Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Oh... Go Climb a Tree

Recently while I was shopping for my newest granddaughter, it struck me just how many safety-type gadgets and gizmos there are available for babies. It's a little overwhelming if you're not sure what all these things do, and even though I've been a mom for 26+ years and a grandma now for nearly 3 years, I'm still amazed at the things manufacturers come up with to keep our kids safe.

Some of these things are rather nifty. The baby monitor with baby-cam is probably one of the coolest, but the handy little furniture corner protectors are rather ingenious as well. Veteran moms have been using them for years - but we used cloth and tape on those sharp coffee table corners.

Seeing all these gadgets recently gave me pause for thought on how any of us really lived through childhood. We didn't have cupboard locks, we had mom standing there swatting our hands if we tried to get into things. For most of us, it only took a few times of mom doing that to register in our little brains that getting into the cupboard was a big, fat NO NO. We didn't have car seats (does anyone remember the baby car beds they use to have?), and most of us remember at least once in our childhood actually laying in the back window or sitting in the bed of a pick up truck while mom or dad were driving somewhere. We didn't have doorknob spinners that our little hands couldn't grasp, and we didn't have outlet plugs, baby gates, and the bazillion other things out there to protect kids. Well, maybe some of us did, but "outlet plug" was a strip of masking or duct tape and "baby gate" was often something strategically placed in a doorway to keep us where we belonged. We didn't have a houseful of fancy gadgets to protect us at every turn and in every room. What we did have, was mom paying attention to what we were doing and making sure we stayed out of trouble. I suppose to a modern mom that might sound like raising kids in the dark ages, but this is the way moms did things for the last... 6,000 years, or so. Oddly enough, many of us made it through childhood with very few scars.

When we got older, we never wore helmuts when riding our bikes or putting on skates. If anyone actually had a trampoline, there certainly wasn't a saftey net around it, and our bathing suits didn't have sewn-in safety floatation devices. No, quite the contrary. We climbed trees and jumped out of them, we built bike ramps and often crashed our bikes jumping over them, then we rollerskated down the sidewalk and wiped out from time to time without knee pads. Mom always had Bactine and bandaids and if we were lucky enough, she bought the no-sting kind of bactine when the brilliant minds that make these things came out with that. Little boys knew how to use a hammer and actually built their own tree forts which they also jumped out of, because it was just a part of what kids used to do.

In many ways, all the child safety gadgets are really good things. While looking at some of them in the store, more than once I thought "oh how brilliant was THAT?" when I saw what was available. Being a mom we have this tendency to Mother Hen over our kids to keep them safe and scar-free, and all the help we can get in that department is very good. But in some ways I have to wonder if all the Mother Henning we're prone to do is bad for our kids and causes them to miss out on some real character building and decision making opportunities? Now I don't mean to say we should tell all our kids to go climb a tree and jump out of it, but I have to wonder if we even let kids climb trees any more? When I was a kid, ALL kids climbed trees - it was just one of those things kids did. Now, I almost never see kids in trees and I wonder why? (It's possible they're all on couches somewhere on the xbox, but that's another issue). Did someone pass a PC law that said kids in trees is too dangerous and therefore all parents should never allow it? I just wonder if we've possibly become a little too safety minded. So much so that we don't even encourage our kids to be active, adventurous and have to use practical, hands on skills to create their own fun... like kids used to do.

For the record, all of my kids have climbed trees, and none of them have ever fallen out of one. Some did jump, however.