Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Childhood and Congress
Tom Smith

This is mildly amusing.  Mostly about cap and trade and its (let us hope) imminent demise.  But what I want to do is push back a bit on this meme that seems to be growing in the RWB, and that is, that we have taken too much of the danger out of childhood, and we should put it back in.  WH Mead speaks nostalgically of the M-80s and cherry bombs he played with as a youth.  Well, wait a minute.  I remember my childhood and all the dangerous things we did, and many of us are lucky to be alive.  We don't need our kids to be doing a lot of that stuff.  Our parents would have stopped us, if they knew what we were up to.  I mean gasoline bombs.  No, kids do not need to play with gasoline bombs.  Cherry bombs down toilets, ditto.  Riding bicycles down steep hills with no helmets.  Not necessary.  Violent games of tackle football with no equipment.  People did get hurt.  Dirt clod fights.  Is it really necessary to throw dirt clods at people's heads as hard as you can?  Eyes should have been put out.  Dropping things on cars from upper floors, such as garbage bags full of water.  Again, unnecessary and dangerous.  Anything that involves fleeing from the police is a bad idea.  Disrupting large hornets' nests and running for your life:  there I think the benefits outweigh the costs, but still, care is demanded.  I'm not saying I did any of these things, but they were are more common than they should have been when I was growing up.  Homemade projectile weapons need adult supervision IMHO.  Somewhere between helicopter parents and shooting at helicopters with your .22 there is a happy medium.  A lot of these people saying, let's have dangerous childhoods never almost died when they were kids, or so I'm guessing.  Let's keep it real.  Kids can be savages and they need to be policed.  Forget that at your peril.

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Tom Smith


I never did anything dangerous as a child. Well, except the time that we were drifting towards Ireland on an ebb tide because my idiot brother cocked up checking the fuel. Or the back summersault when I walked round the stern of a horse and he lashed out. Or .....

No, really, you must let children try all sorts of things, especially boys. If you're too worried that one might die, have more boys.

Posted by: dearieme | Jul 21, 2010 1:14:41 PM

Rewward and risk are are inherents parts of real life. You can not expect your children how to manage risk and reward, uniess you expose them to both

Posted by: DavidL | Jul 21, 2010 2:19:25 PM

Risk and reward- sure. But I, and I suspect Tom, would ask, "where's the reward in riding down a steep hill with no helmet?"

Posted by: Matt Lister | Jul 21, 2010 4:09:11 PM

I never did anything dangerous, except the time I set the house on fire. But really, we were never in danger. I got my younger siblings out and the newspaper the next day called me a hero for rescuing them. Strangely, they still haven't thanked me.

That said, I'm mystified that some people here think there's no reward to riding down a steep hill with no helmet. What other reason is there to ride a bike?

Posted by: pj | Jul 21, 2010 4:44:49 PM

pj-- classic

Posted by: Tom Smith | Jul 21, 2010 5:31:31 PM

Helmet? We didn't wear helmets until we got motorbikes, and then not all the time.

Posted by: dearieme | Jul 21, 2010 5:32:58 PM

If my kids can't have bottle rocket wars with launchers that have 100 rocket "clips" and blow torches on the bottom to light the fuses, can you really say they had a childhood? I don't want to be the kind of hovering parent that precludes them from that sort of wonderment and experimentation with incendiary and explosive devices.

Posted by: john knox | Jul 21, 2010 6:18:02 PM

There's also nothing like the premature detonation of a muratic acid bomb as you're standing over it to teach you that the world is alive with possibilities. I see no reason why children should be deprived of such teachable moments.

Posted by: john knox | Jul 21, 2010 6:32:12 PM

From a quiz in Dave Barry's "Complete Guide to Guys":

As you grow older, what lost quality of your
youthful life do you miss the most?
a. Innocence.
b. Idealism.
c. Cherry bombs.

This was easy for me to answer!

Posted by: Andrew | Jul 21, 2010 6:35:13 PM

A big, big difference between then, the 1950's, and now was the extent of kid toy gun culture, an offshoot of the adult real gun culture. Everyone played with "cap guns," which were quite realistic in appearance and almost authentic in sound.

Covering the gap between toy guns and real firearms were the Daisy BB guns, erroneously called an "air rifles." These were theorhetically illegal in most jurisdictions, but they were very common. I learned to shoot with some of these, hunted small birds, never got in trouble, because I never got caught.

I believe that part of the cultural shift can be laid to the ascendancy of organized team sports.

My kids went the toy gun/BB gun route in the late 80's, but not to the same extent, as far as I know, because they never got caught, either. They are all shooters still, and one is military.

Posted by: Lou Gots | Jul 21, 2010 6:41:43 PM

and BB guns made those cool conical shaped holes in glass

Posted by: Tom Smith | Jul 21, 2010 10:37:22 PM

The high point may have been a Christmas-time visit to relatives in Central America, then and possibly even still the giant-firecracker capital of the universe. This was the boy-pyromaniac equivalent of sex-tourism. On the return home a sibling innocently asked the customs officer what might happen to someone caught transporting a large quantity of fireworks in his luggage. Miraculously, or so it seemed, we were allowed through.

We never had BB guns but I had a realistic toy Luger. There is a photo of my mother jokingly pointing it at a guest at a garden party. Good times. (My mother always hated guns, but she knew the difference between fantasy and the real thing and that playing with toy guns is what boys do. How did we get from there to "zero tolerance"?)

OTOH, we might have been better off with bike helmets, and some ways of learning about the hazards of fire are preferable to others.

Posted by: Jonathan | Jul 21, 2010 11:56:48 PM

When I was a child I was crazy
I am not only like to climb trees but also like to the river to catch fish and I remember I often catch cicadas climbed up the tree

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Sometimes, I pride myself on this beautiful garden.

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