A big thanks to John Venlet for pointing the way to this Psychology Today article, A Nation of Wimps. Everyone should take time to read it. Though I’m not a parent, I do observe a lot of these things, so it rings true to me. Also, I was a kid once, and I appreciate the environment I grew up in more than ever.
I grew up outside the city of Reno, Nevada on a 10 acre greenbelt stretch along the Trukee River owned by my maternal grandfather, Clarence Goodsell, an artist who had been in the sign-painting business for many years. All those Plexiglas signs you see today in casinos were once hand painted, and in the 60’s and 70’s, nearly all of them in Reno were painted by my grandfather and the one or two guys he would employ from time-to-time when things were busy.
A 1/3 acre field separated our house from my grandparents’ house and grandpa’s shop. As kids, we roamed free from as early as I can remember. We had vast areas to explore, all on our own, and in the summertime, all summer, we were out either modifying our bikes and doing "dangerous" stunts like jumping them over ramps, climbing willow trees to insane heights–or we were down at the dam, playing in the undertow that during a few spring times, at high runoff, had taken the lives of a few rafters over the years who refused to listen to my grandfather’s warnings, shouted to them from the front lawn as they floated by.
This was all unsupervised. We worked things out on our own, taking full credit for every triumph and learning good lessons from every risk gone wrong.
That article reminded me just how valuable to me, today, all that was back then.
Update: Since I got wind of this article from John Venlet, an avid fisherman, I should perhaps mention that my grandfather was too. He taught me to tie my own flies and gave me his twist down vice and supplies when he got a new one with a lever to clamp down the hook. In the spring and summer, I’d observe him many a late afternoon wading out into the river in front of his house, catching and mostly releasing dozens of rainbow and brown trout. We ate a lot of fresh trout when we were kids.