He was the only one that wasn’t wearing a helmet. A couple of the kids were in full body armor, wrapped in Charmin from head to toe, like that kid in the old commercial, who goes out to play football and practically tips over from all that cushiony padding. But even the more “normal” (meaning less smothery) parents had put their kids in helmets. Every single kid had a helmet—except mine.
It was my James Dean moment. I felt like such a rebel.
It hadn’t even occurred to me to bring Koss’s helmet.
It’s not like he scooters very fast, or goes down hills. Even if he were to fall, he hardly gets enough speed going to skin a knee, let alone hit his head.
So why did I feel like such an irresponsible parent? Being the only one who didn’t even think about protecting her poor child’s skull made me feel like beating my own head against the wall. Should I feel guilty for not being concerned enough for his safety, or proud of myself for being less of a helicopter parent than my friends?
How much hovering does it take to qualify as a helicopter parent anyway? And how much swooping and attacking do you have to do on your child’s behalf to qualify as a Black Hawk pilot? Seems to me we’ve gone a bit too far on this air strike to try to protect our kids.
When I was a kid we played on asphalt playgrounds, jumping off and on those spinning merry go-rounds with wild abandon. Who cared if people had their arms ripped off by playing that way? There weren’t even any adults within earshot, let alone telling us to be careful ‘cause we might lose a limb.
I remember an old John Travolta movie called The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, about a kid who had some kind of a disease where he might die if he were exposed to the germs from the outside world. I felt so sorry for that kid in the movies, he hardly got to do anything.
I couldn’t imagine a world where I wasn’t free to walk to school by myself or roam my own neighborhood at will. That poor kid in the plastic bubble had it so tough.
Almost like kids do today.
More and more, the world of childhood has become helmetized. Forget going to the park by themselves, I know parents who won’t let their children go to another child’s house without doing a thorough background check on the parents. If your name is John Smith, forget about it – there’s no way to Google that.
I don’t want to be naïve about the fact that the world can be dangerous. But raising your children in a plastic bubble is also a risk. The risk is not letting them grow up into responsible people who know how to protect themselves and make intelligent decisions. Isn’t it better to let them fall or fail every once in a while? How else will they possibly learn how to pick themselves up and dust themselves off and get back on the horse—or scooter—again?
Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on January 11, 2008.