Free The Children! (From Their Parents Fear)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming anybody. But I’ve been reading the introduction to Carl Honoré’s Under Pressure: Putting The Child Back In Childhood, and it’s a strange world in a strange time. But you parents out there can offer way more intelligent feedback than I can.

Here are a couple of stats for you, pg 8:

“The International Association for the study of Obesity estimates that 38 percent of under-eighteens in Europe and 50 percent in North and South America will be obese in 2010.

For those keeping track, that’s ten months from now, give or take. Maybe 2011 will be a lean year. Things are cyclic, after all.

Already the extra pounds are condemning children to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arteriosclerosis and other disorders once confined to adults.

Well, why should adults get all the effects of privilege?

And this on the next page from the World Health Organization—who must be in cahoots with Big Giant Fat Ugly Pharma (who in power isn’t?) (pg 9):

“…by 2020 mental illness will be one of the top five causes of death or disability in the young. In Britain, a teenager tries to commit suicide every twenty-eight minutes.

Rather than end it all, Japanese teens retreats into their bedrooms and refuse to come out for weeks, months or even years at a time. Experts estimate that over 400,000 of the country’s adolescents are now hikikomori, or full time hermits”!

That borders on laughable, if not insane. What does this mean? What is in our water? It’s fantastically perverse. What’s in the bedroom? Hopefully air-freshener and a toilet. To begin with, I am sure, the most modern personal technology, alas…and I’m using a little of it right now.

But it’s still the following psychological infection that shakes me the most (pg 5):

“Even when children do have spare time, we are often too afraid to let them out of our sight. The average distance from home British kids are permitted to wander by themselves has fallen nearly 90 percent since the 1970s.”

It’s the same in Canada. What is this? I’ve asked before, but is it the media? Increased population or environmental factors somehow changing our neural pathways? Is it consumerism making us more and more terrified of nature? Is it the coming of the New World Order?

It’s just so weird, yet I even feel it when my niece and nephew visit, and I live right on a huge park with a lake. But people are there too, which is terrifying! Aaah!

Geniuses? Experts? Expansive thinkers? Anybody?

Here’s to freedom, trust, and a decrease in whatever toxic pesticides cause paranoia, because something has drastically changed over the past thirty years. By the way, stop following me,

Pete xoxo

And speaking of both truth and paranoia, check this out. It’s a a fix-up, with lyrics added with fancy moves, and absolutely nobody is watching it, so you’re in on a secret. Good luck tonight. Be careful. Over.

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3 Responses to “Free The Children! (From Their Parents Fear)”

  1. Sue says:

    Hi Pete,

    Great blog. Yes the fear factor for various issues (or perhaps it’s the manufacturing of fear by the mainstream news and other media) seems to keep increasing. I have to say I’m really glad that I was a kid in the 70s and actually had the luxury of getting a fair amount of time for unstructured and unsupervised play outside with my friends and no parents hovering around as we played tag, hide & seek, etc. I can’t imagine what it would be like to grow up with very little time for unstructured play or activities and a constant undertone of anxiety about the “dangers” lurking in the great outdoors–usually portrayed as predators of the human kind. I’m not denying the existence of such individuals, but when you start looking at some of the statistics, they don’t support the levels of anxiety that are portrayed in–and probably exacerbated through–news articles. No wonder these kids and teenagers are in a state of despair and decide to confine themselves to their rooms or end up suffering from depression/anxiety. The bigger concern is the number of kids and teenagers who are already on prescriptions for anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and anti “hyperactivity”/ “attention deficit” meds–often with alarming side effects (most of these meds were not intended for children and young adults) and handed out more often because it’s easier than addressing the issues that might legitimately contribute to these “mood disorders”. It’s so much easier to adjust an individual’s attitude and mood through drugs than change the social structures/institutions/ expectations/system that are dysfunctional beyond belief. I listened to a really interesting lecture titled “Is America Driving You Crazy?” that really drives home both the American and Canadian tendency to want to pathologize and medicate every negative emotion humans experience for more than 2 weeks continuously. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5oJPRuFDIk

    I wouldn’t be surprised about the obesity and health related statistics reported in the book you’re reading, but I hope the author goes one step further than merely reciting the scary statistics and points out that weaning one’s kids off of the high fructose corn syrup laden junk food and reintroducing whole, mostly unprocessed foods back into an entire family’s eating habits (not to mention sending the kids outside to run around and burn off some energy/calories) would go a long way to minimizing or pre-empting the development of some of these health conditions.

    By the way, I’ve now watched your revised, redux version of ‘What’s Going Down’. Interesting effect with the lyrics ( or most of them) popping up on the screen. It says something about the depth of much of North American culture and thinking processes that millions of people would flock to youtube to listen to a pop tune by Britney Spears, but there doesn’t seem to be much interest in getting one’s self educated about social issues. Ah well, we just have to love them all (or try to love them) anyway.

