All moms should be divas...this one just happens to be in Jersey!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Wussification of America's Youth

As a former tomboy, I really looked forward to parenting boys. While I would not have fostered screeching and screaming in a girl, I knew the likelihood was greater with girls than boys. Flash forward to present day. I am mothering in the era of the uninjured child. These are the days of sports leagues in which every kid gets a trophy, and panicked hyper-Purelling after a child goes out on a germ-filled limb by turning a magazine page. No wound, no disappointment... no experiential learning?  The cold water reality splash hitting me in the face is as clear as day. Boys or girls, it doesn't matter these days. Our kids are being wussified.

Our family went to celebrate 4th of July the way families have for generations. We went to a local fireworks show. The light was dwindling, the band playing, the excitement building. And then, in the twilight it came. "Can you check me for tics?" We were sitting watching fireworks, and the children near us wanted a tic check. I've known people with Lyme Disease, so I know it's no joke BUT we're watching fireworks, on a big blanket, on the grass. All we needed was that "I'd  like to buy the world a Coke" song and it would have been full frontal Americana. And the kids are worried about tics instead. Really? (Sigh)

One of my favorite things as a kid was pulling apart the stem in a honeysuckle bloom for the sweet tiny dot inside. My 12yr old (Son 1) mentioned how much he enjoyed it. My 10yr old (Son2) was  horrified. "What if there are bugs? Or germs? Or weed sprays?" It's honeysuckle. I wasn't suggesting that we wander through the forest playing mushroom-roulette. Little tiny dab of honeysuckle, and he's preoccupied with pesticide exposure. Yes, there are dangers to pesticides, but what next, we don't let our kids smell flowers due to an increased risk of  seasonal allergies? Zip it and suck the damn honeysuckle! You may shock yourself and enjoy it. Don't tell me I too am raising a wuss.

As one more example of the extent to which our country is moving toward total wuss kids, I bring you "monkey bar instructions." I volunteer for a group that runs a day care that was being threatened with a lawsuit. Kids were playing on the jungle gym, well supervised. A girl fell off the monkey bars and broke her arm. Son2 has been victim of his own own inner-Tarzan, so I can understand the parents' monitoring concerns. But in this case, their attorney charged negligence because there were no instructions posted  for use. For monkey bars? "Grab one bar and swing to next LIKE A MONKEY." Isn't that kind of intuitive to our primate brains? Have you ever seen a child looking clueless standing below them? "Mommy, do I hang like an opossum on these bars?" So we expect our children to use care well beyond the cognitive reasoning of their minds, and then teach them to sue when they make a mistake. I'm not heartless, but monkey bar accidents happen. Oh, what does it matter. Opossums don't raise wusses, neither do monkeys. We, however, are wussifying our young.

There are two phases to systemic and non-recoverable wussification. The first is covered in the above examples. We have germaphobes afraid to leap without a complete notarized survey let alone a look.  Our kids are so used to our bubble wrapping that now they are totally paranoid when it's missing. The first phase is the fear.

As if robbing childhood pleasures via fear wasn't enough, in the next phase we're screwing with their psyches long term. No daring feats means less chance of failure. We can be smart and we can work to raise educated children, but we shouldn't try to outsmart the learning that needs to come from the school of hard knocks. Who can learn valuable skills like getting back up when knocked down if the inflatable punching clown is perclowna-non-grata as a safety hazard? That raises a generation with no coping skills terrified at the mere threat of failure, unable to handle any fall from grace. Wusses.We can't protect our kids from every bruise- physical or emotional.

Son1 has swim team tryouts in 5 weeks. His tryout will be based upon 8 weeks competitive swimming experience. Not 8 by now, by THEN. I hope he makes it. I'm most  proud now, before he strips to skimpy racing suit. I'm proud he is doing something at which he may not succeed. Yes, he has delusions of the Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer in our family pulling a Burgess Meredith training session with him. But people seem shocked  there are tryouts. He's going in to 7th grade. I'm fine with the risk-reward proposition at this age, in this lesson setting. At some point, there will always be people who can  not "make the cut." It's not that they suck (usually). It's a  reflection that other kids may be more skilled, may have more experience or more dedication. Denying that shields kids from recognizing they may not be on par with Johnnie or Jane. Why is that not okay? What about Johnnie's mental health after he works his little tush off and gets no credit for excelling? How fair is that? Please don't make hard-working Johnnie bitter. This country needs more Johnnies. We've got plenty of wusses.

Just when I thought the wussify tactics couldn't sink lower, they sank  like a bumped off Soprano's character. Now, kid-friendly video gaming options can be conquered by "cheat codes." Cheat codes are like secret keys marketed to kids. Son2 loves Club Penguin. For that game and an increasing number of others, there are now cheat code books. They're not just secrets on the Internet.  Cheat code books are also in school book fair catalogs. My kids came home with the flyer and I nearly passed out. Imagine the damage he'd suffer not being able to locate the covert super-spy penguin. Quick, call a counselor! We are marketing to young kids that success is in reach by cheating. That's healthier than letting them fail? We're raising wusses who cheat to win to avoid ever losing. Wussification just dragged our kids into the abyss.

