History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen
Recently at the summer camp I work at I went fishing. It was a “pioneer” themed camp my co counselor and I took our kids down to a small pond and met up with a fishing instructor. I haven’t been fishing since the 90’s and I wasn’t very successful, so I never pursued it thus knew very little. However the fishing instructor had been doing it forever and was able to do a brief but through presentation on the basics of fishing. Seemed easy enough and I got my first, second, and third fish that day.
As I was fishing some of my campers wanted to just get the fish instead of waiting until one came and really hooked itself on. A lot of near catches and empty hooks were reeled in (as well as a couple dozen successes) but I stopped to laugh to myself at one point in seeing the situation. We were literally playing out the old adage “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a life time” (or drink beer all day…can’t remember how it ends) but I was witnessing kids who just wanted that fish, just to get the fish, get your picture taken and that was that.
It’s like that in many other aspects of life too. We just want that thing, we want the easy route, the path of least resistance, the shortcut, or however you’d like to phrase it, you get the point. When the point of life is that nothing easy is worth having.
We’ve become as a culture so safe that it’s harming our children. Take anti-bacterial soaps and “purel” like products for an example, they are like a tiny nuclear bomb on your hands killing EVERYTHING. Which seems like a good idea but it also kills the necessary bacteria that keeps us safe. But as long as it gets that dirt out who cares right?
At the camp I work at we’ve also done away with having peanut butter out at all meal times. Last year we only had it one week when 0 campers had a peanut allergy and this year it’s just not worth to have it out at all. It has to be done because of the numbers of allergies, but when did all our children start getting this allergy? This wasn’t a trend 30, 20, or even 10 years ago. Not just to have the allergy but have it so severe that even being in the same room as it can have devastating effects. I’ve read that it’s due to parents not exposing their children to peanuts by a certain age out of fear but that just seems to fuel the problem, we’re not being exposed to much anymore.
And I’m not saying that we should feed our children dirt or sit them down in front of HBO at age 9 or something. That’s probably not the best idea. Just as vaccines work in the way of giving a small dose of something bad to a child so that they can handle it later, giving small exposures to a child of something potentially bad but in controlled way, can have great benefits down the road. But that’s not the road many are taking. So not surprisingly many parents are starting to not vaccinate their children and diseases we’ve long thought were cured are making a come back. Best to hide in a sterilized bubble than get vaccinated and leave home seems to be the modern mantra.
Life is built off of experiences, if not had then we will not be equipped to deal with them should they happen. But instead of shielding ourselves from any unpleasantness we should embrace it. Having your heart broken at 16 will help you deal with it when you’re 22. Working a minimum wage job at 17 can help you appreciate a better job when you’re 24. Losing a tee ball game when you’re 6 will help you with losing a high school baseball game at 15. Just like feeding your kids peanuts at age 4 will help you be okay with them around for the rest of their life.
A friend of mine wouldn’t wear his seat belt when he was younger, so his dad would stomp on the breaks once and he jolted around and hurt himself a little. Now he wears a seat belt every time he drives. The point of life is not to hide from experiences but to have them happen so that we can be immune to them later. If the dad just drove 15 miles an hour to allow it to be okay for his son to not wear it, it would still be unsafe and you would never get anywhere on time. Imagine someone who has never lost anyone close to them, never had heartbreak, sadness, unpleasantness, poverty, or had to work hard. Then they experience a moment of personal loss, it doesn’t matter how. How do they cope? How do they react? However it pans out, I wouldn’t want to see it.
While that person if fictional, there are many close similarities that I’ve met in my early/mid twenties when college is over and real work problems arise. The “kids” that deal with them the best are the ones that have had some adversity along the way. Who have had to provide for themselves a little. They are living on their own, paying their bills, and are integrated into society as adults. The ones who are having trouble are the ones who had everything provided and now are having a hard time adjusting to having to provide for themselves. Independence is a process for sure but the earlier it starts the earlier it finishes and the painless it is overall.
When I played soccer I lost a fair share of games and learned about losing and I took it better the 100th time than I did the first time. Then when we would beat times that had only lost a few games, those athletic kids would act not as if they lost a soccer game, but as if they lost a parent. It was momentarily the end of their world since they didn’t know how to cope.
So if you ask me is being sad, losing, unpleasantness, doubt, and hurt good? It’s a yes and no answer. At first of course it’s not good it’s why we label them as such. But there is a lesson to be learned. And it’s not that we shouldn’t baby proof our house to build skull bone, send our kids out in a thunderstorm to build character, send them to bed hungry to make them appreciate food, or do unreasonable things that will provide nothing but hurt. The lesson is that life is not about blocking out all negative aspects of life and shielding ourselves from all negative experiences early. It’s about embracing those experiences in small doses to build ourselves up for bigger ones as an adult and handling them with ease.