OK, now that those idiots, are gone, this Slate article reminded me of one of my favorite children's books of all time. It seems Bridge to Terebithia has been made into a movie from Disney, which makes me gag a little just typing it. And then when I saw previews where there were a whole lot of big, stupid special effects made me a little sicker. But either way, I was intrigued. Someday when I have kids, they will read the book, not see the movie, but whatever. Interesting fact: "Katherine Paterson wrote the 1977 children's classic Bridge to Terabithia after her son David's best friend, Lisa Hill, died at age 8 after being struck by lightning."
I think this book is important especially because of what it teaches to kids, but it can also teach parents. The lesson for kids is easy: death is possible at any time. It is natural, and it sucks. But, to quote the article quoting someone else, "death is always at the back of risk and beauty." For parents, the lesson is harder.
Experts increasingly caution that in shielding our kids from danger, we end up putting them at more serious risk by standing between them and the skills they need to become self-reliant. It's a crucial principle, especially as children's lives and play become more constricted. (How many 10-year-olds do you know who get to roam in the woods?) But the idea of letting kids wander freely is awfully hard to hold onto when you contemplate even the remote possibility of your child's death.
The life of a child is often designed to make them feel special, safe, and prepared for a good college. There is so much structure I wonder how the kids even stand it. How many 10 year olds DO wander the woods these days?
Well, I for one was one of those kids. If you know my mom, you know that she is somewhat of a worrier, and a bit over-protective. But when I was a kid, I wandered the woods near my house every day for entire summers. When I read this article, I was reminded of the fact that despite my mom's worrying, she did let me figure some things out for myself. I would wake up at 8am on weekdays, and eat my Lucky Charms, and have to watch cartoons until I was allowed out of the house at 9am. But then I would be in the nature preserve by my house for the whole day, except maybe for a break for lunch. I don't really remember exactly what I did, but I climbed trees, fought my friends with sticks as if we were ninjas, played games, and caught crawdads. It was glorious. To this day, I appreciate the beauty of every little bit of nature, and without nature (and baseball), I doubt I would have any patience at all.
Today, I would have been enrolled in camps for violin, sports, and academic subjects. It is just sad. Do people even go out into nature these days except to jog or do something that they consider productive? There needs to be some part of life that is not completely structured. Those are the moments when we best learn about our friends, our selves, and life in general. When each of you has kids, try and remember this lesson. And when I have kids, someone remind me of this.