I was a child of the 80s/90s. When I was a child, in the summers up in northern Minnesota, we would ride in the back of pick-up trucks, and ride our horses through the Dairy Queen drive-through. We would climb all over rusty playground equipment, fall from high-up monkey bars, and ride our bikes without helmets. All of these things were normal back then. It was strange to encounter a kid who hadn’t ever broken an arm, an ankle, a wrist, a leg. “You’ve never broken a bone? REALLY? WOW!” We got cuts, bruises, and scars, and we were actually proud of them. “AWESOME SCAR!” “Yeah, I got it when I tumbled all the way down a hot metal slide in the summer and fell off and landed on my chin!” That’s what childhood is about, isn’t it? Playing rough, getting injured (so you learn how to deal with physical pain and you learn it will heal, and you learn that your body will tell a story with its bumps, bruises, and scars, and it’s nothing to worry about…)
I was only ten years old the first time I snapped one of my ACL’s. If anyone knows anything about ACL’s, snapping or tearing one and the surgeries that follow are one of the most painful things you can go through as a human being, with the obvious exception of things like childbirth. But let me tell you, after the first time I snapped one and had to deal with the surgery and recovery, I could then handle ANY kind of physical pain, because NOTHING was as bad as that! Going through that taught me some coping skills when it came to physical pain, it gave me a “bar” to set my pain tolerance level to.
I can’t tell you the last time that I saw a child walking around with a plaster cast on, or even a sling or crutches in general. On the rare occasion it is seen, people raise their eyebrows as the kid walks (or hobbles) by, glancing quickly at the parents and you can almost hear them wondering what the parents did wrong to allow their precious baby child to get injured. If a kid gets a cut, the parents rush them to the plastic surgeon because lord forbid they should get a scar! Scars are apparently now something to hide and be ashamed of. If a child is spotted riding a bike without a helmet, people call CPS and report the parents for neglect.
We had a summer cabin on top of a big, steep hill that lead down to the lake. We tied a waterski rope to a branch on a tree, and I would climb up on top of the railing of our deck, and holding the rope, swing from one end of the deck to another. If the branch had broken, or if I had lost my grip, the chances of me breaking my neck (and/or a lot of other things) was probably pretty great. But we did it anyway because were kids and it was fun.
When I was a child, I LOVED roller coasters. The faster, the scarier, the better! (I still feel the same way!) Most kids I knew loved “scary” rides, as well. Nowadays, I don’t see a lot of kids on the rides at “extreme” theme parks, and that’s not just because of the height requirement. We’re literally conditioning our children now to fear so many things, to obsess over safety,
What happened between my childhood years and now? When did we develop this idea of “perfection” in which no one’s body or mind is allowed to experience adventure, or pain? The bigger concern is, what kind of adults are today’s children going to grow up to be? They won’t know how to deal with pain, but more important than that, the body image ideals are just getting worse and worse every year. Marilyn Monroe was considered the sexiest woman alive in her day, and she was a size 14. Nowadays, people see a size 14 as “obese.” We can’t risk “imperfection” or we are seen as “ugly.” I wouldn’t want to be a child in this day and age, especially with rampant social media. I had enough pressure on me at ten years old without selfie contests and group text chats.
I don’t mind my knee surgery scars, or my scars from a dog attack, or even my cutting scars. They all tell stories of my life, where I’ve been, what I’ve been through, and they are a part of me. I feel sad that kids these days are taught to fear and avoid them. I feel sad that they don’t know the fun of riding in the back of a pick up truck, or even the pain of breaking a bone or even getting splinters from the playground equipment. There is so much LIFE they are missing out on.