Friday, December 29, 2006

Kids these days...

The other morning I was eating my breakfast at work, and idly took notice of the image on the side of my McDonald's bag. It was of a herd of appropriately multi-culti, gender diverse, differently-abled kids swanning about on bicycles, complete with elbow pads, knee pads, helmets, and training wheels.

"What's up with the safety thing these days?" I mused aloud, "I've never owned a bicycle helmet. Then again, I've never owned a bike since I got my driver's license, but that's neither here nor there..."

"My parents made me wear a helmet," said my gunsmith.

"What? You're my age, Shannon. I don't remember there even being bicycle helmets when I was little. They didn't wear helmets in the friggin' Tour de France back then, probably."

"Well, it was actually a football helmet..."

"Did your parents hate you?"

When I was growing up, the best use for a bicycle helmet would have been to prevent head injuries when the neighborhood kids beat the crap out of you for wearing a bicycle helmet. It was a much more savage and lawless time on the playground in those days, and one wonders if our modern predilection for defeating Darwin won't have repercussions on the vitality of the race down the road. In these depressing times I've seen people want to go to emergency rooms for "injuries" that wouldn't have rated a Time Out from a pine cone war when I was a kid. I remember one neighborhood kid who stopped a BB during a territorial dispute back in the day...

"Gee, Bobby, you're bleeding like a stuck pig."

"Can you see the BB?"

"No, it's in there too deep. God, I'm sorry; I swear I only pumped it three times, honest."

"Maybe I should tell my mom so I can get stitches."

"Are you kidding? We'd all be grounded for the rest of our lives! Tam, go see if you can sneak some bandaids out of your house."

...and Bobby cowboyed up and drove on, and the BB gun war was forgotten, and we spent the rest of the afternoon on the same team, clearing the swamp of Orcs (or Germans or Indians or Klingons or whatever was infesting it that week.) For all I know, Bobby's still carrying that BB around in his arm.

Not today, though; today we sap and impurify kid's precious bodily fluids by swaddling them in bubble wrap from their first breath 'til the age of majority, when we then expect them to vote responsibly and make wise financial decisions. We need to stop. We need to weed out the slow and the stupid again. We need to let Darwin back into the home. Take the covers off your outlets. Store your dangerous household chemicals in the middle of the living room floor. Keep a pet Bengal tiger.

Please, it's for the good of the species.

27 comments:

3yellowdogs said...

Couldn't agree more. One of the worst symptoms of this is the no-scorekeeping, everyone-gets-a-trophy sporting events for little tykes.

The kids actually hate it. It goes against human nature to ignore the score of a competitive game and pretend winning doesn't matter. The kids know better and keep track in their heads.

Heaven forfend we should crush someone's fragile, developing psyche by letting them know they actually lost a baseball game. Next stop - bell tower.

Grant said...

"today we sap and impurify kid's precious bodily fluids"

Thank you, General Ripper!

Tennessee Budd said...

We used to have acorn and bottle-rocket wars, as well as the obligatory BB-gun wars.
We're raising a generation of wimps.

markm said...

"The kids actually hate it." So true. The very first thing one of the kids at my new school in 1962 told me was, "Keep out of the middle of the merry-go-round, Jimmy broke his legs in there." So I made darned sure not to slip down far enough to get body parts pinned between the fixed base and the rotating struts. When I got tired of that, I went over to the "monkey bars", climbed up to three times my height, and swung around the bars. And no one got any injuries that a few bandaids wouldn't cover.

Look at the playground equipment that's replaced that merry-go-round, monkey bars, slides, and swings. Steel bars have been replaced with rounded plastic. It's engineered so you can't fall out of it. Etc. So watch real kids playing with it. They try to climb up the outside of it, and generally do anything but using it in the safe and boring way it was designed for.

So what's happening now? All equipment is disappearing from school playgrounds and public parks. All the kids have left to play with is each other, and I wouldn't be surprised if that includes tearing the weakest one's arms off and beating him with them. A pack of bored kids under little supervision is more dangerous than allowing kids to test themselves against a potentially dangerous inanimate object - but it doesn't give parents anything to sue over.

BobG said...

Have to agree with you; my dad was of the opinion that bruises and scraped knees were Mother Nature's way of teaching you grace, agility, and how to watch_out_for_yourself. His attitude was that anything that didn't cause serious injury was a valuable learning experience. Maybe that is why some of the youngsters these days seem so clumsy (to me, at least); people kept them from getting hurt while they were growing up.

Joe said...

I still haven't figured out how I made it thru the 70's as a kid. We had dirt clod fights, spear throwing, the 3 Stoodges on TV, and various other things that these modern nannies would lose their minds over! I turned out okay ( somewhat ) without having rode a bicycle around without a helmet on!

