I see in recent articles there is a new trend towards exposing kids to an element of physical danger in order for children to be better able to cope with the world they must inevitably enter. Says the Guardian, normally the preferred publication of the British Left, “children need to be exposed to risky play. For ‘helicopter parents’, this might be difficult – but kids need to learn to manage danger themselves.” Cuts and scrapes are a good thing the article says as it teaches kids self-reliance. Continuing the Guardian suggests, “Learning to light a fire is a rite of passage for most children, and from the age of three they can be actively involved in feeding and managing a small bonfire. You’ll want to supervise of course, making sure they’re not wearing flammable clothing and showing them how to behave safely…water, too, is an essential healthy risk. Let them climb in streams and fall over in the sea wearing all their clothes, let them slide in mud on a salt marsh or go wild swimming in a river. You can even discover and crawl through tunnels below rural roads, where streams pass under. “
It reminded me of my own childhood where kids went out in the morning when not in school and returned for lunch and then disappeared until supper. We got into all kinds of scrapes literally. I remember when I was about seven, hitchhiking, yes hitchhiking, with my 12 year old brother 6 miles to Chatham to a Saturday matinee at the movies. Aside from the hitchhiking, which was socially acceptable then and nobody seemed to worry too much about predators, (it was Canada, after all), I wonder what today’s parents would think of the stuff we watched at those matinees. They showed newsreels then, a roundup of the week’s events in an era where television news was just coming on the scene. So here we were, a bunch of 6 to 12 year olds, eating popcorn and watching Senator Joe McCarthy and the Communist witch hunt; or learning that the convicted spies, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg had been put to death in the electric chair at Sing-Sing. Atmospheric nuclear bomb tests were a staple of these newsreels, as were the “kickers,” the last segment of the newsreel that inevitably involved scantily clad women in a bathing suit contest or something similar. The terms “trigger warning” and “safe places” were unknown then. After the newsreel, there would be cartoons, filled with animated violence and then the supremely violent and howlingly funny Three Stooges, (Nyuk, nyuk). Finally, would come one or two westerns, which were dominated by endless saloon fights with furniture being crashed over people’s heads, or gunfights where the “six-shooters” nonetheless had an inexhaustible supply of bullets. After it was over, we hitchhiked back home for supper.