The post below is one I wrote in 2009 and is from my more personal blog. More fear, less thinking as something we can teach our children seems to have become the norm. Even when the intentions are good the damage is the same.
Today was 'Bike Rodeo' day at my daughter's elementary school. The YMCA brought out a ton of bikes and helmets for the kids to ride, and spent a couple of hours teaching the kids riding skills they can use on the streets- looking over your shoulder without swerving, sudden stops, right of way... Overall, perhaps one of the more potentially useful lessons these kids will learn this week. I was so happy to see them learning something practical and basic, something kids learned just by being on the block when I was a kid.
Despite my joy at seeing the kids riding around, there were more than a few moments in the morning where the kids were being fed fear rather than knowledge. Right at the beginning, the helmets went on. While I do not wear a helmet (please don't write me to tell me I am crazy- I have my reasons and they are fine for me), I have no problem with others wearing them and insist that my children do, if for nothing else than to keep them from scraping up their faces when they stack- I do not think they will provide any protection in the case of major collisions (again, I have my opinion on this, you have yours- leave it at that). As the instructors fitted the kids with various helmets, I heard one of them telling the kids "this helmet will save your life". Not 'could save your life' or 'will keep you from scraping your face if you fall'- the kids were told, with absolute conviction, that their lives would absolutely be saved. By implication, the instructors sounded as though they knew that today would be the day that death came to visit my daughter's class and that these plastic buckets would fend off the scythe of the Grim Reaper.
So right off the bat, the kids are being conditioned to accept other people limiting their choices and ability to reason through situations by instilling fear as the basis for decision making. As my presence in this class was to take pictures of the kids learning how to ride, I was not in a position to say anything about it, nor was it an appropriate forum for that discussion. But it got me to thinking about how often our kids are controlled by fear, mostly because the adults are all living in fear. Fear of pedophiles and trans fats and lead paint and underachievement and delayed speech and public schools... have turned parents and teachers into peddlers of fear and anxiety. Children who are never allowed out of eyeshot of an adult grow up to be teenagers who can not be off the electronic leash of phones and computers with everyone they know for fear of not being connected to everything at all times.
The worst part is we have marketed this as cool. Fear of the world has become fashionable! Instead of facing our demons we have made them the fodder for talk shows, the basis of indoor play spaces with monitors at the ready with antibacterial wipes, the warning label on matchboxes telling us the contents are flammable. We have made being weak and frightened the epitome of 'fitting in'. We have allowed something as simple and basic as riding a childhood bike to become an activity that calls into question our parenting if we do something as radical as let kids just get on with it and have fun.
How do we turn back the clock on this? Is there a way to teach others the joy of simply allowing the moment to be what it is without catastrophizing it? To 'go with the flow', so to speak. Can we stop this before we paralyze our children's future, a future where they will need to be creative and fearless and brazen on a level most of us have never known? My goodness, I hope so, because we have fallen off and we need to get back on the bike of life without fear for the sake of our kids and ourselves.
I leave you with this terribly funny video introduced to me by Todd of Clever Cycles.