“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.