Is It Too Much?

Not too long ago I was chaperoning a field trip for my son's class. We went to a museum that had this authentic living exhibit about everyday life in Colonial days.  For those people who aren't history buffs, this is a time before Cheez-its. People didn't have cars. Couples didn't get in fights over the thermostat because you either had a fire or you didn't. Also, dinner was whatever had been killed alongside whatever was in the spooky root cellar with the spiders and possibly snakes. It was a dark, dark period. One plus, kids ate everything because they literally didn't know when they would eat again.

I love history. I'm fascinated by how people lived in different time periods, what they wore, how they cooked. It's all very interesting to me. I wish I had a Bill and Ted's phone booth just to go back and see how people lived...and then jump back in and get home in time for The Walking Dead. Just a glimpse now...I don't want to actually do any hard labor. 

Photo by Nicola Tolin on Unsplash
Knowing how rough people had it though, makes me feel a little useless to be honest. As a kid, Laura Ingalls books were magical - but as an adult, the fact that Ma Ingalls never sat down unless she was darning socks, produces a little Stouffer's Lasagna guilt. I make myself feel less guilty by believing that Ma Ingalls would have made a frozen pizza at least once a week if she had had the option. 

On this field trip, I was pretty mesmerized by the authentic cabins we toured and the different stations where they showed us a blacksmith shop, how to wash clothes with no Tide and how to make Pumpkin Spice Lattes from their garden. 

What really stood out was the description of what kids my son's age (roughly 8 at the time) did to help around the house - excuse me, homestead. Things like staying up all night to keep the fire lit, predator lookout (this involved unsupervised rifle handling), intensive field labor and lastly, let's not forget the 10-mile marches, sometimes in the dark, to retrieve fire from the closest neighbor in the event that the family let theirs die out (also involved unsupervised rifle handling - in the dark). 

And I'm standing there taking all of this in while holding a giant bottle of filtered spring water and a can of SPF 155 sunblock spray in the event that my own 8-year-old began to show signs of dehydration or was unintentionally confronted by the sun while on an overly chaperoned field trip. I have to admit, as a mother, I felt like a failure. What would my foremothers say about the fact that my little family is equipped to do nothing?

Our society just isn't about survival anymore. We don't have a lot of natural predators in these parts.

It's true though. A few years ago, parents were arrested for letting their kids walk to a park, unsupervised, in broad daylight. It's called free-range parenting and it's apparently illegal? Not that long ago, it was called, "you're 3 and 1/2 Phineas, time to go get a job three towns over, here's a lunch pail with a half a sandwich and a still twitching hog tail. You'll find some water along the way."
Photo by Alan Emery on Unsplash

I mean, let's put all the life-risking stuff aside. I was born in the 1970's and I don't remember ANYONE caring about my water intake as a kid. My mother didn't know the signs of dehydration. If she had, she probably would have handed me a Tab. I would hit the door at 8am on a summer day in Georgia, play all day, never take a sip of anything except a half a glass of Five Alive at my friend's house midday out of her Smurf glasses courtesy of McDonald's' Happy Meals. 

Nobody cared if I had had enough water. There was a garden hose, everyone assumed the kids would drink something BEFORE they passed out. And if you didn't - well - that's what you get. I had large water bottle for tennis matches, but other than that, I was the Phineas of the 1980's...except without a rifle...or imminent life danger. 

And yet, I feel like, we are supposed to be SO cautious of everything these days with our own children: 


Dear Colonial Parents,

Coyotes have surrounded the school, please send your kids to class with their loaded rifles to help protect our building. 


Dear 2018 Parents

Tomorrow, Mrs. Smith's class will be heading to lunch via Hallway B instead of the usual Hallway A. This will route us past a fairly large window. We'd like you to make sure your child is prepared for all possibilities by making sure he/she has:

1. Light-colored breathable clothing as the window lets in a lot of light and heat
2. Layers in case it's chilly
3. A light jacket in case it's windy
4. A heavy jacket in case there's an ice storm
5. An umbrella and rain boots in case the window is leaking
6. A comfort item for emotional support during the change in route
7. A snack for hallway congestion which would keep us there longer than expected
8. Two forms of ID
9. Sunblock to avoid skin cancer.
10. A bottle of filtered spring water so no one DEHYDRATES
11. Will be sending a sign-up list for volunteers to chaperone the hallway change. 

Now hear me well - I am NOT making fun of teachers. Most teachers are parents and EVERY parent I know wants to turn to their own kid at least once a week and say FIGURE OUT HOW TO DEAL WITH IT YOURSELF. So I KNOW that when someone else's child is whining about how they can't figure out how to tie their shoe, they are NOT coddling them.

But two years ago a well-meaning nurse scared my son into a summer of water terror with her drowning statistics. 

This is just the life we live in. I think it's ridiculous but I'm STILL worried about my son's electrolytes and his back-to-school ability to communicate with the three-dimensional people after a summer of video games. I still don't like for him to walk to our mailbox in the middle of the day. I tell him to not talk to ANYONE he knows or doesn't know that's in a car or a van, talking about puppies, offering candy, AND YET I also tell him to look new people in the eye and give a firm handshake. I want him to eat more carrots. I'm sometimes afraid he'll get scurvy, even though I've never actually Googled how you get scurvy. You know...all the normal mom stuff.

But it STILL seems ridiculous sometimes.

I just think there has to be a middle ground. A place where we continue to encourage kids to be brave and independent but fewer black bears and dysentery. 



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