If you were born between the 50s – 80s congratulations – You made it!

“the road to hell is lined not just with good intentions but with health and safety laws too…”

Do watch the video I’ve linked below. It’s a little cheesy and (forgive me, my US friends) a little too American in its presentation and I don’t agree with everything the narrator says, but overall it’s an excellent description of the differences between the current generation and my own with more than a strong hint that maybe current thinking is, frankly, a bit daft.

It’s one of the reasons I eventually agreed to our family moving to Bangladesh back in 2008. I knew, from our visits to LAMB that this was the only opportunity I had to give my kids the kind of upbringing I had which had been so impossible back in the UK. In the UK our kids were driven everywhere, had parties and specific times with friends organised carefully and never went outside alone. It would have been irresponsible of us not to do this. At LAMB, with walls surrounding the NGO and guards at the front, we could let both our kids roam freely whenever it wasn’t a school day and not worry as long as they came home for tea.

My son, Thing II, fell down concrete stairs giving him a nasty black eye, fell off a metal climbing frame, bloodying his nose to the extent that we had a doctor check he hadn’t broken it and had numerous actual bone breaks through stupid daredevil stunts. Both kids played with dirty dogs and smelly cats, swam in open (and deep) pools inhabited with snakes, fish and frogs and climbed trees or sat on roof tops with no protection to stop them falling. They got muddy in real mud where animals and humans alike very probably had relieved themselves many times and, sure, got ill plenty of times along the way.

But you know what? They turned out just fine. Somehow, they survived.

The really sad thing about our 21st century health and safety rules is that they really haven’t done a damned thing to help. The sad fact is children still die, accidents still happen, things go wrong, schools still fail their kids, authorities still abuse their position. Yet, to ignore these rules make us feel nervous and subject to disapproving looks. I don’t know if we’ll ever know what happened to Madeleine McCann but I have had many a person tell me how her parents ‘deserved everything they got for leaving her alone’.

I don’t agree. I think it was a horrible thing to happen and could happen to any of us who are parents. There’s always something we could be doing better or more safely and something we’ve missed which, if something terrible happened to us, would have people looking at us saying “well, they got what they deserved.” All the rules do are make us feel guilty and strait-jacket good people. The rules kind of assume that bad people will follow them if rules are in place. The bad news is that bad people don’t tend to follow rules at all…

We’re back in the UK now and living in a tiny, sleepy little village, arguably the safest in the whole of Cumbria. If there are annual crime stats for St Bees I would guess they must run to single figures. My daughter is a teenager and my son, though eleven, towers over both his older sister and his mum and is frequently mistaken for a sixth former. Yet, a few days ago I struggled to persuade their mother to let me take her out to the pub – literally just a few yards down the road – for an hour for a drink before tea. When I did she wanted to lock the kids into the house ‘just to be safe’! I had to drag her away before she had a chance. We were more likely to win the national lottery than anything happen to them.

This video reminds me how, growing up in 70s Wigan in the north of England, I would spend hours as a kid roaming the whole of Wigan to the extent that I got so badly lost I was returned by the police at least once. We left when I was seven and moved to the Midlands, to Coalville. It was no better then – I roamed not just the town but all the neighbouring towns too. My family never had a clue where I was and anything could have happened to me. To my knowledge, I wasn’t alone with this – we all did it.

What a world we live in where we’re too afraid to let our kids do anything yet bad things still happen regardless. What happens when this generation grows up? What will their children come to know as ‘normal’? It’s frightening and I pray to God that this current ‘nanny state’ thinking of the West is reversing before it’s too late. As far as I’m concerned, the road to hell is lined not just with good intentions but with health and safety laws too.

 

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About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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14 Responses to If you were born between the 50s – 80s congratulations – You made it!

  1. Carl at FSJ says:

    What do I think. Born in the 50’s maybe, 4 months prior to the sixties. And I too survived.
    But then did we not all. Life not only just happens, it survives. There were great wars and life survived, there were great famine’s and life survived, there were maladies without cures and life survived. Life will survive this technology too.

    Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much. Smile!
    Carl

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  2. bhuwanchand says:

    Well done sir, your kids are now immunized for life against so many physical and psychological threats.

    It was also a challenge for me to convince my better half to let our young kids (6 and 8 year old) get out of house, play under the sun, shower under the monsoon rain and have fun in the puddles created by the rains, all on their own – make friends, manage small fights and break-ups, learn to care for the stray animals. Now our weekend ritual is to go cycling around the neighbourhood and a special joyride at a steep downward stretch.

    Growing up in the middle of New Delhi was a total fun, despite being the capital city of India, it is basically a overgrown urban village. Spent 30 years of my life just on the boundary line – on one side totally unplanned Old Delhi marked with the remnants of Mughal era monuments, highly congested lanes and on the other side nicely planned New Delhi developed during the last 40 years of Britishers colonial rule, designed by the British architect Edwin Lutyens. Even the well planned New Delhi is under extreme stress of rapid increase in population. Still remember long walks through the narrow lanes across the old delhi from my home to public library and snacking away the money my mom used to give me for the bus ride.

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    • Great memories you shared there! It sounds like you grew up in a dream environment! Delhi is amazing anyway, but you lived in a great place to see old and new.

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      • bhuwanchand says:

        Last evening, as usual, our little daughter was out playing with in the park with her friends, when she didn’t returned home by the time I reached back from work we were a bit worried, went out in the park to call her back but she was not there, all the kids had gone back to their homes and the park was almost empty. We panicked and I was feeling guilty of letting the kids out on their own, was scolding our son for not taking care of younger one. Wife, me and our son ran in different direction looking for her, and there she was playing in a puddle of rain water with her closest friend in a corner, without a care in the world of how terryfing the last 10-15 minutes were for us.

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  3. You are making a great point, Ken! […and the video]. Indeed we survived. However, it seems to me that for the very same reasons, we were the lucky ones. Not growing up with an earpiece in our brain and a screen flashing in front of us for the most part of the day [and night] has made us appreciate some things more. What kind of fake world are all those kids growing up to today? Your family is a brilliant exception because of who you are and how you lived but city children are deprived of so many things …namely life itself! ‘Health and safety laws’ …right! Instead of treating the problem, they’re treating the symptoms only to make the problem bigger!

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  4. Madhu says:

    I totally agree. My grandchildren are not even aware of what they are missing out on, in their closeted big city lives.

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  5. Ruby Tuesday says:

    I kind of got half-and-half on my upbringing, and with good reason. Where I grew up in the early part of my life, all the parents knew each other, everything was close together, and we came in when we were hollered for.

    Then, at age nine I moved not only from the only surroundings I had known, but also from the general area my parents and their parents grew up, way across the country to a strange land (and when you’re used to the beautiful, lush, green east Colorado may as well be Mars) where everything was so spread out we had to be driven until we could safely drive ourselves.

    The nice part is my children (such as they are) are growing up in familiar areas with parents I think striking a reasonable balance between safety and freedom. Having three very smart and (so far) trustworthy girls helps enormously, because you know they have sense enough to take all the precautions they can without being frightened of new things (again, so far — number 3 is a total wild card, but she’s only six).

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    • Good points Ruby and thanks for sharing. It’s the difficult problem for all of us with children in our lives to ‘do the right thing’ and make sure they are looked after and cared for properly – including being kept safe. As I said, our two had little freedom when they were younger and we could only let them roam in Bangladesh because of the walls and guards surrounding us at LAMB. But we’re lucky. For most that kind of freedom just isn’t possible any longer.

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