Pain, parenting and politics

Last night, one of the neighborhood kids fell and broke his wrist during a vigorous after dark game, played without adult supervision.  That kind of injury would never have happened to me when I was a kid, because I wasn’t allowed to play rough or vigorous.  My parents, who had experienced the 1930s and 1940s with excessive force, were bound and determined to protect my sister and me from pain.

The only problem is that it doesn’t work.  I’m not advocating torturing kids or anything to get them to face life’s realities, but you can’t hide them from it either.  Yesterday, this youngster learned about pain, but he also learned about bravery.  He cried — but then he sucked it up.  Today, he’s basking in sympathy and interest.  His wrist will heal, and life will go on.

Swathed in cotton wool as I was, when I ran into pain in my 20s, I had absolutely no idea how to respond.  An ordinary lesson when one is 10 or 12 or 14, became a very difficult lesson for me.  I’m still embarrassed when I look back and see how badly I behaved.

One of life’s realities is that pain, both physical and emotional, is out there.  Short of living locked in a room, which itself is a measure of psychic pain I can’t even imagine, one cannot hide from the physical and mental hits life has in store for us.

Interestingly, my parenting and political philosophies mesh well, just as my (liberal) husband’s parenting and political philosophies do.  Both politically and as a parent, I believe in maximum individual freedom within a small, but stable and reliable, framework of rules.  Kids and citizens should have the opportunity to soar, even if there is a risk of falling.  My husband is a micro manager, who is so certain that he knows what is right for all people, and that he can control all known risks, that he is loath to allow anyone, whether citizen or child, off the leash.

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  • David Foster

    The Russian general Suvorov had a saying: “Hard training, easy combat; easy training, hard combat”

    I’m not sure there is really such a thing as “easy combat,” but the principle is certainly valid. If someone is overly protected while things are relatively safe, he is much more likely to fail in a disastrous way when in a situation which is much less protected. 

  • Earl

    My paternal grandparents were so afraid of the kids getting hurt that my Dad never had a bicycle – yes, it was San Francisco, but my Mom rode back and forth to grade school in Georgetown, Penang, Malaya!  When a cobra crawls into your house to lie on the cool floor, you learn to deal with threat.
    When I was a kid, I had a bicycle at 7 years old, and when I wanted a motorcycle, my Mom insisted on allowing it, and Dad limited his negativity to taking me to see the autopsy of a kid who’d been killed in a collision between his motor scooter and a car.  I had the Honda 150 for a couple of years and while there were two near-calamities, I survived. 
    Once I started flying and got my license, my yen for motorcycles waned.

  • Libby

    Not only have society’s nannies tried to eliminate anything remotely dangerous to children (like removing seesaws and merry-go-rounds from parks), but there’s all of these “experts” and “studies”now quoted in various outlets – parenting magazines, parenting blogs, 24/7 TV news, local news, etc. – with horror stories of kids drowning in 1/2” of water, having freakish reactions to  immunizations, epidemic-level food allergies and asthma, abductions, etc.
    I recall back when I first had my son I had a good friend who was constantly stressed out from reading all of the parenting magazines – should she get her son a flu shot when there a .01% he’ll have a bad reaction? will he drown if she left him alone in the bath for .01 seconds? what if he develops a serious peanut allergy because she ate peanuts while pregnant? I just wanted to shake her and say “He’s a healthy, active boy – enjoy it!” because at the same time she was stressing about flu shots and peanuts my son was undergoing multiple heart surgeries. There’s definitely a loss of perspective in all of this scare-mongering.

  • David Foster

    I think I’ve quoted this passage here before, but again it is relevant:

    “To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law—a perversion. Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security.” 

    –Walter Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz

    I suspect that very often, it is the boy who is not allowed to go camping because of various fears on the part of his parents, or the girl who is not allowed to ride a horse because of the danger (which is not imaginary) who are the ones who in college turn to binge drinking, heavy drugs, and random sex in an attempt to put some sort of excitement in their lives.  

