Dumbfounded, File This Under

Hi Readers! Here’s a note from a North Carolina farm mom/ EMT-technician-in-training Stevie Taylor who blogs at ruffledfeathersandspilledmilk.com. She’s taking night school classes with the leaders of tomorrow. Such as they are. –L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: I was pleased to teach one of the college kids in class a lesson last week.  He was asking fellow students for money to buy bottled water (which is $1.25 out of the vending machine!!!).  I pointed to the sink that is in the classroom — we are in a medical class together — and the plastic cups that were stacked on top of the paper towel dispenser next tot he sink.  “Why don’t you just get some water from the sink?”

“Out of the tap?!”  he exclaimed, “I thought that was just for washing our hands.”

“Yes,” I assured him, “But it is all city water and you can drink it, too.”

“Well,” he worried, “no one said we could drink that water.  Do you think it’s allowed?”

To answer him, I got up, got myself a cup out of the stack, filled it at the sink, sat down at my desk, and drank it.  I didn’t get arrested and no alarms went off.  So he got a cup of water and ever since then, more people in the class have been drinking tap water in cups instead of buying bottled water from the vending machine.  Imagine a 24-year-old that has no concept of drinking water unless it’s packaged in plastic, and afraid to use a sink in a public classroom as if it were undrinkable or off-limits (even with cups stacked next to it!).  This is what becomes of the kids that are not raised Free-Range!!!! — Stevie

Water, Water Everywhere (Including at the School Desk)

Hi Readers! This note from a teacher interested me so much — and not just because I really hate  bottled water. (Always have. It’s a waste of plastic, and a waste of fuel, in that it gets transported from Fiji or wherever, by boat and truck. And in a country with clean tap water, it’s a waste of money! Especially because so many brands, including Dasani and Aquafina, are just re-filtered tap water anyway!)

But anyway — the letter interests me not just because it has to do with over-coddling, but also because of insidious  privatizing: The triumph of bottled water over public drinking fountains. When we start to shun public resources in favor of “better” private ones,  we start to break down something bigger: The idea that we should work (and pay) to make things better for the whole community, not just our own precious progeny. It reminds me of the way book stores have taken the place of libraries in some places, because they’re open longer, have more books, and serve lattes. And yet,  libraries are much more important, because they provide a world of learning, free,  to everyone.

Okay — that’s a long intro to a short letter, and slightly off-topic, at that.  So here goes! –L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: In the last year I have noticed something that I wanted to share with you, thinking, maybe, you could confirm my thought that the world, and parents, are going mad.  Or maybe I’m crazy?  During the school day the children are given frequent opportunities to get a drink of water. But, afraid that their kids might still not get enough, a lot of parents give their children water bottles to have at their desks.  This year I have gotten multiple requests from parents to remind their children to drink water throughout the day.

Have I lost it completely in thinking that learning to drink when you’re thirsty is one of the key parts of growing up into a functioning adult human?  While water is obviously important, it doesn’t seem to kill kids to be without for a couple hours.  A shocking number of parents act like it’s insulin for their diabetic children.

Maybe it would just be best to hook all kids up to fluid drips to make sure they are always fully hydrated?  Am I crazy? — A Teacher

Dear Teach — I don’t think you’re crazy. I agree: Once again we have “dangerized” a little thirst and turned it into a health problem that must be immediately addressed. And once again we are thinking of our children as less safe, less resilient and less smart (they have to be TOLD to drink?) than any generation before them.  — L.

Back when hobbies did not include "Staying Hydrated."

Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself!

So I didn’t. I’m simply reprinting this great comment here, to share with all and sundry. There is so much to chew on  and a whole lot of insight.  Thank you, commenter Lloyd Gray, whoever and wherever you are! (He wrote this under the post about the mom who let her son walk to soccer and got slammed by the police.)

“There has been a concurrent rise in concerns about automobile crash survival (read: airbags and SUV’s), and municipal water (bottled water being sold in places where what comes out of the tap is not only safer than the bottled stuff, but tastes fine as well) .

“We, as a society, have decided to embrace all fears, and protect against them equally. The issue is twofold: the inability to do reasonable risk assessment on one hand, and the ability to pay for increased levels of vigilance on the other. Where they meet is our current society: people who pay for stuff they don’t need to avoid doing risk assessment, and to avoid upsetting peer standards. The question is, ‘Who benefits?’

“With SUV’s and bottled water, the answer is obvious: corporate interests (with SUV’s, selling high profit, inefficient vehicles; with bottled water, selling something that 10 years ago was essentially free).

“I think Free-ranging your kids is also a feminist issue(and I say this as a man who was a stay at home parent until my son was in grade one). Every one of these articles (that I have seen) has been about a MOTHER allowing her child to do something which someone else decided could put the child at risk. It is about increasing the burden on women: of denying their right, and fitness, to make judgments about their children’s abilities; making supervision of children an onerous full-time occupation(or at least a MORE onerous one). It is about creating artificially high standards as a salve to couples who have two careers and have to pay for care. 

“This is a political issue, and it’s about much more than the security of children. It’s about how our society allocates it’s resources, and about how corporations encourage fears and capitalize on them. It is all the more interesting as we move from a period of unmatched prosperity and uncontrolled consumption to the era of financial uncertainty, peak oil,  and global warming.

“In the 1940’s our parents went through World War 2 and the horrors and deprivations it brought. Genocide, displaced populations(if you’re a European reader), military service and the potential of death or disability, food and gas rationing, and the reduction of access to consumer goods. Yet we are told not to accept the tiny actuarial risk of traveling in a small car or allowing our child to walk to school by himself.

“Over the next few years, the costs of these choices will come into true perspective, and perhaps we’ll see change. To summarize: Free-ranging your child is a political act. It’s green, it’s anti-corporate, and it’s feminist. Those who are against it have an agenda, and I’m pretty certain it’s different from mine (and, with any luck, yours).”