Can we still let kids be kids?

One Man's Opinion
By Doug Collins
March 19, 2017 - 2:30pm

A long time ago, when the earth was still green- sorry, wrong story. Let me start again. 

When I was young, and it indeed was a long time ago, kids used to be allowed to be kids. I remember growing up in Terrace and later in Prince Rupert, and being able to run around, ride my bike for miles, and no one really worried much about it at all. I was able to climb hillsides, climb old water towers, tramp across shorelines and tread on slippery rocks overlooking rapids, walk along railway tracks and over railway bridges, trying to beat the trains before they got there, most of the time succeeding. Taking the bus into town from our home several miles away, and staying in town until late, going to a show, getting the last bus out of town. And here I am. I remember getting picked on in school, I remember taking the long way home to avoid certain individuals, being embarrassed by others because of my weight. And here I am. I’ve had a pretty good run. So my question is- are we being overprotective today? I often think of the downright stupid and dangerous things we did. But if something had happened, we wouldn’t be blaming the city for their negligence, we wouldn’t be protesting because we were trying to shift the blame onto someone else instead of accepting it as being our fault. I saw friends get badly hurt because they didn’t wear a bike helmet, I saw people get beat up at school, and suffering the same fate when I tried to help them. But we didn’t blame the bike company or the City for letting us ride without a helmet, we didn’t blame the schools because a bully took after us. We didn’t go after the province because they didn’t have any protective fencing overlooking a bluff that we fell down. It was our fault if we were stupid. We took responsibility for that. Now , if things got really out of hand, perhaps something might be said, but I waded out in the mighty Skeena River fishing with my dad, and we didn’t think about being swept away, and if we did, well, it wasn’t someone’s fault for not putting warning signs out. If you didn’t know it was dangerous, you were just plain stupid. 

So let me say that I also know it is a different world than when I grew up. We didn’t have cyberbullying, or the type of peer pressure we have today. We didn’t have a gang presence where I grew up. I had literally no exposure to drugs, and virtually none to alcohol. We could ride our bikes and walk down the streets without being exposed to someone attacking you. We could play in our neighbourhood without having to search for used drug needles. We didn’t have kids in our neighbourhood being dragged into the sex trade. Some of the things that go on today just weren’t there 60 years ago (yes, it was that long ago). But I still wonder if sometimes, we don’t get just a little too protective of our kids. Maybe if we let them live a little instead of strangling them (figuratively), they might grow up to be a little more independent and able to make their own decisions about their lives. 

In this modern world, that may be wishful thinking. I know my first instinct is to protect my children and grandchildren from the crazy world out there. And there are many examples why we should. But we have lost a lot of independence, and youth today are not, in some cases, as able to think and act as independently as previous generations. And I can’t help but thing that will hurt us as a society down the road.