Bucket Lists For Kids
Isn’t the bucket list (the list of things to do before you die, not the trendy Bondi bar) dead? Hasn’t it become yet another passé middle class trend, replaced by tattooed chefs and fixed-gear bikes? Pearl had thought as much until I stumbled upon the latest bucket list – ‘Fifty Things to Do Before You Are 12’.
Like all bucket lists, this one is aimed at the trendy, educated, affluent and competitive middle class individuals who require a checklist to bolster their image and ego. And it is aimed directly at Eastern Suburbs children, because only an Eastern Suburbs list of outdoor fun would include “find a geocache in your neighbourhood” and, of course, the essential (and illegal) “build a cubby or a tree-house”.
I’m quite shocked by this bucket list; shocked that the affluent and educated have to be told by a government-funded initiative that their children should build a sandcastle or play spotlight before they are twelve. Today’s kiddies are apparently spending way too much time in front of computers and televisions and someone has to take action, as long as it’s not the parents.
Parents could easily fix the problem by depriving their children of computer use and throwing them into a bedroom with pencils and paper or out in the backyard with a ball, but apparently that’s all too easy. Instead, an issue has to be made out of it, with all parental responsibility relinquished. Instead, councils are to blame for not providing adequate playgrounds, and schools are to blame for not providing valuable playtime during lunch and recess. Middle class parents are busy people – there’s money to be made (and spent!) and it’s not being earned if you are squandering the weekend bushwalking or building sandcastles with your kids.
From the number of children I see each weekend on football fields and on Clovelly Beach, I’m actually not buying into this inactivity debate. The notion of childhood inactivity is yet another trend for middle class parents to indulge in, similar to Ghandi baby t-shirts and emo toddler jeans. And with this trend comes the usual labels: ‘Nature Deficiency Syndrome’ for children who spend their weekends trawling hip cafes and boutiques with Yummy Mummy; ‘Slow Parenting’ for parents whose children are left to draw, fight or play without interference; and my all time favourite, ‘Free Range Parenting’ for parents who assume that a mythical ‘village’ will take responsibility for their feral kids and who seriously think that building a tree-house or letting their five year-old walk to school unsupervised will be the solution to their child’s supposed ‘inactivity’ problems.
While we are blaming everyone else and creating labels, let’s also reminisce about the ‘good old days’ of roaming free in paddocks and playing on the streets with no extracurricular activities to worry about. But let’s get real here: the paddocks are now housing estates and backyards don’t exist because of our lust for huge houses that eliminate every inch of play area. It is actually unsafe for children to walk unaccompanied to school or play in the street because there is a real risk of being run over by the Yummy Mummy vehicle of choice, the huge SUV driven with mobile phone to ear before being illegally parked! And parental obsession with overachievement means that free playtime is now taken up with Kumon and tutoring. If our children are really inactive, let’s blame our own lifestyle choices, not the government, nor councils and definitely not school teachers.
P.S. Regarding the tree-house obsession – let it go. It’s a myth. And your kids are probably playing with their iPads up there anyway!