  • Mike

    Good grief. I’m in the Silent Generation as I just turned 68 a few months ago. What has been raised here a slew of pansies?? We did all those things and more when I was growing up Girls too,although they were watched by their older brothers.I fell out of a tree and even rode the tricycle down the brownstone steps with handrails at my Grandparent’s apartment building in Brooklyn,NY. And a cousin took me on a ride on a motorized bicycle when I was about eight. Burned my leg that time but I survived. We had BB guns and sling-shots and one neighbor kid had a pump pellet gun. Also had fiber glass bows and arrows and of course a sled and ice-skates plus roller-skates and could roller skate on sidewalks or the streets. And we used to fight and there was some bullying by some of the bigger kids but we SURVIVED. And then I volunteered and joined the USMC in the early 60’s and survived that too.
    “Semper Fi”
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

  • Earl

    @David Foster:  Oh I agree whole-heartedly!  When other guys were out vandalizing, or smoking weed, or whatever, I felt no need – I got all the excitement I needed piloting a two-place, 85 hp Luscombe 8E that was built the year I was born, and WANTED to ground loop on every landing!
    Guys especially WILL do dangerous things – if you don’t let them ski, or cycle, or shoot, they’ll find even more dangerous and less socially-acceptable methods to get an adrenalin rush.

  • Danny Lemieux

    When our children were small, we told them that if they had bruises, scratches or bleeding…it was a sure sign that they were having fun. I don’t ever remember hearing them crying because they got hurt playing. I do remember them bragging about their respective cuts and scars, though.

    David Foster, Amazon does a great business from me whenever you reference your book reading list. You should demand a commission.

    Book, your comment about your husband being a micromanager of people pretty much explains why he is a Liberal. There is something about the Liberal/Left that leads them to believe that creating a perfect society is just a matter of engineering people to do what you tell or design them to do. My father was the same way.

  • Michael Adams

    When I was member of the Knee Jerk Liberal Church,(AKA Congregational Church) the ninnies on the Sunday School Committee shot down attempts to buy a swing set for the small playground, from fear that a kid would get hurt, and fear of a lawsuit if someone used the swing on a week day and fell out. Every business meeting of the church saw endless discussions of every possible ramification of every decision, because, in government and the University, everything really can be nailed down, and it is, and, no, nothing soars.  I resigned from that church six years ago this New Year’s Day, used my key to go in and strike through mine and my son’s names on the Covenant with a streak of blood. It just looks like an inferior brand of marker, now, but, I felt better for it.

  • Charles Martel

    When I was 10 I engaged in a 30-minute BB rifle duel with some kid who lived in the same apartment building as my best friend. Dang, that was fun! I hit the other kid more than he hit me, thanks to having been around BB guns since I was 4 (my oldest bro got an air rifle when he turned 10).
    When I was 7, my father bought home a beat-up old Eyetalian motorbike one day and my brothers and I rode that poor machine up and down Collis Avenue for days. Dad worked for the Water & Power, and he’d occasionally take me to the place he worked and let me drive a small Caterpillar tractor. I’d sit on his lap so I could reach the side-mounted control sticks, and he’s shove me forward so I could depress the clutch that neutralized one track while the other kept going to make a turn.
    When my second oldest brother left for the Navy in 1963, he told me to keep an eye on his meticulously maintained 1951 Ford. “You know, start it up every couple of weeks and move it around a little on the property so the tires don’t rest on one spot,” he said.
    I was diligent about keeping my promise to him, but driving the car a few yards across the property soon led to short jaunts around the block and then to long 10-mile runs around town. I was 14 and so proud that I could work the floor-mounted manual gearshift my brother had installed as though I’d been driving for years. (My father and brother had been teaching me how to drive since I was 7, but it was only in 9th grade that I truly mastered a fluid manual shifting motion.)
    I’m sure all of these experiences were, unbeknownst to me, occasions of near death. I had a hoot, though, and saw enough of my own blood and torn skin along the way to learn that the sight of either didn’t necessarily have to ruin a good time.

  • Ymarsakar

    I eventually figured out one of the disadvantages of having a high pain threshold is that what would normally force other people to stop doing something that hurts, a high pain threshold motivates you to seek the pain like it’s some kind of gummy bear. So I eventually learned “not to seek the gummy bear”, as I was getting too old to recover back on my feet the next day from stuff.

     Another guy I know, he teaches kickboxing at the Shaolin center, said that he was doing bench presses and ate too much Creatin, which led to him tearing out the muscles in his chest and shoulders. He felt an itch at first when bench pressing, and so he stretched out the muscles more, which broke more stuff. he said he didn’t drink enough water. Be that as it may, this is what tends to happen to people who have high pain thresholds. Most normal people would fall to the ground paralyzed if they tore a major muscle. Or at least they would have the good sense not to do “more” stuff with it.

     Fearsome individuals in a deathmatch fight. But that’s cause normally what people fear (like pain), they do not. There are advantages and disadvantages.

