Saving our Children from “Safety”

Many parents seem to think that their primary responsibility is to keep their children SAFE. Certainly this is not a BAD idea, but our society has shifted quickly, from encouraging to requiring, all parents to eliminate ANYTHING that might be even remotely considered “unsafe” for our children. I’m not convinced this is a great idea.

In December, a couple from Maryland were taken to task for allowing their school-age children to walk home from school. Seriously. Here is the link:  Free Range Parents

What’s more, when a poll was taken and other parents were asked if the response of the authorities was justified, more than half answered “yes.” Clearly the state bureaucrats are not the only ones who have shifted their thought on the issue; we have made this change as a society.

The Velo News, a publication on bicycling in the US, has reported an enormous decline in youth bicycle ridership in the last 40 years. In 1970 50% of children walked or rode a bike to school. In 2009 this figure stood at 15%. The largest reason given for this decline is parental concern for their children’s safety. If you are like me, you have very happy childhood memories of riding a bike. The freedom, the responsibility, the opportunities, the trouble you could get in and out of, the jobs that were open to you, all of this was possible because of a bicycle. And all of this is now lost, almost entirely, for a whole generation. That is a shame, to say the least.

There is pushback on this issue as well. In the UK a whole movement is brewing to ensure that our children are given the freedom to fall down and get up without parents rushing in to do the lifting. A recent article in The Atlantic magazine tells about a playground in Wales where children are encouraged to build stuff with tools, make fires, jump out of trees and scrape their knees. And parents are invited — to stay out:  The Overprotected Kid

This is GREAT from my perspective, because I am pretty convinced that the SAFE route, the well-worn path from the fridge to the sofa, to stare at the newest high-def box of wires and binary code, is a far greater threat to our children’s health and well-being than any combination of oncoming traffic, leering strangers, tidal waves, playground bullies, broken skin, dirty nails, dog bites, and blisters will EVER be.

Mary Baker Eddy makes many comments about prioritizing raising our children. She asks us to consider the importance of parenting versus the time we put into our “garden,…flocks and herds” ~ in other words, our jobs. Pampering even a baby and responding to every whimper is discouraged. (S&H 62:8-12) She was very loving to everyone including her own much adored son, but she may have been the original proponent of “tough love” as well! She knew the importance of allowing our Father-Mother, God, to be the caretaker of all children.

I love the fact that camp provides a structure of support for our children, while encouraging them to grow up in so many different and important ways. First, a camper leaves the (occasionally smothering) embrace of mom and dad. Then, s/he is asked, repeatedly for the whole time at camp, to take care of him/herself. The counsellors will provide age-appropriate encouragement and supervision, but at some level, campers needs to change their own clothes, brush their own teeth, sort out their own relationships, and take responsibility for their own words and actions. This is GOOD for them. There are natural, sometimes uncomfortable, but far short of dangerous, consequences for this type of learning by doing (or not doing).

This is called REAL LIFE, and I’m pleased to say it happens, much like prayer and good food, all day, every day, at Camp Bow-Isle.

(Note: we are continuing with all our current policies to wear seat belts, lifejackets, climbing harnesses, and helmets for any activity where it seems wise to do so!)

Jon Heath, Director, Camp Bow-Isle