My father used to walk me to the school bus stop every morning. I grew up a bit and one day, after breakfast, he said, “It’s time you went by yourself.” I threw a huge tantrum to see if I could get him to change his mind, as if I was some historically ignored minority or something, but my social justice speeches didn’t do much for Dad. It didn’t work. My father was in a hurry and couldn’t take me. It was up to me to pluck up my courage, take 20 steps across the street, and join the rest of the kids on the bus. I went down to the street upset and scared to death (as a child they didn’t exactly call me “Rambo” at school), and I wanted everything to go by quickly, including the 20 steps it took to walk from one sidewalk to the other. The idea was to do it without thinking, in a hurry, so as not to get scared. Well-thought out but poorly executed: I was hit by a car. (READ MORE: Everyone but the New York Times Is Wrong on the Economy)
The guy who hit me was an idiot. I mean, only a jerk runs over a kid (I was thrown a couple of meters, but I was mostly able to jump out of the way in time, and I sustained no major injuries) and decides that the best thing to do in the following moments is to roll the window down and, stepping on the gas, yell: “Next time I’ll get out and I’ll slap you myself.” Naturally, I burst into tears. I was picked up by some good Samaritan and escorted home, where I was greeted by a pale and somewhat conscience-stricken dad. But the interesting part of this story is not my father, nor the son of a hyena who, after running me over, scolded me, nor even the fact that, scared to death by the screams of the orangutan, I peed my pants. The really interesting thing about this story is that, in one second, I discovered that the world sucks. That was the day I grew up.
So, the first time I looked out into the world without holding my father’s hand, I discovered that there are bad people, that there are idiot (and blind) drivers, that rushing is not always a good idea, that we are just passing through here on earth, that in an accident it is dad who suffers the most, that being on time for the school bus is overrated, and that a beautiful day in May can be ruined first thing in the morning even without listening to the news on the radio or anything else. Little lessons we deny many children today.
It used to be said that if you want to have a dumb child, all you have to do is overprotect. It’s still true. But even if you try to instill in kids that they should face their own problems, you’ll have the government, politicians, schools, and the media working against you to overprotect them. We are casting whole generations of children into the jungle of the world stuffed inside delicate glass bubbles. As soon as mom and dad are no longer by their side, someone will break our teenagers’ bubbles, and they will be devoured by life just like when you release a captive-bred baby animal into the wild. A few years ago, I did it with a little chick in a dense forest, depositing it in a flowerbed and, I don’t want to spoil your day, but to cut a long story short, it didn’t even make it across the street to catch his bus.
Many of the parents who wrap their children in cotton wool do so only because they are unable to bear the suffering of seeing them hatch and face life. Over the years, I have come to understand that my father was generous: he wanted me to learn to cross the street on my own and he was able to stomach the bad feeling that a father gets that first time. Maybe he paid too high a price when he saw me coming back crying and with my sweater and pants torn. But my life always needs a little drama and excess.
Overprotection is selfishness. And it is pandemic for our children. These are the same kids that upon growing up, as soon as they learn to string three words together without misspelling them, the first thing they say is, “What about my rights?” The Left has been working hard for years so that when the kid leaves mom and dad, it will be the government that takes over the new bubble.
There is at this very moment a legion of children incapable of bearing frustration, condemned to permanent immaturity. Overprotection is, after all, a guarantee for unhappiness. I do not mean that all parents should now push their children into the street in the hope that they will be a bit run over by a car to learn the great lesson of living. I wouldn’t suggest such a thing except in the presence of my lawyer. But maybe we should start talking more to children about responsibility, freedom, autonomy, and commitment. And in the meantime, be prepared for a snotty 5-year-old to reply, “Go to hell with your boomer speeches. I’m playing Minecraft and I’ve got the Constitution, natural law, juvenile law, new mommy and daddy magazines, and the federal government on my side.” Sometimes I think that, no matter how old you are, life runs you over daily.
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