     Your husband has never studied war and never been forced to survive in it. In war, one cannot attempt to control chaos. One must ride the currents and make the best out of the worst situations. The ability to make even negative situations benefit you, is a talent and a skill. Something LibProgs do not have. They instead prefer to avoid negative situations and make it nonexistent. A fantasy, and a dangerous one at that. There is no such life where you can avoid negative situations. Nor does existence cater to people’s fantasies about Ideal Utopias. Who does the Left think they are, gods? Yes (we can)

    The number 1 reasons monarchies blow up one to 2 generations later is because their blood heir, prince or princess, got spoiled rotten and became crap in the bargain. The original monarch clawed his way through fire and blood to get power and security, but the heirs got handed silver spools instead. They didn’t have anything to challenge them nor harden em. It’s basically like how young girls go to Hollywood and get made into whores and paid for it.


  • Michael Adams

    Hammer, when we were young, you could get your license in TX at fourteen.  When my kids were ten or so, I declared that no pusillanimous legislature was going to rob them of their Birth Right as Texans, so I started to teach them to drive.  By the time my son was fourteen, I let him drive on the Interstate back from my cousin’s wedding in Shreveport. Whenever he was down about some teen aged thing, we went out to drive.  Better than Prozac!  I am so happy that I did not know for many years about the times he got up in the middle of the night and drove the family car over to visit a friend. That knowledge would have been hazardous to my health.

  • Alix

    Have you all ever heard of FREE RANGE KIDS?  It is a wonderful book and website by a woman who advocates letting kids be kids.  She does a great job dispelling all the myths of the “dangers” out there…

  • Charles Martel

    Mike, great story about your son. Also good to know that Texas treated young men like adults before the nannies took over.
    My dad is a southerner (Arkansas), and like most Irish from that neck of the country throughout his life has simply disregarded any laws that he sees as injurious to the smooth functioning of his life. For example, he was a heavy equipment mechanic who would take on odd weekend jobs fixing cars and trucks all around Los Angeles. Fortunately, my middle brother, the one whose car I used to drive illegally, loved engines and would often happily accompany my father on those weekend jobs. Occasionally, after starting on a repair job my father would realize that he had forgotten some essential tool and turn to my brother and say, “Mike, drive home and get me such-and-such.”
    My brother started driving those errands for Dad when he was 12. He got so good at driving that when it came time for him to take his driver’s license test at 16, he failed spectacularly. “Damndest thing,” the tester who flunked Mike told my father when he delivered the news. “All of the mistakes your boy made are mistakes that somebody who’s been driving for years makes. I’ve never seen a kid so relaxed behind the wheel.”
    Of course there followed a week of frantic brush-up driving where my father pressed my brother to pretend that he was a complete tyro, and to perform all the ticks, moans, and overcompensating that tell driving testers they’re dealing with an innocent young thing. He passed his second test with flying colors.  

  • jj

    Back on the farm we could drive the tractors when we could prove that we could reliably stop them and get them out of gear.  Shoving down on the clutch and brake pedals simultaneously required me to grab the bottom of the steering wheel with both hands and lever myself downward the first few years I became a tractor regular – but it worked.  And you drove the trucks – a Dodge Power-wagon, mostly – from the time you could see over the wheel and still hit the pedals.  When there were a couple of guys doing something at a distance from the house, the kids drove in – seven, eight, nine years old – to get their lunch, water, run messages, whatever.  And we went pretty good, too, no dawdling.  The local roads at lunchtime were filled with kids tear-assing back and forth in pick-ups.  Most of us lived through it, but we were on the public roads at eight or nine, you bet!  

  • Charles Martel

    jj, Mike, et al: They say that one of the keys to us winning the war against the Germans was that we had so many farm boys who’d been driving since toddlerhood manning our crappy Sherman tanks and careening around in our Jeeps. Those boys could figure out how to coax the best out of their machines, and take them places and make them do things that the Nazi punks couldn’t. 
    I am proud to be the citizen of a nation where it is a quasi-constitutional right for you to begin driving the instant you look your mother in the eye, spit out her teat and demand milk from now on via the bottle.

  • Jose

    An article this morning at MSNBC actually has a clue – 
    “New anti-bullying trend: Teaching victims to fight back
    “Bully-prevention efforts in recent years have focused on identifying the tormenters and enacting zero-tolerance policies. But the new trend in anti-bullying efforts is reaching out to the bullies’ targets, the victims – and teaching them to stand up for themselves.”

    Mixed in with ““Learning to set a verbal boundary” is advice for the victim to deliver “a good front kick”.  And not a word on the dangers of sexual harassment.

