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Are Children Allowed to be Kids Anymore?

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When I was a kid my parents were at work and I guess I was a latch-key kid. I took the public bus hither and thither. My mom was not too concerned. My friends and I rode our bikes or took the bus to the harbor where we would go fishing. The city was open and available to us.

Are Children Allowed to be Kids Anymore?

Chris Abraham as a Saint Louis JROTC Ranger

From what popular culture is telling me, I am wondering if the kind of scars that a reconstructive surgeon friend of mine tells me are common on boys are a thing of the past: deep scars under the chin, on the forehead, on the knees and elbows -- the regular war wounds of being a kid.

Are today's parents coddling or does it have more to do with our litigious society? Does it have to do with deep guilt feeling about how we were treated or are we playing "beating the Jones'" games with our children? Are we risk averse or are we running around afraid of our own shadows? I remember camp and the Cub Scouts; later, I remember JROTC and sports. 

Man, I am really lucky to be alive and in one piece! Do I really want to know what my yet unborn children are doing every moment of every day? Surely I spent most of my time protecting my parents against my foolish choices. They say God protects fools and drunks. That covers my pre- and post-21st-birthday, to be sure.

In a time of fear-mongering and a future that seems to be becoming more and more fierce and more and more competitive, there might be a fierce desire to reduce the number of unknowns -- of variables -- in our lives to a small handful of manageable risks.

I know that I wasted a lot of my childhood. My doctor friend was very scheduled, and we are the same age. She is from Northern VA and I grew up in Honolulu; surely, there must be moderation in all things, including moderation. Of course, we both suffered under very gentle childhoods in our respective hometowns. Honolulu and Mclean are not know to be harsh place to grow up, but I am sure there are dangers everywhere.

And, surely, this rigorous tendency to shelter children and micro-manage their every minute -- the heavy backpack effect -- is certainly not something by which the inner-city is being blighted.

As far a childhood goes, inner city childhood might as well be the Wild West. Apples and oranges, but also a sobering moment of perspective.

What do you think? Have we boiled out a lot of the variables that make childhood's unpaved pathway an exciting experience or have we been foolish in the past? Is it now time for all Americans to grow up and get serious about production? From the elderly right down to wee Suzy and freckled Joe?

Jan 02, 2003 07:10 PM