Past Deadline: Caution – Everything is Sharp

Posted: January 20, 2014 in Past Deadline, Perth Courier, Stephanie Gray, Stephanie Gray Communications
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Here is Past Deadline from the Jan. 16/14 issue of The Perth Courier.

Caution: everything is sharp

 The other day I watched one of those TED talk videos. This one was called “Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do” and it was by Gever Tulley. The five things were play with fire, own a pocket knife, throw a spear, take apart an appliance and drive a car.

It’s not as nutty as it might sound – it’s about understanding “dangerous” things in order to use them safely.

He notes there are so many child safety rules out there now that “any item sharper than a golf ball is too sharp for children under the age of 10.”

Our coffee cups have heat warnings. We are a society of scaredy cats. (Litigious ones.)

While it’s true there are wonderful safety advances that will protect our children from any number of dangers, what they won’t do is teach our children about common sense – the “don’t be stupid” factor – especially when they hit what we have traditionally known as “old enough to know better.”

I frequently come back to my own childhood, when it was acceptable – even expected – that we were to be let loose in the neighbourhood from dawn until dusk with little supervision. We survived. We figured out that rocks and sticks are sometimes sharp, and we used them to build things. We explored. We took just enough risk to learn the difference between safe and stupid.

The other day I let Girlchild go with an older friend to slide on an icy hill after school. Boychild nearly stroked out. “Mom! Have you lost your mind?” He insisted the hill is a sheer drop and covered in glare ice.

I know the hill to be short with a gentle slope into a wide open field with no obstacles to hit – other than some bumps. It sounded fun to me. And holy heck! The girls were going OUTSIDE! Good enough for me.

Boychild railed on for a bit and I thought he might call the cops. I suggested if he was that worried about it he should go with them. He could stand on top of the little hill with his arms crossed, scowling like Sam the American Eagle.

That shut him down. Instead, he texted Groom-boy at work to say Mother had lost her mind. Groom-boy also refrained from notifying the police.

I often wonder about the degree to which we have conditioned ourselves to overprotect our children. The other night Girlchild was doing headstands in the living room. One adult suggested she should stop before breaking her neck. I also suggested she should stop, but I was thinking she might tip over the wrong way and smash something breakable. (It is possible that I am a Very Bad Parent.)

Getting back to the TED talk and the pocket knife part, the speaker highlighted some of its many uses: spatula, pry bar, screwdriver and blade. Coincidentally, Boychild recently mentioned he would like a pocket knife.

“What would you use it for?” I asked. (He plays video games, so probably he would want to go stab monsters, right?

“Whittling,” he said, “and for survival in the woods.”

Who knew?

So if he gets one, learning how to use the sharp part is the key. “Cut away from your body, keep the blade sharp, never force it,” Mr. Tulley said.

And leave it at home, I would add, unless in the woods. (See “calling police,” above.)

Over-protection reminds me of book banning. I’ve always thought it is better to acknowledge the existence of the words and then discuss why they are deemed unacceptable.

Same with safety. Teach kids. Let them practice. And, for crying out loud, go outside!

Nevertheless, kids, you still shouldn't run with scissors.

Nevertheless, kids, you still shouldn’t run with scissors.

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