    Blessings and hugs to you,
    Sue

  2. Karen says:

    Hi Pete,
    I definitely don’t qualify as a “genius” or “expert.” “Expansive thinker,” ah, sometimes—maybe. So as an “anybody” whose progeny is grown now, may I humbly offer an opinion garnered from the trenches?

    Sue’s points about children being under exercised, over fed, over medicated, overscheduled, and over protected are all right on the mark; however, I don’t think today’s child-rearing trends are completely paranoia driven. Perhaps more a combination of media-driven paranoia, the “pop a pill for a quick fix” mentality, a litigious environment, parents being afraid of being judged “bad parents,” because society, in general, seems more judgmental, but also because society seems to need to place blame, even for inconsequential things, so we try to remove all risk from the equation of life. Also, in watching my siblings and friends raise children, I seem to see a lot of “hurry up and do it right” going on.

    When did we start needing the advice of experts to raise children? Wouldn’t we be extinct by now if we didn’t have some innate ability to rear young? Yet another life rhythm we’ve allowed technology and the media to usurp?

    There is tremendous pressure for parents to conform to the parenting norms de jour, which are often shaped by local authorities and the school system for their convenience and not necessarily for the children’s benefit. This carries a heavy price. Society judges parents by their children—which is wrong on so many levels—but parents also see their children as reflections of themselves—and they are to some extent—so there is a ton of ego rolled up in this delicate situation. We don’t always like what we see when we look in a mirror. Same when we look at our children, but bear in mind that a child has an equal chance of inheriting the very best of both parents as inheriting the very worst. Granted it’s usually in between with a few of the annoying habits of our siblings too, but perhaps we need to remember our children are unique individuals, each with their own personality, intelligence, and thought process. Even if we don’t like every facet of our children, we need to respect—even rejoice in—them as a whole, then nurture even what is different from us in them.

    To Sue’s point that we’ve scheduled away the time for kids to be kids, I couldn’t agree more. I think no child should be denied the opportunity to say, “shoot, that branch WAS too small to hold me” or “Hey guys, this is gonna be trouble, I’m out.” Little else, at any age, dashes self esteem faster than the words, “We don’t have time, let me do it,” and few things build self esteem faster than a child being able to say, “Look, I did it myself!” no matter how long you wait for it. Heck, add ten minutes to everything on your schedule if you feel compelled to live by a planner.

    There will be missteps, but in truth there are no mistakes, only opportunities to learn. Perhaps instead of defending a child’s mistakes, defend the child’s right to make mistakes and learn from them.

    The tough part is not whether parents are willing to give their children more freedom, but is society willing to act as surrogate parents as children explore out of their parents sight. In turn, can parents accept that their children will be exposed to an array of parenting styles within the community? There’s the rub; can we trust each other again?

    If we let them, our “Little Dreamers” (if I might?) allow us to see the world with the wisdom we’ve collected as adults but through their eyes, and perhaps make us rethink our own path.

    When all is said and done, I think all any parent can aim for is to find a way to give their children the space to explore and discover their passions, the support to follow those passions and—hopefully by example—the ability to love others fully and be loved fully by others. We know children learn what they see, not what we tell them. As I see it, because children begin to model adult behavior in earnest around the age of two, we have about two years from the birth of our first child to become the person we want our children to be.

    Love to you and those you love,
    Karen

  3. I have nothing to add to those two fantastic responses to the blog.. I’ll repeat your ego point here, Karen, because I think it’s great and important. A very intelligent friend of mine has actually said that people often want a child simply to reproduce their own ego—in facxt that is what it is.

    Anyway, from Karen:

    “When did we start needing the advice of experts to raise children? Wouldn’t we be extinct by now if we didn’t have some innate ability to rear young? Yet another life rhythm we’ve allowed technology and the media to usurp?”

    I sometimes feel the same way way with certain full bore scientific method types who seem to think that only since the scientific method has been around has any drug or food been valid to use. All else was a crap (and crappy) shoot. If it wasn’t trial and error, or profound insight (possibly combined with drug use) that led to people of Mexico and Central and South America to figure out that a certain corn and bean combination creates a perfect protein, then nothing has meaning. That’s science, man. And insight. And wisdom. And self-knowledge.

    Excuse the aside. Karen continues:

    “Society judges parents by their children—which is wrong on so many levels—but parents also see their children as reflections of themselves—and they are to some extent—so there is a ton of ego rolled up in this delicate situation. We don’t always like what we see when we look in a mirror. Same when we look at our children, but bear in mind that a child has an equal chance of inheriting the very best of both parents as inheriting the very worst.”

    And after all is said and done, what a mundane and miraculous event it is, to bring a being into this material world, to experience the difficulty and joy of being. What a life; what a world; what a thought.

    Thanks to both of you for putting so much time and intelligence into your responses,

    pete xoxoxo

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