On Being Children

On Being Children

We have stopped being children, or is it honoring the child in ourselves. It seems to me that in our rush to make the world safer, we have taken away much of the joy of being alive.

We are afraid to let Hunter use the sign language for his name because it too much resembles a gun. A high school student gets kicked out of school for wearing a shirt with a picture of a gun on it. We let these same kids watch hours of movies and programming filled with violence, sex and death and somehow wonder when they bring that to school.

Why are we so quick to forget our own childhood? I grew up on shows like The Lone Ranger and Davy Crocket, big studio westerns featuring John Wayne and Jimmie Stewart, and shows like Gunsmoke and the Waltons (more). We carried our cap guns and dressed up as cowboys or indians for Halloween. I played with my Lone Ranger (I even had the horse, Silver, with the articulating limbs). Others liked GI Joe.

We knew there were good guys and bad guys, and certain kids down the street that our parents didn't want us hanging out with. We knew the smart-ass, the brainiac, the greaser, the angel that all the parents were convinced he was a devil, and the boy scout who was nothing but trouble.

We invented games, and argued about the rules. We got cheated and were sometimes surprised by acts of random kindness.

We grew from these interactions. We learned that you can't trust everyone, but you still have to get along with them, that the star of the class won't necessarily become a star in life, and that some of the meekest seeming people were actually the most courageous. We learned this by experimenting, playing, fighting, trying new and dangerous things, and sometimes by being juvenile delinquents.

The difference between then and now is that then it was understood that sometimes you have to be stupid to get smart, you need to screw up in order to not be one. We blew things up, played with fire, sometimes lied and got away with it, and then got caught and swore we'd never lie again. Some of us did anyway.

Now, kids get arrested for sticking mentos in a soda bottle and watching it blow up in school. Instead of celebrating the scientist, we act out of irrational fear and call in the bomb squad. The pond we used to skate on is now posted no trespassing. The lakes and watering holes we used to swim in are off-limits.

I am not suggesting that we should take off our seat-belts and bike helmets and act like idiots, but I am suggesting that a certain amount of testing of the boundaries and experimentation is a normal part of a healthy childhood.

As President, I intend to honor the child in all of us, the one who loves without condition, who strives to understand and make his world better, who understands the value of community. While most of what this post discusses is well out of the realm of federal authority, it is ours to set a tone and create the conditions that will lead us to be better humans, better citizens and better Americans.