Times Have Changed…Or Have They?

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving to an early morning appointment, when I happened upon a group of elementary aged students waiting for the school bus on one of those last days of school.  What struck me in that moment was that there were three moms waiting there with a group of 6-8 children.

Fast forward to the events of this month where that precious child was attacked by the alligator in Orlando, or even to the toddler who fell into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo.  What disturbs me most is the rant on social media against the parents of these children – a sort of social media piling on, blaming the parents for not paying close enough attention to their kids.

Now I am anticipating the typical backlash from those who will point out that I’m nobody’s mommy, but my head just wants to scream out…

It was an accident, people!
Accidents happen…

Horrible, terrible, accidents that these poor parents have had to endure – the worst imaginable moments of their lives…and instead of finding support from other parents, they are attacked from all sides.

And now here’s where it gets dicey –

I really hope that this doesn’t cause parents to keep an even closer grip on their children.  There has always been danger of one type or another.  Remember when Baby Jessica fell in the well and a nation held its breath during her rescue?  When I was in elementary school, we would practice drop and cover drills, all climbing under our desks as if that was going to save us from the pending nuclear attack.  And there have always been perverts out there.  I can remember my friends and I running home from the park to tell my mom that there was a creepy guy in the bushes.  Talk to any senior in Europe, and they will tell you how horrible it was to live during World War II. If that’s not enough to make you grab your child and hold on tight, I don’t know what is.

Dangers have always, unfortunately, existed.  What has changed significantly is our immediate and unrelenting access to media coverage of every.single.horrible.event.  And it’s got parents scared.  So scared that they are afraid to let little Johnny or Susie out of their sight for even a minute, for fear that the terrible things might happen to them.

And that, I believe, is doing a tremendous disservice to this nation’s children.  It saddens me that kids no longer play “kick the can” in the middle of the street.  While I’m fairly certain that they are smart enough to yell, “CAR!” (remember, how everyone scattered?) – they won’t ever get the chance to test those independence skills.  Or to just take off on their bikes with a bunch of friends and hang out in the neighborhood because mom said, “Go play outside!”  Or to be able to start a pick-up game of baseball without adult assistance, coaches, refs and umpires. You know, just kids with a ball and a bat in a vacant lot.  Or how about walking along that split rail fence – Yes, I know, they could fall and break their arm.  But shouldn’t they be allowed to try???

Not really a retirement post, I know.  And I’m pretty sure I’ll get blasted from well-meaning younger parents in defense of keeping their children safe.  But I’m curious about your opinion…

Lynn

19 thoughts on “Times Have Changed…Or Have They?

  1. Autumn

    Absolutely agree with your sentiments. I took lots of risks when I was a child which could have ended in awful misfortune but didn’t. My mom was nowhere near at the time and I wouldn’t have wanted her to be as I was playing. Chaotic episodes occur (eg alligator) and one thing I do notice is that we don’t hear every day about how many deaths are caused by car accidents! I take the media with a pinch of salt.

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  2. Kate Crimmins

    I agree with you. My childhood friend was walking along a lonely stretch of road between our cluster of houses and the next town. Not very long, maybe a half mile and you could see it from most of the houses. Some guy in a car exposed himself. That was in the late 50s. It was scary for a few weeks but we were all allowed out (no air conditioning in those days!) to play. I expect for a while there were watchful eyes out but they didn’t hamper our fun. Nor did they make us feel unsafe.

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  3. susan@onesmallwalk

    Although I do take a quick look at news headlines on my computer in the mornings, we stopped watching tv news several years ago for just this reason. Constant bombardment of all the bad things that can happen in life isn’t good for anyone, children or adults, and the tv news seemed to spread these bad things all out of proportion. I never miss important news, but don’t get the minute-by-minute exposure to horrible things that I can’t control. Thoughtful post!

