30 October 2009

Six Senses

This is a subject that kind of sticks in my craw. Some time ago an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch chronicled the travails of a senior in high school who hated the traffic outside her high school when she would drive to school each morning. Here's the catch: she was driving her freshman sister to school, then turning around and driving home because she didn't have a class for a couple more hours. Then she would drive back. Traffic had apparently thinned out by then. The kicker was, if the sister was late because of traffic, it was an unexcused tardy. If she rode the bus (a mile and a quarter, if I remember correctly), and the bus was late due to traffic, it was excused. This makes so much sense to me it is not funny. If you ride the safest form of transportation to school known to God and man, and it is late due to all the others who insist on clogging up the roads bringing their "too good to ride the bus" children to school, that's is others' fault, therefore excusable. If you choose to be one of the people clogging up the roads, so sorry.

The number of teen drivers who have accidents in and around school is not even funny. I know at least a dozen who have had everything from fender benders to car-totalling accidents on the way to or from school;  it is not funny. We live in a society of children who think that everything is supposed to be handed to them; they should be carted around, and God forbid, they WALK to the corner, turn left (or right) and arrive at school. How many of us shared a car with mom or dad once we got our driver license? I certainly did, as did most of my friends. Driving to school was a privilege, not a right. But now, turn 16, get the license, get a car!

So what happens here? Parents need to realize that convenience isn't always that. Children don't always need a ride here and there. I realize that some places aren't suitable for walking - many neighborhoods near me aren't suitable for walking to school. There are no sidewalks or crosswalks. But how long can a 1.25 mile bus ride be? Especially when the consequences of dealing with the traffic are not good. Dire consequences like multiple unexcused tardies to school. In many schools around here, 3 unexcused tardies equal one absence. Three absences means no exam exemption (assuming the grades are OK).

So why do so many parents give the kid a car as soon as they get the license (and some get them BEFORE they even get a Learner's Permit!!!)? Why do so many schools allow younger teens to drive to school? And why in the heck does a freshman/sophomore need a chauffeur instead of riding the cheese wagon? I'll tell you why: Our children are special in this day and age; they are born with SIX, that's right, SIX senses!

Smell, sight, hearing, touch, taste and ENTITLEMENT!

20 October 2009

The Ridiculousness of It All!

The ThisIsCornwall online newspaper today had a story about the possible demise of one of childhood's grand pleasures: visiting a petting zoo and feeding and petting all the animals (thus the name "petting" zoo). Why is this?

Apparently some children became ill with E. Coli after visiting a farm in England. So the British Farming Minister has decided that the animals shouldn't be touched any more. Here is the story in full:
"CHILDREN should be banned from touching animals on petting farms in a bid to halt the spread of E.coli, says the Government.
Farming minister Jim Fitzpatrick said preventing youngsters from coming into direct contact with livestock was a "common sense" precaution which would still allow farm visits to go ahead.
His call comes as attractions report a drop in visitor numbers, with concerned parents staying away.
The outbreak of E.coli O157 last month forced the closure of the World of Country Life attraction in Exmouth, Devon. Its walk-in pet centre has now reopened with approval from the Health Protection Agency after numerous tests concluded there were no direct links to the virus."*
 Did you note the last sentence? "...numerous tests concluded there were no direct links to the virus"!!! How ridiculous is that?!?!


19 October 2009

It's about bloody time!

At last, an article in a widely read publication, especially by families, that gives us some good news about what NOT to worry about!

In Parade Magazine yesterday, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner penned an article on "What Should You worry About?"* Oddly enough, stranger abduction and shark attacks are not among them! They use, of all things, economics to help us understand the news cycle and why only the most sensational, no matter how rare, bad events get us churned up into a frenzy. This can start even smart people worrying that the next time junior goes wading in the stream in the woods behind the house he'll come dragging himself home missing both legs from a wayward shark gone mad. There is almost never "the other side of the story". For instance. Mr. Levitt and Dubner point out that "between 1995 and 2005 there were an average of 60.3 shark attacks worldwide each year...on average 5.9 fatalities per year." But the headlines didn't read "Shark Attacks This Year About Average". Elephants kill an average of 200 people a year. But the remote, poor places where elephants kill people aren't where the people are that are gluing themselves to the TV screens and watching the ads in between the horrors.

I commend these authors for bucking the trend. It's obviously so easy to focus only on the sensational, and it draws viewers, apparently. Does that mean we are so bereft of anything better to do than sit and watch the "news" that we start to believe everything presented to us? Or, is there an alternative?

Of course there is. Challenge the "obvious". Check out the real stats. And make an informed decision about what is safe and what isn't. You'll be much more relaxed when junior is wading in the stream in the woods out back, or walking to school, or playing in the neighborhood (gasp, out of your sight!). The other benefit is that you'll feel safe enough yourself to go out and DO SOMETHING adventurous instead of ingesting the "news cycle" and its constant stream of "THE SKY IS FALLING"!

