the basis for a civilization of free people resides in the skills that children learn from the benign neglect of unsupervised play in an un-nerfed world
Not to be totally unoriginal but this is one of the most wonderful pieces in recent memory and your baseline setsa pretty high bar in its own right.
"that is the most important lesson in all of growing up. not piano or soccer or interpretive headstand watercolor painting and certainly not indoctrination into the grievance cults of wokedom:
what must be learned is how to become self-governing.
and it has been stolen from our children."
For all of us who flourished with benign neglect, lawn darts , clackers, plastic super bubbles, injection mold vacu-form at lava like temperatures, playing Mumbly-peg throwing jackknives everyone of us always had in our pockets, even at school this is powerful nostalgia.
When there was an outbreak of measles or chickenpox our moms would drag us to the home of the infected kids; in my mother's words, "Better to get it now when we know what it is and all of you get it at the same time and get over it and send you back to school together. If you catch it later we might need to go to the doctor to diagnose you and what a pain that is!"
Everyone ate PB&J sandwiches in a lunchroom with our two cent container of milk. We never conceived of lactose intolerance or life threatening peanut allergies, we never knew other kids on prescription drug regiments, we never heard the word syndrome, but we all had first hand experience with broken bones and stitches and we did indeed draw priceless lessons from that. :~)
This is possibly the best, most poignant post I have read about the current state of humanity in a very, very long time.
This may be my favorite of all your posts.
The summer of ‘69 I was 10 and my little brother was 2. My mother would strap him in the stroller and tell me to take him for a “walk.” If I came back sooner than she wanted, she’d send me back out. No cell phone, no money, no water bottles. She’d be arrested now.
It's an 80 year cycle.
Hard times create strong men.
Strong men create good times.
Good times create weak men.
Weak men create hard times.
We are at weak men create hard times....
My Mom would be in a Supermax prison in today's world! (I am a child of the 60's and early 70's as well) My favorite memory from my youth is Mom letting myself, my brother and my sister go camping alone on the prairie in my home state. Age 11, 10 and 8. Yep. A couple of blankets and a small back pack full of a few essentials. We had a fire, roasted weenies and marshmallows using sticks we found and sharpened ourselves (with a knife). We laid on our backs and looked at the stars and we fought like cats and dogs and we had amazing experiences that I will remember until my dying breath. There wasn't a helmet, a mask, a kneepad or any "protective" gear in sight. And somehow, we lived. The wisdom, trust and independence that was gained from this experience (and numerous others just like it) helped make me the kind of person I am today. A person who has the ability to say NO. A person who can muster courage if necessary. Not perfect of course, but able to manage my life without someone telling me what to do.
I can't count how many times in the past twenty years I've told people that my mom, one of the top ten worriers in the world, let us roam free in huge tracts of woods and ride our bikes for miles around. I look back and realize that on any given day, she had somewhere between zero idea and a vague notion of where we were after school and before supper. Today she would be seen as criminally negligent.
Fast-forward 45 years to last March in my rural seacoast village: On an evening bike ride I see a thirty-ish couple walking by the deserted pier with a few little kids, everyone face-diapered. And as I pass them, I realize that the "adults" have blindingly bright, flashing red panic strobe lights stuck to their backs as they walk ON THE SIDEWALK. That was my definitive "failed species" moment for Homo "sapiens". It's all over for our kind if we don't fix this.
Editing to add this great interview of Matthew Crawford by UnHerd's Freddie Sayers on the dangers of safetyism:
👏👏👏 I was mom shamed a few years ago for letting my kids play in the front yard by themselves. I will always be a champion of free range parenting, letting your kids fail, and natural consequences. I love many of your pieces but this is one of my favorites.
Turned 10 in 1970. And while the fashions in the latter part of that decade were indeed hideous, it was a FABULOUS time to be a young teen. Riding my ten speed all over my city of 400K with my friends.
As we raised our children in the 2000's, we attempted to copy that experience. But it was difficult. Other parents thought we were child abusers for letting our youngest two, say 10 and 7, ride their bikes into town (we live in one of the safest suburbs on the planet) and just hang out at the park. The other parents would bring their kids to the park (for a play date) and then try and force our kids to accept a ride home. Our kids would decline and we would literally get calls from other parents "warning" us that our two had decided to ride home by themselves. They would assure us that they "tried to do the right thing" by bringing them home.
Can't imagine what it is like now.
I see your post and raise you one rock fight, two street stick-ball games, one skateboard made from a 2x4 and my sister's left roller skate, and a rubber-band U-nail launcher that could serve as a prototype rail gun.
Wow, Gato. This ranks as one of the best posts you've written. You said everything I wanted to say about our absurd, ridiculous, nerfy woke parenting and the movement in general. Not only that, but you gave the most astute credible reason why we are in this state today and why the woke progressive left are so infatuated by authority and the totalitarian agendas we face. I wonder if the woke movement was not induced by the very people who wish to impose those agendas. Certainly the steady increase in official Health & Safety measures in the UK (and US) have been a factor, so it seems so.
As a child of the 60s & 70s, I was given free rein (mostly). Life was adventure and it was fun. Plus you had Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, the Stones and the Beatles, all in their twenties.
This is absolutely the best thing you’ve written!! It’s only 0600hrs. but I don’t see my day getting any happier than it is right now reliving all my wonderful memories of my free and unbridled childhood. Who else’s mother tossed them out the door with this one admonishment…”do not come home unless you broke a bone or are bleeding badly enough to need medical intervention”? And yes, both of these happened a few times. Heck, a trip the the ER was something that elevated your status for a few days! Kids today have no clue how much fun childhood used to be. It’s quite sad.