Joe R.

angus lincoln said...

I never had a helmet to wear while riding my bike as a kid, but I do remember wishing I was provided with an athletic cup on more than one occasion.I blame lawyers and stupid law suits as to what we face now regarding the over coddling and super sensitive, liberal parenting of modern day kids. As usual Tam, your observations are right on the mark.

Anonymous said...

I blame all this coddling for the drastic increase in allergies and ADHD in today's kid. I mean, did
ANYONE our age have an allergy to peanut butter??? We'd have all starved!

Mel

Anonymous said...

"ANYONE our age have an allergy to peanut butter??? We'd have all starved!"

Actually a good friend of mine did, the difference between then and now is at from 10 years old until we graduated high school. I carried in my bike bag or kept in my school locker a syringe and epinephrine or adrenaline and was to administer it if he started having an anaphylactic reaction. That sort of behavior would cause the powers that be to lose their collective minds now days.

Mike

Michael said...

"That which does not kill us, makes us stronger." Still true today as the day it was penned. I remember BB gun wars, bottle rocket wars, dirt clod wars, hell we fought with anything and everything and we all survived.

My sister-in-law is raising her two sons right (16 and 14 now). Several years ago we were at their house visiting and the local wild things were fighting with sticks (as young boys are prone to do). There were the usual yells and war cries and occasionally a rather loud pain cry, when my sister-in-law decreed; "Alright! the next person to GET hurt is in trouble!" The fighting didn't stop, but the bitching and crying did.

comatus said...

"Day-umn. Wish I'd written that."

bjbarron said...

Dirt Clod Wars were the best. I remember my brother taking one in the mouth - had to scrape it out with a stick and walk him a half-mile to get water...then right back to it.

The "lets-see-what-we-can-make-out-of-this-that-is-cool" was great too. Still have the scar - parents never found out.

Five Words:

Chemistry Set Army Men Explosives

Sweet memories.

Sparky said...

Well, the kneepads and elbow guards for bicycle riding are a *teensy* bit much. But if the kid is riding anywhere near traffic, then an EPS head-condom isn't a bad idea. Falling off your bike riding on a park path or puttering around private property is one level of risk. On suburban roads, where you can encounter Dingbatus Driverus jerking out of a carport or running a red? Somewhat more risk.

Part of this opinion comes from being a scooterist for a few years in a city where drivers have a Roman disregard for traffic laws and the road manners of a Waffen SS Panzer division. I've been down a few times due to my mistakes and other drivers; one time hard enough to be VERY thankful I was wearing even that dinky half-shell DOT lid I got with my first scoot. Concussions and ambulance rides have a way of redefining one's evaluation of risk.

phlegmfatale said...

I pretty much crushed my knee-cap ice-skating when I was about 11, and my mom never even took me to the doctor. It's still mostly intact, but there's a huge dent in it and I have little pea-sized wodges of bone floating about in there, 30 years later.

What you said about Darwinism is exactly what I've been saying - some people are too profoundly stupid to live, and shouldn't be passing their genes on to anyone.

Billll said...

Eating dirt as a child appearantly does for your immune system what pushups do for your muscles.

I call 'em like I see 'em.

David said...

I fought in pop bottle rocket wars, roman candle wars, pine cone wars, dirt clog wars and countless tackle football (without pads or helmets) games. As a kid I probably earned more purple hearts than John Kerry.

The only time we ever had an adult step in to stop us was when my mom caught us shooting lighted firecrackers at each other with a wrist rocket. She didn't take either of them away from us, she just made us stop shooting at each other.

My grandmother did get pretty angry at us for shooting at each other with lighter fluid powered tennis ball guns. She thought it was stupid to waste expensive lighter fluid that way. When we could just throw the tennis balls at each other. She didn't understand that the flames and explosion were the best part of tennis ball wars.

We never shot BBs at each other. None of us had BB guns. My parents bought me a 22 rifle for my 12th birthday. I got a Winchester Model 94 30-30 for my 16th birthday. My grandfather gave me his 12 guage shotgun when I was 17. My Dad gave me his 45-70 for a college graduation gift. He finally bought me a BB gun for my 35th birthday. I guess he figured I was finally old enough not to shoot someone's eye out with it.

Tennessee Budd said...

"Pop bottle rocket", David? Hell we held 'em at arm's length & sighted down 'em. We used to come home looking like veterans of Sharpsburg: all black on the right side of the face.

David said...

Tennessee Budd,

"Pop Bottle Rockets" is what they were called. I think the only ones I ever shot out of a bottle were the first couple my grandfather bought for me when I was very young.

After that I started lighting them and throwing them into the air for a head start before they launched. I learned the hard way that sometimes when you threw them they would rotate in the air and shoot straight back at you. I shot my Dad that way one evening.

