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.