Oh man, this is great and a flash back to my childhood (70s). My mom didn't have a clue where I was...ever. We were out from sun up to sun down, riding our bikes to what seemed like miles away, to remote parks, a nearby river, and friends houses. I hurt every bone in my body riding a skateboard (zero protection) up and down our street, and hung out at the beach alone with my cousins in the summer. In eight grade, I spent the summer with a friend of mine blasting Meatloaf from her living room and swimming all day...unsupervised....in her built in pool. My husband and I joke that we were raised by wolves, because we seriously barely saw our parents, but I can definitely testify that we did learn valuable life skills. What a blast...
Lawn darts. Great start to a wonderful post.
I have a set of lawn darts out in my shed. We had them as kids. Probably lost during some move. My father found some at a yard sale after they had been outlawed and bought them. He passed them along to me. I will have my grandkids playing with them this summer. I recall we used to toss them as high as we could to see how deep they would stick. We never considered trying to catch one. Never tried to catch a javelin either, we knew better. My father gave me a single shot .22 when I was 11 and I had permission to shoot starlings only anytime as they were an invasive species and nested in our barn soffits. The YMCA camp I went to had riflery as an activity and I shot there as a 9 year old camper and supervised as a 15 year old counselor in training. Other summers it was my goal to not wear shoes once the month of August. Travel everywhere was by bike.
Calvin and Hobbes was a staple when my kids were growing up. Will always remember one comic when he and Hobbes were walking along and came across a mud puddle. Calvin looked at Hobbes and said, “Our afternoon just got booked up.”
When covid hit I looked at the initial data and made assessments as to the risk posed by the virus early on. I am healthy but in what is deemed a high-risk age. I thought I had it in February 2020 as I had a bad flu which was unusual for me. Afterwards, as I determined this was being way overblown as to risk posed by this infection, I decided to take advantage of people not traveling. We went to Cabo for vacation in March 2020 and have made seven trips to Mexico and the Dominican Republic since then. The wonderful Mexican resort workers had their incomes collapsed by the shutdowns and we did our best to tip them.
In summer of 2020 two others and I changed a planned Alaskan motorcycle trip as Canada was closed and we went cross country. In June and July 2020 we crossed 15 states, ate in about 75 restaurants, stayed in campgrounds and hotels and rode 8,000 miles from Vermont through the Dakotas, Wyoming to the Pacific Northwest and back. We met many other people being out in the world who shared our skepticism as to the risks.
My son has three kids born within three years, oldest is 5. He puts them outside, has them figuratively eat dirt to improve their immune system, limits screen time, has avoided the covid vaccination and is planning to home school next year. He walks through the hall of his kindergarten and see the bad things they post on the bulletin boards; his kindergarten son has already been subjected to discussions about pronouns and racism. His wife is a science / biology teacher of twelve years in middle schools. She has taught in private school, suburban school and poor inner-city schools. She said the suburban kids are worse than the inner-city kids, and they were bad. She had to get away because of bad parents and very bad administrators. She also watched vaccinated teachers be ignorant about the risks, she hid that she was not jabbed due to fear and discrimination, and she saw many bad outcomes from adverse events. They live in an upscale college town and he is a tradesman. He cannot believe the ignorance and arrogance of the college population, students and teachers. He is afraid to fly an American flag for fear of his home being targeted. The town does not allow the town American flags to be flown on the town streetlights on September 11 except every five years because it is considered offensive. He is working hard to fix his antique house for sale to get away from the toxic atmosphere of this “liberal” town and is seeking a rural location.
We are raising the kids to have minibikes, ATVs, training in firearms, growing food and camping. We may add hunting to that.
I was born in 1958 and grew up on a farm in central Indiana. Not only was my childhood filled with the glorious risk-taking detailed in everyone else's posts -- I had chores that today would be subject to OSHA mandates and safety inspections if performed by adults. I learned to drive a tractor as soon as my feet could reach the clutch pedal. During the summer I cut five acres of grass every week (I got paid $5 for that, and thought I was a queen when I spent the money in the local hobby store on Saturday!) When there weren't chores, I was riding my bike miles in every direction on dirt roads that had been treated with waste oil to keep the dust down.
I have two kids, now aged 33 and 27. My introduction to the brave new world of helicopter parenting was through their friends' parents, who mostly struck me as neurotic basketcases who were harming their kids with their obsessions and sterile preoccupations. My kids thought so too, and their friends often used my house as a refuge of sanity. I am still good friends with a lot of them, now adults and some raising kids of their own.
My hometown lost its rural character a long time ago -- the relentless demands of near-by Indianapolis for bedroom communities for the legions of soft-skinned middle managers and technocrats that work in the financial, insurance, and administrative jobs that predominate there ate up the soybean fields and cow barns decades ago. Just this week, the county made national news in the free markets press for the notable achievement of forbidding a woman from offering goat yoga on her own property.
Early 80’s here, all of this is true. In all seriousness - this was one of your best
As a child in the 70's in England, I once shot my brother in the back with an air rifle - at about 100 ft.
He once threw a dart into my neck from the top of our house stairs.
At school I tried to punch someone, he ducked and I hit the wall instead. Split open the skin on a finger and still have the scar 40 years later.
"Glory days, ohh , they'll pass you by."