The incoherent ramblings of a clearly disturbed individual aside, most parents would agree that defending a decision which resulted in sending a seven-year-old would-be airplane pilot plunging to her death is pretty stupid.
On the other hand, we don’t want our kids to grow up to be wimps, afraid to take risks, push themselves, put themselves in a little danger to see if they can come out of it OK.
See that cliff? The little red-haired girl climbed it as part of a five-day Extreme Adventures camp we booked her into before leaving on holiday in Canada.
It’s a good thing she had that day of rock climbing, one day where with good instruction and the right gear, she was tested to do her best in a risky situation.
Because the other four days of this camp were anything but Extreme Adventures.
On day one, the kids walked about 2km to the Squamish Adventure Centre, played some games, and watched a movie.
Day Two was for mountain biking, though it really wasn’t. They had them riding along crushed gravel trails.
Day Three was for wakeboarding, a sport like water skiing. They spent most of the day getting to a lake 50km away to bob about in a boat as each kid took turns pulling the one single wetsuit on and off, and then trying to wakeboard.
The last day they took them to a lake for swimming. Swimming! Not exactly Extreme Adventure, but at least it involves getting a little wet.
Ah, but before swimming in the lake, they had to put on life jackets.
What??? I know about lawyers and liability, but life jackets to go swimming?
I clearly remember having checked the box beside FISH on the form which asked Does Your Child Swim Like
And if she swims like a FISH, she doesn’t need a bloody LIFE JACKET!
She’d been in a day camp with them before, so I knew the first few minutes of Day One I’d be filling out release forms. But this time? They handed me such a stack of papers to sign, paragraphs to initial and have witnessed to fully absolve the District of Squamish of any and all liability should harm come to my child, it took nearly 20 minutes to get through it.
“It’s because there are private companies teaching the rock climbing and the wakeboarding,” they said. “It’s for their protection.”
But even after virtually telling them they could dangle my kid by the ankles from a cliff before dropping her head-first into a bear pit and I wouldn’t sue – couldn’t sue, because I’d signed that right away – I still went away happy, eagerly anticipating great tales of Extreme Adventure.
Instead she got one good day of rock-climbing and four days of pissing around, topped off by five hours on the final day sitting on the beach for five hours because she refused – and rightly so – to swim with a life jacket.
Not that she minded pissing around. At the end of the five days there was an evaluation form to fill out, and she was generally positive about the atmosphere at the camp, the counsellor and the other kids, so what the hell.
I couldn’t help thinking, though, that if this is the benchmark for what passes for adventure in a child’s life these days, we’re telling them it’s OK to be overly cautious in life, it’s OK to coast along without taking risks, it’s OK to be afraid of getting yourself in a little danger.
I would start in on how hrrrmmmmfff when I was a kid before mountain biking, wakeboarding or bloody factor 45 sunblock was even heard of we’d tear out the back door without so much as a bottle of water, scamper up through the forest to find paths up through the rocks to the lake to go swimming and the only life vest was sitting miles away at the bottom of somebody’s boat under lock and key because who even bothered to wear one at all anyway?
Ah well. Even adults wear helmets skiing these days. Now that’s wimpy.