Sunday, July 27, 2014
Who Can It Be Now?
Over the past months I've been reading or hearing on the news how dangerous the world is, how good parents should not allow their children to play outdoors alone or walk to school with their friends. There are too many dangers out to get their children, too many bad people ready to pounce and goodness sakes, little Johnny might fall down and stub his toe. That must not happen and because of the paranoid fears of adults, children have been wrapped up in bubble wrap and not allowed to play. As the song says "Who Can it Be Now" wanting to harm our children, steal them away, or put awful trees in their path to climb.
You read that right - those awful trees. The latest story out of Regina (Sask) is about a city that is reacting to dangerous trees by placing a life sentence on their limbs, committing chainsaw horror destruction on their bark. The crime the trees committed - it isn't dry rot, that was my first guess. It's not due to being half-broken down from the recent storms that went through the area either. Oh no, it's far worse than that - a child was playing on the tree, having fun, probably hanging upside-down at one point and fell out on the cold, hard ground. The child broke his arm and that my friends, is the reason the trees were given a death sentence. The jury of citizens who use the park spoke out and rallied to protect the trees from the sentencing of the high court judge - who probably was never allowed to climb trees as a child and hated them in blind jealousy ever since. They are at the park, 24 hours, 7 days a week to stop the executioners from carrying out the sentence. Unfortunately 2 trees already met the death fate and word has it, they housed only bird nests - they were innocent of all charges. It's all very tragic.
While you gather yourself from laughing too hard - really, is that even possible? - and think what a cute story I wove, the sad part of all this is that it's the truth. Somehow my generation raised a generation of paranoid extremely frightened adults, who are now bubble-wrapping their children with all their fears of a future that may or may not exist. It's created children who are afraid, this generation of children are the highest diagnosed population of anxiety. This current generation of children suffers from inactivity and many children rarely run unchecked outdoors. It's worse in the cities but it's also here in small town nowhere.
It's tragic, sad and the fear is misguided.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - they definitely do!!
It's Always a Good Time - it sure can be, if you drop your fears and let go
Last night my niece showed off her new bike and her newly learned biking skills. She needs to learn to look better when on the road, but overall, she rides very well. She loves to ride fast and make her hair blow in the wind, that she creates with the fast speed. My heart goes in my throat but I hold back yelling "SLOW DOWN" because even if she does fall, she'll survive.
She wanted to ride without worrying on cars, so my brother and I went down to Riverside Park with her. This park is open land on the river with a walking trail loop. 10 acres, playground, covered area and a walking trail loop - perfect for bike riding and meeting new friends. We walked part of the loop, then sat back and allowed her to fly on her bike, unbridled, no restrictions except "remember to check at the intersection" (where the trail crosses the road going to the parking lot. My niece beamed with pride as she tore off leaving us behind at the playground equipment. She returned thrilled that she remembered all the rules and best, met a new dog. My niece is a dog magnet. She met up with 3 seniors who were out walking their dog. We watched from way back and saw that she was talking with them, then got off her bike to pat the dog. I couldn't see a dog at first, my brother remembered they had walked past us earlier with their corgi. When she returned she was smiling a foot long telling how she asked on her own to pat the dog, that she used all her maners and remembered to say thank-you.
If we were in a city all this would never have happened. I'm so grateful to live in a small town, in the middle of no-where.
Another story shared to me by a friend who was flabbergasted at what happened. A mother in Texas spent 18 hours in jail for allowing her 6 and 9 year old children to play outside "unsupervised." The charges were dropped but the ridiculous of the charges and jail time have made the rounds on the internet.
It takes me back to the time when I was a child growing up in the "city" of Surrey. While it's a huge city now, back in the days when my brother and I grew up, it was still considered country. We owned a farm and lived next door to other acreages. We often rode our bikes 5 miles down to the local pool in Port Kells alone. We'd spend the entire afternoon playing in the park, swimming in the pool and just having fun being kids. In those days the outdoor pools were free and we threw out stuff into cubby holes without locks (or doors to close) without fear that things would be stolen. Our bikes were left piled together on the ground because if anyone tried to steal them, someone would notice. Our parents would come and pick us up at the end of the day because riding home was literally "up-hill." It was a great time.
No one worried that we were all alone, from ages 6-12 years. We didn't have cell phones and there were no pay phones in the park, it was simply assumed that you would stay with your friends and if your parent needed to find you, all they had to do was look for the pile of bikes.
It's not to say there weren't dangers. There were. The road we rode our bikes on was a very busy avenue and at the start, we had to ride down a few hills - which we thought was awesome to do with our hands off the handle bars! It was like you were flying!!