Later after my friends and I discovered that we could shoot them at each other that they really turned fun. You could pull the wrapper off a dozen, grab the end of the sticks and hold a lighter up to the fuzes and get a wonderful shotgun effect. But it did tend to scorch a bit because there were 12 of them going off in your hand instead of just one.

Several times I walked into the house and my mother thought I had been severely burned because of the black all over my face and arms. Other than a few small spark burns and a couple bruises from running into things in the dark I was unhurt.

When I was in college I made a battery powered launcher that used estes rocket motor igniters. It had a rotary switch that allowed you to cycle through the dozen rockets it would hold. It had an override button that would launch all 12 at once. It was time consuming to load, but had the advantage of not requiring you to carry a visible ignition source that would make you easier to target in the dark. Your opponents couldn't tell where you were until the rocket launched. You had to constantly shoot and run but that is how the game was played anyway.

Purple Avenger said...

By modern estimations I shouldn't be alive to write this comment ;->

pax said...

"Alright! the next person to GET hurt is in trouble!"

Honestly, I thought I was the only mom on the entire planet ever to utter that particular threat.

Well, that one, and one other: "If you break both your legs doing that, don't come running to me for sympathy."

Fairlane64 said...

I fought in many bb gun, dirt clod, acorn, and bottle rocket wars. I remember we used to use a long pipe (usually a piece of conduit or galvanized water pipe)that required one person to hold and aim, and another person to load the rear of the pipe with a couple bottle rockets and light the fuse. The advantage was the pipe at least got the bottle rocket going in the right direction for those long shots across the street or down the alley. We used to call it our "sniper pipe". A buddy had an old VW bus with a pop top, and we would ride around our small town in that old bus and shoot at people with our pipe. Never got in trouble (well not too much), and never got hurt so bad that I didn't heal from it.
I always let my kid take chances (they had a trampoline, rode bikes without helmets, gocart without seat belts), and they turned out just fine. I figured whatever didn't kill them would teach them what not to do next time.
People are raising a bunch of sheltered babies anymore, I can't imagine what people will be like 100 years from now if this keeps going at the rate it is right now. Probably have a hospital stay for a hang nail because they have no immune system to fight anything off anymore. They should have eaten more dirt clods.... =)

Anonymous said...

When I was small I ate deer poop, I thought they where raisins, I was young.

Bob said...

As a kid I fought in slingshot/acorn/chinaberry wars; flew out of the seat of the tallest public playground swing set I've *ever* seen, bouncing off a persimmon tree and onto the top of a chain link fence; flew off a fast spinning merry-go-round and into a fence; fell too many times to count from the monkey bars; fell out of an oak tree and onto the roof of the house next door; mixed my own solid fuel rocket propellant in the garage; and played around construction sites for a freeway and for a bridge across the Mississippi River.

If all that had occurred these days my parents would be in jail for child endangerment, and that's unfortunate because they were letting me learn about life, chemistry, physics, and risk assessment.

I'm 61 today and I still have all my parts, though some show signs of wear. I've never had a serious accident, and I have to wonder if that early education via bumps and bruises didn't increase my odds of survival over the long haul.

Some lessons are learned better in the dirt.

David said...

Several years ago, I stopped by my old grade school on a saturday and was wandering around on the playground when the principal strolls out of the building and asks if he can help me with anything.

I told him I went to school there years ago and asked him where the big tree was that used to grow where I was standing?

He told me they cut it down about 10 years earlier because the kids were jumping out of the swings and grabbing onto the tree branchs.

I replied "Damn, I tried that for years and could never reach the branches, the tree just wasn't big enough yet."

He smiled and said "Yeah, I tired to. But never got much more than a hand full of leaves."

So I asked him what the kids jump after now, and he said they aren't allowed to jump out of the swings anymore.

I told him he should be ashamed of himself and walked away. Two years later I drove by the playground again and there was a tree growing right where the old one used to be.

It will be years before it's big enough to reach from the swings. I figure they will take the swings down before then.

Anonymous said...

No kidding Bob - when I was in middle school, I was known by my first name at the local hospital. These days my parents would have been referred to CPS for child abuse. Not doing any favors for the kids with the no winners/losers approach - real life doesn't work like that.

The Zombieslayer said...

When I was growing up, the best use for a bicycle helmet would have been to prevent head injuries when the neighborhood kids beat the crap out of you for wearing a bicycle helmet.

Ha ha! I was just flipping through Kim Du Toit's blog and came here. That's too funny.

We need to weed out the slow and the stupid again.

That's the problem with civilization in general. It does a horrible job of it.

reflectoscope said...

I swear if you were any cooler you'd have condensation problems. Jim.