Life has changed for modern children. When I was growing up in the Midwest, you sought freedom — and if it wasn’t granted with a bicycle, then you found other, more nefarious ways, to run away and play far away from your doorstep.
It isn’t that way any longer. Today, kids are protected and driven and supervised in organized sports and cultural events. There’s no spontaneity now because there’s fear of the unknown and danger in the creative. No sandlot baseball. No football games with self-set boundaries and special scoring. Everything is regulation. There can be no divergence from the norm.
We’re creating a society of young people who are risk-averse and too frightened to set their own agendas and follow their own, unblazed, pathway. Fun is the new mysterious stranger. “Do what you want” is the new monster under the bed.
I don’t think we can blame the eggshelling of our children on guns or fear mongering or even a deeply hateful government that punishes the poor and the disadvantaged. I think we need to look more deeply into what the family core has become where scheduling and organization have done everything to punish the wild thought and the whimsical impulse. A bloody knee should be a badge of courage and not a failure of parenting.
Instead of encouraging our children into unknown danger so they can, one day, find their own way out of peril, we appear to feel no child of ours should ever suffer or feel deprived or be scared; so we overcompensate with companionship and tethering and filtering the world around them.
In many ways, children of the street are better prepared for a roughshod future than the mainstream kids who are chauffeured to soccer practice and home again in the back of a luxury SUV.
I’d rather have a hardscrabble kid on my side who’s been knocked down a few times and who managed to get up and stand up straight next to me, than a child who has been isolated and who has only been allowed to view the harsh realities of life from behind a window. There is something vital to the core of us in overcoming the unfair limits of a life that helps feed a mind and build a nation.