Free-range kid?

I don’t understand why some people complain about the bad language the kids pick up in the car. There is nothing more likely to give me a spurt of joy than hearing Eila holler out from the backseat, MOVE ALONG YOU BASTARDS, THE LIGHT IS GREEN! It’s so frolicsome. I get a kick out of just knowing how much she’s enjoying herself.

Which reminds me of something I just read: bad mom/ good mom quoting Roger Ebert on how children are overly sheltered these days and why can’t we all run through ravines in thunderstorms any more and all that. I totally agreed with everything, until I was thrown for a loop by this:

…we boys would pee behind trees, shrubbery, or garages (“If you run home, your mom might grab you and make you do something”). I forgot to mention that one of the reasons we needed to pee is that when we got thirsty we drank out of garden hoses–our own, and anybody else’s.

Whoa. Do boys not pee behind shrubbery anymore? Because I pee behind shrubbery, and Eila pees behind shrubbery. And when did the memo come out about the garden hoses? We are drinking out of hoses all the time! Are we going to come down with some grotesque disease? Is there a difference between the hose and the tap?

I’m serious. I’ve got the rest of Ebert’s over-protective-lament list covered. Child car seats: check! Bike helmets: check! Bottled water: check! Security guards: I don’t hire my own, but I’m good with them, so check! Sunblock: check! Hand sanitizer: okay, no, unless we’re at the petting zoo, but in that case, check! And childproof bottles: Eila can open them, but sure the house is full of them, so check! But what is this with peeing and hoses? I guess maybe I am raising a free-ish-range kid.

A loosely connected thought. I’ve just completed my annual reading of Pride and Prejudice and my new insight – which seems to me breathtaking though it only concerns me – is that I like Lydia Bennet. Not that I’d want to be Lydia, or even spend much time with her, and not that she could ever replace Lizzie in my heart. I’ll admit she’s pretty stupid. But she is so tremendously good-humoured, and she breezes through life with such a savage sense of fun. And even her narcissism is so unconscious — so artless Austen would say — as hardly to be narcissism at all. She’s like a puppy or something, and who doesn’t like a puppy?

Other new interests (or addictions) around here? Eila: poptropica. Me: Jonathan Goldstein.

11 thoughts on “Free-range kid?

  1. (I write this with the caveat that I haven’t thought about drinking or not-drinking from garden hoses in ages.)

    I think that there are two (potential) problems with drinking from hoses: first, chemicals can leach out of the hose itself and into the water; second, algae and bacteria and crap can build up on the inside of the hose. In both of those cases, if you run the hose long enough that the water that’s been sitting in the hose for ages is gone, you’re probably fine. In other words, the water is just like tap water, but those hose is *not* just like the pipes that tap water comes out of.

    I didn’t really grow up drinking from hoses, but I had a more urban childhood than most of the people now lamenting how easy and perfect childhood was in the 1960s and ’70s. My hunch is that every generation of adults is nostalgic for the “simpler” times of their own childhoods. We drank from hoses; our parents drank from creeks; and so on.

  2. I think that as long as you teach her to use the word “frolicsome” often, all is good.

    In other news, a dozen Tim Hortons appeared in Manhattan today. The stock market went up. Correlation or causation?

  3. Well, since we use potable water to sprinkle our lawns in this continent of abundance you’re probably fine. But as things change, (people become aware?) our garden hoses really should be greywater and we shouldn’t be drinking from them.

    And scarier yet, but a little far fetched, is the issue of peeing behind shrubbery. Because of all the processed food you eat, with all its food “additives” or the food “products” you eat, many of the chemicals/substances in your diet do not degrade in the environment like your parents pee did. So peeing in shrubbery near water supplies carries the risk of contamination.

    However, eat actual food, pee where you want, and drink from your rainwater collection fed hose (as long as the rainwater collector has a UV filter).

  4. Just teach her to be careful about where she decides to pee. A friend of mine who had just moved to DC made a drunken decision to pee on some shrubbery … behind the EPA. He got a stern talking-to from some police.

    Also, I thought of you when I heard the Tim Hortons news.

  5. Did Ebert drink out of rubber garden hoses or today’s PVC ones? Because PVC ones leach stuff into the water, especially water that has been sitting in the hose in the hot sun for hours or days.

    Better to unhook the hose and drink out of the tap–unless it was soldered with lead solder.

    We still pee behind bushes. During toilet training, we couldn’t always find a convenient potty. I told her to squat down on a “pretend” potty behind a shrub. Even now, she calls taking a whiz outdoors using the pretend potty.

    Interesting thing about drugs appearing in urine: an Italian research group measured degradation products of common drugs, legal and illicit, in rivers around Italy, downstream from municipal waste treatment plants. They learned all sorts of interesting information. Metamphetamine use in some regions was higher than they expected. Actually, there was more drug use in chi-chi areas than the police had previously known about.

  6. I read this piece by Michael Chabon and thought of you. A rather interesting connection between maps in fantasy novels and the importance of giving children space and freedom to explore the wilderness around them. I’ve seen a lot of similar arguments, but I’ve always loved the terrible maps in the flaps of adventure novels and was happy to see them get some attention.

  7. Back in the 1950’s in S Texas, we were warned not to drink from hoses because snakes could be hiding in the hoses. We drank from them anyway.

  8. Natty, I read that article too, and I also thought of me (har!). Pity I’m not already published on the issue. But let’s not forget that, like me, Chabon is most likely relying on Francis Spufford.

    Grace, all very useful information. I believe my hose is synthetic rubber. Is all rubber these days synthetic rubber?

  9. I don’t know. I know that my hose is PVC. Most mass-market stores only sell PVC (aka vinyl) hoses.

    The Chabon article brought me back into my childhood. I lived in a planned development of homes built upon one large island and a bunch of smaller islands, linked by bridges. (The developer got the idea after visiting Venice.)

    Long distances on land could be traversed by canoe (or even swum) in minutes. Once I found friends with boats, my mental map of my city changed immensely. This was before google maps and satellite view.

    I really enjoyed exploring my city by different modes.

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