was about 150m.  We raised three children and never owned or used a pram, buggy, push-chair or stroller.  Our experience was that, by an amazing evolutionary adaptation, by the time each child got too heavy to carry s/he was able to walk, or at least you could prop the wee thing up against a lamp-post and take a breather.  Why would you want to spend £500 on a piece of kit that fills your car-boot, inhibits the normal development of your child's legs and fosters dependency?  Carrying your child is effectively a hug, and youngsters can never have enough hugs.

At lunch I was talking one of the brothers-in-law and he mentioned how he and his sibs wondered and wandered through south Dublin 50 years ago for all the daylight hours and nobody even thought about getting worried let alone calling the police because they hadn't come home for lunch. This may remind regular Blobbies of my childhood boat trips on Lough Derg. The world has not gotten more dangerous, but we have nevertheless gotten more anxious.  There is an article in The Atlantic The Overprotected Child at the moment addressing this issue which mentions one father's estimate that his 10 year old had spent a total of 10 minutes in her entire life unsupervised by an adult.  The same article notes that in 1970 England 80% of 10 year olds walked to school but in 1990 less than 10% did so.  After a couple of play-ground accidents that resulted in multi-million dollar settlements to the parents of an unfortunate chap who fell on his head, towns and councils and local governments safetied everything up so that all the equipment was surrounded by rubber tiles rather than scabby grass or tarmac.  The number of play-ground related accident-and-emergency admissions shifted from 1:1452 (1980) to 1:1156 (2012) and the number of play-ground related deaths across the whole US fell from 23 to 13.  Those are vanishingly small numbers.  To compare, there are 1.9 million road traffic accidents causing injury including 43,000 deaths in the US each year.  There is even evidence to suggest that rubberised safety features, which don't actually have much impact on head-injuries, increase the number of long-bone accidents because the kids are less cautious/sensible.

Of course those deaths are tragic and we would all go to some expense to prevent that tragedy happening to anyone in our community.  But would we spend every available tax dollar providing helmets and chest-protectors for every child in the play-ground and making sure that a life-guard was present at all times with a defibrillator at the ready.  Not if that meant that there was no fire-service in our town, or that the streets were over-run with rats because the trash couldn't be collected, or that there was nothing to prevent strangers driving past the play-ground at 100km/h.  But it's not about the money, it's about whether we are turning our children into people who are incapable of taking responsibility for their own actions.  It will come home to roost, because if the younger generation can't take care of themselves they are definitely not going to have the inner resources to look after us in our old age.

"Better drowned than duffers, if not duffers won't drown"

1 comment:

  1. I won't even go on about the amount of teenagers who can't make a cup of tea, never mind work the washing machine because ballet classes are so much more important to their future then being able to feed and clean for themselves. Anyway only commented because you quoted one of my favourite childrens' book series. If your child can survive "We Didn't Mean to go to Sea then you are doing your job.