I no longer have young children. The truth is, we have far too many officious busybodies around. The problem is that the penalty for crossing them is amazingly high.
When I lived in Japan, I was amazed all the fantastic parks. Here the parks are bland and boring–you can’t even have a merry-go-round. There, the parks were not inspired by liability reduction, so they were geared for the pleasure of the kids rather than the legal safety of the adults. Yes, your kid might sometimes get hurt. I think as kids we all knew someone who broke their arm falling off the monkey bars. Oh well, no one is to blame.
So in Japan we had “pirate ships” where the “sails” are rope netting you can climb up. There were large”slides” built into hills that had rollers on them rather than a smooth sliding surface (and you could get going very fast, so tell your precious little Bobby not to stand up on it). Kids loved that stuff. Of course, the parks were not hermetically sealed and incapable of contributing to injury. And the owners were certainly not legally liable. It was the parents‘ moral duty and legal responsibility to watch the kids or to somehow make sure they were safe.
In Japan, an older neighbor might notice a problem and correct the child. Kids just did not disobey adults, and there were watchful eyes all over. That is the way it used to be here. These days (here), the parents would get offended if you even tried to do that. So now people just keep their heads down and move on.
And I think there is a real reason we are seeing these changes: People don’t want to actually parent children. They don’t want to have to supervise the children. They want to fob off responsibility onto others. They don’t know the neighbors and they certainly don’t want to talk to them. I mean, I recall going over to the elderly neighbor couple’s house next door all the time and visiting with them (I once ran through their sliding glass door and had to get stitches on my face–I remember feeling her hands shaking as she tried to stanch the blood flow while her husband went and got my mother).
But now there is no community at all. Parents do not want to have to be there to say, “Don’t do that, Susie.” They certainly won’t tolerate a random adult correcting their child. They want someone else to be legally responsible for the safety of their children. They just want everything to be safe so they don’t have to be bothered. It is an abdication of parenting, plain and simple. We need to understand that this is borne out of not simply a desire for safety, but a desire for decreased parental responsibility and plausible deniability. THAT is the real issue.
I mean, we all knew of kids who drowned in the irrigation canal (we heard stories). It made one very careful. It also taught important life skills.
As a child of nine or 10, I used to ride my bike a couple miles to a nearby canyon and then drive down the steep grade into it and go swimming in a warm lake or pond that was there (or catching Bluegill). I would spend days unsupervised at neighbors’ houses (often playing with explosives–everyone had reloading equipment–and listening to music my parents would not approve of and other things like that). We often slept outside on the trampoline, which made it easier to go off in the middle of the night and spread toilet paper on someone’s lawn. Jumping off cliffs into the water was a big deal and lots of fun. I rode my bike for several miles in significant traffic to get to karate lessons. That kind of stuff would simply not fly today.