What Is Wrong with Kids These Days? Bumpers!
This weekend, I took my middle-schooler and nine of her friends bowling. I took them to a pretty cool alley, with black light and good music, and pitchers of soda. We don’t do this often—it was a special occasion. So there we were, wearing our women’s bowling shoes (ranging from size 6-10) and one girl turned to me and said, “Um, like, can we have the bumpers?” It must have been the 80s music, but I think I reverted to my younger self, and said without hesitation, “WHAT? Are you serious? No. You guys don’t need bumpers…Do you?”
I am disappointed by this generation of softies, who are used to getting ribbons for just showing up; who use the term ‘bully’ freely; who are getting iPhones just because why not; who are being told “Yes” too much, and “No” not enough…who are getting boobs, becoming young women, and are still asking for bumpers at the bowling alley.
I did not put the bumpers up. Even when my daughter, the birthday girl, was bowling all 0’s for the first several frames.. I told them that they don’t need bumpers—they’re old enough to learn to bowl—even if they suck. Most people suck at things until they learn how to do them, and practice makes better. But you can’t ever get better at something without removing the training wheels, the bubble wrap, and the bumpers.
Of course, I’m talking about something other than safety. We need seatbelts and helmets and the FDA and watchdogs for our kids’ air, water, food and toys… Yes. But there is a difference between protecting children so that they “make it,” and protecting them from a little bit of struggle, challenge, hurt… They must have obstacles to overcome, hearts that are broken, and experience disappointment in order to grow.
It’s not too late for any of us. We have the power to make things a little harder for our kids. Let them walk in the cold, get wet, fall down, get up. Let them fight back, make amends, work it out. Let them cry a little. They don’t get stronger by having it so easy. And they will never learn to bowl, for goodness sake, if they use those bumpers past preschool age.
My daughter ended up (eventually) knocking a bunch of pins down and pretty much matched the scores of her friends. They had fun. When we got home, my almost–5-year old son said he wanted his birthday “at bowling” next month. Might as well—it’s his last year to get the bumpers.
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