I was around 9 years old when a man attempted to abduct me. I knew what to do. Not only had the school taught us how to stay safe, my parents had also taught me how to be safe. The man was in a car, he stopped and opened the passenger door telling me that my father had called to ask him to pick me up. I told the man he was a liar. The man switched to "I have candy" and I yelled something at him, then ran home. I don't recall ever feeling all that afraid. I told my mother, who called the school and the police. The next day I remember talking to my teacher, but I don't recall speaking to the police. I'm sure I did, as the police came to our school to remind us all how to be safe when walking to/from school. Mum said that she was terrified to let me go out alone and after one week of walking me to/from school (that was one mile down the road), I had enough. Dad finally convinced my mother to let me go on my own.
The thing is, it traumatized my parents, especially my mother but it did not traumatize me. That's the ticket - when as an auntie, uncle, grandparent, parent - you fear for your child's safety, ask yourself "is this my fear or is it my child's fear." That's what my parents had to do, and the answer was, it was their fear and not mine.
In fact, shortly after that I led a group of children to a home where we had never been and where we didn't know the people inside. I boldly knocked on the door and when it opened I said (paraphrasing), "Hi, your house is a beautiful mansion and we never seen mansions before, can we see your house.' I'm serious. This house was newly built and huge. We were all farm kids in old homes. I cannot remember how the woman reacted - I'm sure she was thinking she may have made an error moving into the neighbourhood as it was filled with insane children wanting to see her home. I recall that the house inside was huge, there was a massive chandelier in the entry and the stairs were spiral. I suppose she must have allowed us to see her home, as I recall bits and pieces of it.
Can you imagine that happening now? People would run screaming thinking "Children of the Corn" are out to eat me!
Back to the story of the killer trees. I remember times past when we climbed trees and spent hours up in the branches. If someone fell, oh well, you picked yourself up and continued to climb again. If someone broke a limb, you had the fun of signing the plaster cast. My brother was around 6 years old when he climbed the huge spruce in front of our house. My mother said he recalls hearing him call her name. She went out, looked up, went inside and slammed the door. She could not bare to look a 2nd time. He was at the very top, waving at her, as he swung the tree back and forth. The tree was taller than our house!
No neighbour called to report my mother for neglect and abandonment of her child because in those days, the entire neighbourhood would have to be brought in on those charges.
I remember going to Coquitlam, up on Blue Mountain, with my parents to visit family friends. There were a ton of children there and we all went outside to the back alley. The majority of us were country bumpkins and had never seen a back alley. It was nighttime, perfect to play those spooky games that kids used to play and freak ourselves out. It was great.
Or going to another part of Surrey to visit other family friends and spending hours outside in the darkness of night, playing "Kick the Can" while the parents were inside playing cards, having drinks and visiting. No one card that at 11 PM we were still yelling and laughing outdoors, having fun until one by one children went inside to crash in sleeping bags, brought by the parents to sleep. By the time the last one would crash to dreamland, I was already up on my mother, listening to the adults talk and being part of the grown-up party. I was a true night owl, so while my brother would be sleeping in the living room, I would be wide awake visiting. Only one time did a parent order me to go to sleep with the other children and my mother became Queen Grizzly Bear. It's not to say there weren't times that my folks went on their own, it's simply that I want to share how we weren't bubble-wrapped in over-protection.
Last night it felt freeing, it felt like we were back in the days before paranoia hit society. It was wonderful to watch my niece run to the playground equipment and join in the fun with other children she never met. It was great to see her walk over to not one but two sets of adults we didn't know, asking to pat their dogs. IT was great to see her ride the perimeter of a 10 acre park alone, the wind in her hair, a big smile on her face because we chose not to bubble-wrap her in fear. It was also great to see this group of children Maddie played with, ride up on their bikes alone without any adult present - the group ranged from 5 years of age to 12 years of age. It reminded my brother and I of days past.
Chose to find the norm and go outside with your children -whether it's a niece, nephew, grandchildren, your children or the neighbour's children - and have fun. Let them walk to school, let them play in the park and let them have a childhood because they'll be adults soon enough. Know that if they break their arm from climbing a tree, they'll get a cool cast and heal up. Know that if you teach them to be safe, they will - for the most part - remember your voice and all the directives to follow, when things happen. Let them be children - it's not only emotionally healthy, it's physically healthy too.
Last.........let yourself be a kid again. Go on a swing and remember what it was like to feel like you were flying. Go down a slide and remember the feeling of freedom. Laugh. Let go. Don't allow fear to hold you hostage indoors. It's healthy for kids, it's healthy for you too.
Enjoy a "Pocketful of Sunshine" today - get outside, forget about your worries and fears and enjoy life to the fullest. We only get one ride on this thing we call Life.
Get out there and "Soak up the Sun"!!