  • Earl

    Does it strike anyone else that these “Back to the Future” kinds of “discoveries” are just hilarious!!?
    What kind of gross stupidity (or commitment to political correctness) does it take to treat this wisdom from the past as if it were genuinely a marvel…..?
    Only in a culture where ideology trumps common sense.

  • jj

    We’ve reached a sad stage when what was once just routine living has taken on the air of what Earl justly refers to as “wisdom fro the past.”  It isn’t even any sort of wisdom, it’s just life.
    You got me thinking about this, and one of the things about life on the farm was that the lessons were all pretty much self-taught – or self-imposed, maybe – in the sense that if you did something wrong there was usually an immediate consequence.  By the time you were about five you’d been told: “don’t sneak up behind the horses, they don’t like it.  Whistle a tune, make some noise when you’re coming, bang the stall door, don’t surprise them – horses don’t like surprises.”  Like all kids you did this a couple of times, then you forgot, and got launched backwards out of the stall by a kick.  If you were lucky, nothing broke.  (If you were my cousin, you got your leg broken.)  And you’d learned about the horses, for all time.  And maybe to listen to your elders.  (Except that being a kid you often forgot.  So Dad would have to have conversations like: “don’t pick that up that way, it’ll fly up and hit you in…  Okay, come here.  Let me see your eye.”)
    Part of the difference, though, is that the world seems to have changed.  When I was a kid, things seemed much safer.  At twelve or thereabouts, on a warm spring, summer or fall Saturday, if there wasn’t something to do that required me, I’d be out of the house on my bike by eight in the morning, and my mother wouldn’t see me again until dinner.  Or maybe she wouldn’t see me at all, she’d get a call from one of my pal’s mothers to tell her I was there for dinner and the night.  I’d come riding back home the next day – but the point is, no one worried.  We were always riding in the right-most foot of road with cars and trucks going by, people tried not to hit kids.  I guess the supply of child-molesters was a lot smaller then, too.  Nobody gave it a thought.  It was nothing to put thirty or forty miles on the bike on a weekend.
    I will concede that the world is different now, and a bit less safe than probably it once was.  Still – spring planting and fall harvest, every kid in town was black and blue for a couple of weeks!

  • David Foster

    jj…life on the farm….Tom Wolfe observed that a high % of the engineers who created the American space program had grown up on farms. He attributed it, IIRC, to the experience they gained in fixing farm equipment without outside help, but maybe it was a more generalized learning of how cause-and-effect works.

  • Earl

    @jj:  I had a paper route at 11 and 12 years old – total of about six miles/day, and almost 3 of these were south along the four lanes of Highway 101, that in those days ran right through downtown Ukiah.  I had deliveries on both sides, and I crossed on foot only at the north end (only one paper to a hotel up there – and my only paper-route near-death experience, when a southbound car in the curb lane almost hit me as I passed the center lane where the driver had stopped).  Otherwise, when necessary I moved into the center lane and darted across the two northbound lanes to do my deliveries on the east side – hand-signalling all the way!
    Thinking about it now, it makes me wonder about the parents, since EVERYTHING used 101 — lots of lumber and logging trucks in those days, plus moving vans, tankers, etc.  It’s not that they didn’t worry – Mom has confessed that, early on, she followed me several times in the car – but (I guess) they expected more in terms of wisdom, and mostly didn’t have the utopian fantasy that they could prevent bad things from happening to their kids.  And I’m not at all sure that more bad things DID happen in those days…..
    I sincerely doubt that there were fewer (on average) child molesters – I well remember the guy at summer camp that made his kids run around outside of the cabin naked when they misbehaved…fortunately not MY counselor!  He DID get canned when some of the guys complained, but there was no arrest.  As I remember, he was a teacher in the church’s schools somewhere.  It seems to me that those with the predilection were deterred from acting out, at least to some degree, because society’s disgust for them was obvious and often expressed…unlike today, when they are far more likely to read or hear about the need for “understanding”, etc.  Look at Penn State — I really wonder if it could have happened that way in the ’50s…..I’m sure that some folks would have clammed up, but surely not EVERYONE, at every level. 
    Maybe I’m just seeing the past with rose-colored glasses, but I doubt it.

  • jj

    I’ve wondered about the answer to the child-molester and generalized weirdo questions.  Were there fewer of them?  Was it that we just never heard about it?  Was I – and every kid I knew and went to school with – just lucky?  I don’t know. 
    Sort of like looking at stats for various kinds of cancers.  Just looking at the raw number, wow – the diseases have exploded!  Or maybe not; maybe we’re just so much better at detecting it that it only appears as though everybody and their brother is getting cancer, but really it’s just the historic percentage.  Unable to say.