I have a cat that until he came here had always been housebound: three years and he had never touched grass, or seen snow, or felt the wind rippling his fur. He had never played Chase The Leaf, or Drink Muddy Water,. or Climb The Tree and Pretend to Get Stuck. His voice box, I am pretty sure, had been removed, since the only sound he can make is a tiny rusty "acckkkk acckkkkk". In two years he has never voluntarily allowed us to touch him. If you do pat him, he curls into a ball and waits for it to be over. When he goes out, he is frightened of wind, refuses to touch snow, and despises rain and cold.
In reading around the blogs and on the net, I see something most disturbing; women/parents who treat their own children in just this way. I can understand being fearful, I can understand holding your breath while your kid goes to the neighbor's, alone, for the first time. He's scared too. But it does seem that we have somehow become a nation of frightened people and we're teaching our kids to be the same way. Play dates, constant supervision, cotton wool carefully placed where they might fall, emotionally or otherwise.
I blame, partly, the media and the instant-on culture that gets its news in a stream, all day. We hear about rapes in California, and women in Ohio lock their doors. We see almost first hand car bombings, police stakeouts, robberies stopped in progress. The immediacy is numbing. Children are abducted or abused or killed and we now hear about all of them, continually. So we pull the drapes and keep our own kids close.
What seems to have been lost is a sense of proportion, a sense of what is appropriate in our own lives. It also seems we are now unable to sort out what is truly dangerous and what we perceive to be dangerous.
To teach a child caution is one thing. To teach them to fear is to hamstring them for life, unable to function in a difficult world, and stunned when they finally realize what's out there and how ill-pepared they are for any of it.