Better safe than sorry?

One of my more vivid memories of childhood was woozily walking around the monkey bars one morning, my head stuck with my nose pointing to the sky, perplexed by my inability to yell, or make any noise at all. Just seconds before I had been happily hanging upside down, tooting on my tin whistle.

I pulled the tin whistle out of my throat, and had enough sense to keep quiet about it. My folks had little tolerance for any consequences from acting stupid. By afternoon I was swinging upside down again, this time without my whistle, my voice now raspy.

At this moment, my left thumb has a small (but gaping) laceration from a saw that slipped from the limb I was cutting a few days ago. I was at the top of a ladder at the time.

I thought I liked heights despite my history--turns out my adventures may have contributed to my relative fearlessness.

"Paradoxically, we [Drs. Sanseter and Kennair] posit that our fear of children being harmed by mostly harmless injuries may result in more fearful children  and increased levels of psychopathology."

"Girls' playground, Harriet Island," circa 1905

We broke a few bones, collected quite a few stitches, scraped off some skin, nearly drowned a few times, chipped (and lost) a few teeth, burned ourselves regularly, and spent part of an afternoon stone deaf after getting a fuseless M80 to demonstrate the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics a foot or two away from our faces.

We got chewed, stung, or nipped by skeeters, crabs, bees and wasps, jellyfish, a bluefish or two. I even got a catfish stuck on my leg for hours, refusing to go for help as the critter shuddered away its last few hours, in a worse state than me.

We knew what tendons looked like from direct experience. ("Look, mom...!")

I'm not advocating that we maim our children, and our gang was a little nutty even by the standards of 4 or 5 decades ago. You could reconstruct a fair-sized toddler from all the cells we lost along the way.

We developed fearlessness, and we learned the difference between risk and recklessness. I even learned a bit about the anatomy of the larynx.

Fear can kill life long before a child's last breath. Fear has tempered some of the flash and bang once a staple in science class. Fear of failing has replaced the kinds of fear that shaped the pursuit of happy and fulfilling lives.

Photo from Shorpy, a treasure trove of photos from years ago.

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