Last July 3, we took the kids to a fireworks show in Swampscott. They played with some friends, and soon enough their excitement overflowed. It became one of those evenings where they were particularly off the rails. A loud wolf pack running, yelling and laughing with wild abandon. You know, being kids, only more so.
There were some in the crowd that didn’t like this. At the ice cream shop, the kids ran circles around me, and the gent in line in front of us turned and worked his eyebrows into a thick black line of consternation, which I ignored.
An older couple on the lawn weren’t too happy about our choice of location, too near their chairs. The man even applauded sarcastically when I picked Riley up and took her away from them.
When I think back on these events, my regrets are not that I didn’t exert more control over the kids, but that I didn’t look these people square in the eye with a dark look that clearly and pointedly said “bite me”. I wish I had explained to my fellow ice cream customer that if he couldn’t tolerate noise, he should be aware there was a fireworks show about to begin. I wish I had looked right at the clapping man, then put my daughter down and told her to continue playing.
I consider it a duty of all parents to stand up for each other against ignorant judgment. We often share memes about how cool it was to ride your bigwheel across busy highways while listening to Zeppelin, and how we all spent hours away from the prying eyes of parents and neighbors, and how there were no electronics, no tethers, no medicines. Just belts and paddles. And how exhibits at the zoo, freshly built in 1978, were dismal concrete boxes where animals dwelled, if not lived, in deplorable conditions that could easily be breached by any kid who felt like pushing through a fence rail.
Well 1978, and everything that was cool about it, just came back to bite us in the ass. So we have to decide: Is it cool to build stuff that lets kids, if allowed to be kids, imperil themselves within seconds? Is it cool to take videos and photos of kids being kids so we can share them online? Is it totally rad to bitch about parents who happen to look the other way, at another child, or to rummage through their bags to get candy, a camera phone, a set of jingling toy keys or medicine while their kids happen to get in our way? Is it cool to think we’re completely reliable and superior to literally everyone else in the universe, while at the same time believing we grew up in some kind of golden era where monkey cages, bigwheels, seat-belt-less automobiles and acid rock were all part of a great big world where kids could easily die, or survive, depending on how drunk our parents were?
If you’re judging a mom harshly for believing she had shelled out $25 per person to bring her kids to a place that had been upgraded since those days, and for daring to ‘hover’ over one of her children while another was able to fall into this 1978 concrete box without needing a ladder and blowtorch, then you suffer from this disease. Blind Americana.
It’s probably not unique to Americans, but we sure corner the market in it.