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  4. MinimalMelody

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic myself lately. A year ago I moved back to the town I grew up in – a town where I spent many a day roaming the neighborhoods with friends, riding my bicycle to the store or library, and playing outside until dark. My parents knew where I was only because I told them before I left. We had no cell phones. They trusted me to do as I said. That independence is the bedrock of my life today. The downside of overprotecting children is that we fail to allow them to be creative, resourceful, and curious and that has devastating (and long lasting) consequences too. I see young people in my own family who can’t be more than 5 steps away from their parent without seeming lost. I met my 11 year old cousin for the first time last week and he wouldn’t even go outside by himself. He didn’t know how to turn on the shower because his dad still did it for him. My niece will be 18 next month and is in the same position. She thinks about moving out on her own but hasn’t built up enough confidence to even get her driver’s license yet. She’s afraid. And that’s her mom’s fault for never instilling that confidence in her in the first place. As scary as it is to think that a child might be injured or die in an accident, it’s even scarier to me to think that same child might grow up afraid to enjoy their own life.

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    1. Encore Voyage Post author

      I could also write an entire post on boredom. Those same kids are the ones who have never been told, “Go outside and play.” As a result, they need to have an adult plan their fun. Boredom is what fosters creativity and imagination! I have had so many people tell me that they don’t let their kids out of their sight…sigh! Thanks for your insightful comment!

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  5. Barb@livingrichlyinretirement

    I agree with you in general on this topic so very much! Im the mom who let her eleven year old kid and his friend build a fort in the back yard with real saws hammers and nails and other tools and no adult help except for putting on the door. And I have let hold of my childs hand for a minute and found him screaming in the mall, beating his hands on the floor because he couldnt find me.

    That said, when it comes to the second situation, I also taught my child to follow the rules at all times, and tried to follow that example. So, when a sign says “no swimming” or “stay out of the water”, that doesn’t mean let your kid do what he wants, even if you are from Nebraska and have no water nearby-if you know what I mean.

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    1. Encore Voyage Post author

      And Barb, I bet your son has grown up to be an independent, confident young man! I’ll bet you also weren’t afraid to say, “If you go near that water, I’ll spank your butt!” Just guessin’!

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  6. Shelley

    We live in a VERY small town on a dead end street. There is a cluster of SUVs waiting for the school bus every day, so that the kids don’t have to walk down the dead end street that is a quarter of a mile long from end to end!
    I chose to allow my son to get bumps and bruises rather than have his spirit damaged by excess fear. It has turned out well.

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  7. mommermom

    Lynn, I cannot say I disagree. Mom’s drive 2 blocks to pick up their kids from school instead of letting them walk home or ride their bikes. Even if you find a mom willing, peer pressure will tell her she is a ‘bad’ mom for making/allowing her kid walk. What happened to walking with a friend? (and most have a cell phone anyway in case of trouble). I seldom watch local news either. Too depressing. Common sense anyone?

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  8. Run Wright

    I am not a parent myself but I spend a lot of my volunteer hours chaperoning and supervising kids. They’re going to get into scrapes not matter how vigilant you are because you can’t literally watch them all the time.
    I was really sorry about the baby in Florida but that could have happened to an adult too. Some things you just can’t prevent no matter what you do.

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  9. midlifetales

    I am not a parent either. But I do like camping and loved it as a kid. As soon as my parents pulled in to a camping spot, before anything was unloaded, my brother and I either took off exploring, or started pulling things apart looking for our fishing gear. We could not be contained. It’s so sad that often, I see a family of campers pull in near by and watch the kids move straight from the truck to the picnic table, iPads and phones in hand. Yes, they are safe, but that sense of curiosity, the drive to explore, (and yes) the willingness to take risks is absent. And it scares me when I think that their generation will need these qualities to be good scientists, entrepreneurs, and leaders. Thanks for a great post.

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  10. roughwighting

    Yes, I agree with your post here. And yes, I think Social Media has made the difference in a lot of ways. Everyone hears everything. And people have become so self-righteous. By the way, in my little town, when we kids were playing ball in the street and a car pulled into the street, we yelled. R C A! For the longest time I wondered why the name of where some of the kids’ parents worked had anything to do with a car. Finally, I understood the mixing of the letters. 🙂

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