If you’re expecting a post about world domination, polyester trousers and real ale then you have come to the wrong blog. I like a game of Risk as much as the next man, but this is about how much risk we expose our children to.
I was thinking about this because I saw a kid – the same age (around) as my son – and he was like Master Chief out of Halo. I reckon you could have pushed this little guy off a four storey building and he would have been okay. The exoskeleton that his parents had fashioned around him made him impervious to all damage except maybe biological warfare or radiation. Was he skiing? Skateboarding? Base jumping? No. He was using a scooter. A three wheeler at that.
My kids – in the summer – scoot everywhere. When they first started out we were very English about it and gave them helmets, knee and elbow pads – the whole helicopter parent stormtrooper kit. As far as I can tell the elbow and kneepads are as pristine as when they were prised out of the packet and the only marks the helmets have is from when the children drop them on the floor in that off-hand I-don’t-have-any-concept-of-value way that every kid does. The scooters are damaged (one is on it’s last legs) because they have been played with hard – both as a toy and a means of transportation. Because they have been used as transport the need for helmets and pads became an over zealous precaution and a bit of a bore, when all you’re trying to do is get the kids down the playground.
Our son moved on to skateboarding and for that he wears wrist guards and a helmet. It’s hard to fall on you knees on a skateboard…or your elbows. You tend to have the deck (aren’t I down with the kids) slip out from underneath you which results in you falling on your arse and using your hands to break your fall. Hence the wrist guards. Everything else is superfluous in my opinion. We also bought a kids deck (designed specifically for kids under the age, of say, 7) and although it is smaller and the wheels don’t spin as fast as a ‘real’ deck and it tilts easier…which makes it harder to stay on! My son, today, went on a grown up skateboard and he said he found it so much easier because he had to spend less time pushing and it was easier to turn.
When the kids go skiing they wear helmets because it is a dangerous sport. I think everyone should be made to wear helmets when they ski and in Swizzerland it is quite rare to see someone not. The last serious accident I saw involved someone who was not wearing a helmet and that I think was an important factor. If you’re skiing a powder drift at the start of season then you might be able to get away with it. But descending a 45° ice rink with nothing more than a pair of planks on your feet? Helmet.
Risk is a weird one as we have control – up to a point – over what our children undertake. Me and a friend took our son on a black run the other day. It was difficult and there were a couple of sheer drops but he managed it – but there was obviously some risk involved. But I made an evaluation that it wasn’t too busy, the snow was pretty good and DS could probably ski it if he did it at his own pace (very fast, it turned out). Eventually they are going to take risks on their own and I think it’s our job to help them understand them and take them seriously.
If you wrap your kids in cotton wool every day then maybe they expect that every time they fall over they will be protected. Sometimes a bit of a knock here and there is a good thing – in the simplest sense it teaches you to not do something again. I have an aunt who had 10 children (I kid ye not) and I asked her what she did to make sure they didn’t get hurt all the time and she said: nothing. She couldn’t have stair gates, ten pairs of helmets and forty arm and elbow pads to wrestle her kids into – her children had to learn that falling over hurts. You have to be careful on the stairs. If it’s hot, don’t touch it. Her children had to become members of the ‘Don’t-Throw-Bricks-Straight-Up Club’ pretty fast and teach each other about risk. Are her children mad, adrenaline junkies with behavioural problems? Of course not, they’re a lovely bunch. Maybe all the better for it.
(sorry for the lack of posts – I have just been very busy)