*To read the entire article I quoted above, pick up the October 18, 2009 edition of Parade Magazine, or go to http://www.parade.com/news/2009/10/18-what-should-you-worry-about.html

10 October 2009

A Different Kind of Adventure

This blog is about adventuring. So here's an adventure that anyone can participate in! It doesn't require knowing how to start a fire in the rain, or how to keep up with 20-odd boy scouts on top of a mile-high mountain in Maine. It does require that you put away the iPod (and preferably the cell phone-PDA-Blackberry) and just enjoy yourself with friends, family, and especially the kids.

I just got home from spending last night and all of today at one of Richmond, Virginia's premiere annual events: the Richmond Folk Festival. It had a three year run as the National Folk Festival, and support and attendance was so keen, that it is now in its second year as the Richmond Folk Festival. Featuring six main stages and some 26 acts, it offers music from around the world. But this isn't mainstream music. Friday night I listened to Wylie & The Wild West. Wylie plays Western music; it ain't country and it ain't bluegrass, and he included some incredible cowboy poetry recited by one of his friends - then he performs it again as song. This was followed by Paul Williams & The Victory Trio performing Bluegrass gospel. An amazing three hours of music punctuated with a Cajun crab cake sandwich that was absolutely fabulous - the food at the Folk Festival is awesome, too. 

Saturday (today), I started the day with Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill playing Irish music on the fiddle and guitar. I followed up with  Khogzhumchu; they are Tuvan Throat-singers from Russia in Central Asia, on their first trip to America. I can't imagine how they must feel now. When I watched them perform on stage in a tent with approximately 500 seats, there were another 200 seats outside the tent, and another 300-400 standing around them! All participating in the "sing-alongs" and giving Khogzhumchu a standing ovation - it is an amazing musical genre. Dennis Stephens played traditional Church Organ music on a foot-pumped organ. The Jerry Douglas Band is a Bluegrass innovator and plays Bluegrass with a dobro, fiddle, upright bass, guitar and drums. La Gran Banda is a Columbian brass band. WOW! What a musical adventure! I saw traditional crafts, and listened to "front porch music" (you figure it out). I also saw old friends, made new friends and thoroughly enjoyed seeing everyone there smiling and tapping their feet.

But the real reason I write is to suggest that if you want to go adventuring, here is a way to do it, and include the whole family. The Richmond Folk Festival draws thousands of people from all over. Everywhere I looked I saw families with kids of all ages. Babies in strollers, toddlers holding onto mommy's hand, and most importantly, youth from around 12 to 18 out with friends on their own. Also, moms and dads letting the kids play "over there" with all the other kids while they enjoyed the music. These are parents who realize that our communities are basically safe places, and have raised kids that they can trust to "go play" (with strange kids, no less) with no worry about them getting snatched or running away and getting lost. Of course, in a crowd of 185,000, there are so many easily identified volunteers, staff members, and cops, a lost kid couldn't stay lost very long if he didn't want to!

Lenore Skenazy, in her book, Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry, has small sections describing "baby steps" to going free-range. This is a chance for you to take a "baby step" in adventuring! Here's how:

I'll bet almost everyone in this country lives within reasonable driving distance of a festival of this sort. Richmond alone has the Greek Festival, the 2nd Street Festival, the Watermelon Festival, Innsbrook Afterhours, and many, many more. So find one near you, plan on it, and attend! Take the kids, and let them roam with friends. Set a meeting time and place, and be sure they understand the rules - yeah, the rules. They should know when and where to meet you - every two or three hours if you're making this an all day event. And what to do if someone creeps you out with an inappropriate advance. Oh yeah - another rule {VeryBigFrown}, stay with your buddy {VeryImportant}. If you just can't resist, let them have the cell phone. But please, promise NOT to harass them every 15 minutes as long as they check in as required - here's a tip, make the first check in an hour out - if they show up, give them 2 more. Added freedom for being responsible. And keep the cell phone in your pocket! Unfortunately, they won't keep it in their pocket, they'll be too busy texting their friends telling them about their adventure and making their friends jealous. This will be an adventure they won't forget.

Go for it! Go have FUN! Once you realize that you can adventure on a scale like this, it is much easier to plan larger and larger adventures. Next time, on The Expert on the World: New York City with 25 boy scouts (and 2 scared moms). 

For more information about the Richmond Folk Festival, visit their website, RichmondFolkFestival.org. If you live within a couple or three hours drive of Richmond, put it on your calendar for next year! And bring the kids so they can make new friends and be exposed to some great adventures in music and fun!

08 October 2009

A Great Quote V

"Let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always."
- Rainer Maria Rilke

02 October 2009

A Great Quote

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."
- Albert Einstein