Encouraging kids to try and consoling them when they fail is all part of the parenting gig. The lessons that teach coping skills are best covered when stakes are "small." They won't leave every job interview with a consolation prize. No lifetime supply of Lipton Cup of Soup is waiting after a failed client pitch meeting like it is for the Showcase Showdown losers on the Price is Right. Yes, I used the "L"word. They lost. Get over it. Don't you go getting all wussy on me too.

20 comments:

  1. I agree. We are doing our kids NO favors by pretending everyone is equal and good and all should be winners. That does NOT help them to grow up and be successful, independent adults.

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  2. I am...I must say...feeling a little bit like mother of the year after reading your blog (hehe) (IT WILL WEAR OFF IN SECONDS UNFORTUNATELY!!!!!!)...I hate purell (my kids wash their hands about once a day), we are a non-bug (non-anything killing family) so my kids don't freak at bugs (hence NO TIC CHECKING!), daughter one had stitches from biting through her tongue on the school playground and WE DID NOT SUE (or write any nasty notes or have a NO RUNNING ON THE PLAYGROUND NOT POSTED (lol))(ok...she was lucky she got taken to the hospital (bad mommy), and they both kick box so they LOSE REGULARLY.....I am feeling kind of warm and fuzzy...my kids = not wusses :-)

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  3. Yeah, I agree with you completely. Too bad my kids and grandkids are grown. I would be feeling so good right about now.

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  4. What a great post, thanks so much for sharing!
    I am a new follower from Follow Me Back Tuesday, so glad to have found your blog. Hope you have a wonderful day!

    Eloise
    Mommy2TwoGirls
    http://mommy2twogirls.blogspot.com/

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  5. Hello! I love your blog! I am a new follower. I hope you will stop by and follow me too! www.livingonloveandcents.blogspot.com Have a great day! Heather

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  6. I'm your newest follower. Please check out my blog for a chance to win a Target gift card!

    the-chunkymonkey.blogspot.com

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  7. This is great. You sense of humor is infectious and so entertaining. I look forward to reading all your back posts!

    Sylace
    sylacesays.blogspot.com

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  8. What a funny read. I really enjoyed that. WE have masses of honeysuckle and my girls loved picking it and sucking out the juice. It's one of our fondest memories. It still grows wild on our fence.

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  9. Great great post! I found you on blogfrog, and I loved this - I couldn't agree more! When we were growing up, it was just a given there would be scrapes and bruises on the playground. Playing outside in the dirt and grass was never in question. My nieces and nephews now are scared of ants and would rather stay inside and play their DS. It's just too sad...

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  10. Love this post! I could not agree more!! We, too, were out for the 4th of July weekend and my kids were out "cleaning the sticks and muck" out of a stream that they felt was "clogged" and when they came up my oldest about passed out when he found a tic on his shoulder! LMAO! I grabbed it and put it in the sink. It wasn't the end of the world. (Oh, and yes, I am a parent that lets their kids go playing in the stream and mud! Never mind that they are now all covered in poison ivy!)

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  11. This is a great post and I have been following the conversation over at bf. I know it's gone a little off course over there as most interesting topics tend to do, but what a great topic to run with! It's like peeling away an onion, one layer at a time. The deeper you go the more layers you find of this wussifying of our kids! I'm not the slightest bit surprised that a parent sued the school over the monkey bar incident. This alone is probably why the schools are getting rid of anything that even whispers of danger. So sad really but mostly for the kids.
    Thanks for the great thought provoking post!

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  12. Great post! New follower from MBC!

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  13. I am compelled to wonder - is it possible that the parents of the "monkey bar incident" kid are perhaps related to the woman who sued McDonalds because her coffee was too HOT??

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  14. I am in your camp mama! My guy is about to turn five and we play board games and such all the time. You better believe that I don't just let him win. I've seen firsthand hand that a more important lesson for him than understanding how the game works is learning not to be a sore loser.
    It's important for kids to learn how to cope with disappointment. Because at some point, no matter how much these parents try to shield them from everything, they will experience it. 'nuff said!

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  15. I agree with your post completely. My son takes karate and is rewarded based on his skill level, not just because every other kids is doing well. That is how I think all sports should be. Oh and my son does eat honeysuckles all the time. I laughed when I saw that because he had a friend over who wouldn't eat one for the same reasons you listed.

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  16. I totally agree. My son needs to learn that not all things are fair. I want him to learn that while I can help and support him through the lessons.

    Stopping from Mom Loop!

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  17. I'm so glad there are people like you out there, parenting and raising normal kids who will be successful adults! Yes, it sucks to lose or fail, but that's what helps us to build character and humility. We do them no service by helping them to succeed at EVERYTHING. I stopped by from Mom Loop but I'm sticking around. I'm your newest follower! Come check out my blog if you get a chance :)
    http://gruneisenfamily.blogspot.com

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  18. Do you read Free Range Kids? It falls in line with this post, a whole blog and website and Twitterer all in line with de-wussifying our kids.

    http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/
    (not my blog, obviously, I am just a faithful follower)

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  19. I can't tell you how many funny looks I get on the playground when my kids run around barefoot and climb on things.... when I'm letting them just be kids... oy.
    Thanks for this wonderful read!

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  20. 1. You are hilarious! (mushroom-routette?) 2. EXCELLENT post. Man, more parents need to see this and let it sink in. (My husband included, that's another story). Good stuff!

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