Mrs. Crucis had lunch with her cousin today. That allowed me to escape and spend some time at one of my favorite greasy spoons. While I was eating, one of the waitresses came over to talk a bit.
I’ll call her Tanya. Tanya isn’t the brightest bulb on the string. She dropped out of high school “because it was too hard.” She’s married and has two kids. One is her 11 year-old son, Sonny. (You can see I’m very original making up names.)
Tanya sat down across from me and said, “I’m mad!” It seems her son and some friends had built a bicycle track completed with jumps and potholes in a vacant lot. They were racing. Sonny jumped a ridge and on landing, his front wheel dug in. Sonny’s face met handle bars. His nose was broken and the bone just below his nose containing his front upper teeth was broken and caved in. Sonny will require surgery for a complete recovery.
Tanya wasn’t mad at Sonny. Nor was she mad at his friends for building the track. She wasn’t mad at the bicycle manufacturer. No, she was mad at the bicycle helmet manufacturer. She felt they should have made the helmet with a full-face shield.
She continued in this mode a bit while I finished lunch. I don’t like being in these positions. I’m a private person. I like eating lunch alone with a book for company. But Tanya wanted to talk and I’m a patient listener. I finally had enough. I asked her, “Do you think Sonny will be bicycle jumping again?”
“No,” she replied, “he doesn’t want to race anymore.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Well, he doesn’t want to get hurt again,” she said.
I was hesitant to ask my next question, but sometimes I just have an urge.” “Tanya,” I said. “If he did have a full-face shield on his helmet and hadn’t gotten hurt or only bruised, would he have continued to bike-jump? Maybe getting hurt worse the next time?”
She thought on that for a bit and finally said, “Yeah, he would.”
“He learned a lesson, didn’t he?”
“Consider this. Yes, it was painful and he’ll have to have surgery to fix everything. It’ll be expensive. But, he’ll know better next time.”
“So, isn’t it better that he learns that lesson now rather than sometime later—maybe in more dangerous circumstances? Maybe when driving a car?”
“But he’s my baby!”
At this point she was almost at tears. We continued talking for awhile longer. I explained that she couldn’t protect her kids every moment of the day. Growing up means learning skills, learning how to live, and learning what is dangerous. If she protects him too much, he’ll never learn what is dangerous and what isn’t.
I think she understood some of that. Life is not without risk nor consequences. Freedom is freedom to learn. Freedom is also the ability to grow and plan, to risk and if necessary, to suffer the consequences. Risk is also the means to succeed because without risk, success will never occur.
Tanya is a good parent. Like all parents, she doesn’t want her children to come to harm. Life, isn’t, unfortunately, without risk and the potential for harm. Risk can be good and the process of growing into maturity is learning the ability to weigh risk. Weigh the effort, the potential rewards, weigh the cost and the possible loss and consequences.
I fear that the forces behind the Nanny State have forgotten these lessons—if they ever knew them at all.