Woah. This website is both fascinating and… a little evil. (In the same way that all advertising intel on how to exploit the masses feels a bit evil.) That aside, their claim about millennials, true or not, is worth some thought. The idea is that kids have been too coddled, and now the trend is to let children run free and learn from their mistakes. There’s one story about a parent who left their kid in a department store and let them find their own way home. Maybe that’s what I ran into at Maker Faire last weekend?
When I was a kid my dad used to blindfold me and drive out into the countryside. After an excruciatingly long time he would pull over to the side of the road and park. When I could finally take off the blindfold I would look around at some completely unfamiliar farmland or suburb. “OK,” he’d say, “tell me where to go to get home.”
This would typically take place on a Sunday after we’d left church and so I’d have all afternoon to wander aimlessly, in desperate hopes of catching my dad either wincing or grinning out of the corner of my eye so that I’d know where to turn. Sometimes I got lucky and spotted a landmark, but often the whole affair ended in shame and exasperation.
When I built my hot rod Miata years later it was in part so that I could make faster U-turns and catch exit ramps at the last second, to make up for my still completely inept sense of direction. My ability to get around hasn’t improved much, but I have adapted by learning to be comfortable on long, meandering drives across town. I remember one particularly spectacular high school homecoming where I drove my date around, completely lost, for several hours.
We did a lot of trekking when I was growing up and so a similar scenario played out at the campfire each night. My dad would hand me a single match and say, “here you are. You’re trapped alone in the wilderness. All you have is this one match…” I would carefully build a little teepee of twigs and arrange the heavier sticks nearby. Putting the match head against a stick I’d lean in close and then run it across the wood. My body was as tense as that matchstick and I’d struggle to hold it just right so that it would get enough traction to light, but not snap in half. Each time I put a little more pressure on the matchstick and it put a little more pressure on me. By the second try I would hold my breath and try not to shake. Suddenly, with a sharp stzzzzzzzt, fire appeared. In a panic I would immediately swing it in towards the pile of sticks, only to see the flame vanish into a thin thread of smoke that wandered up from my hand and away.
My dad would sigh and let his shoulders drop for a second, and then reach into the waterproof film canister for another match. “OK, here you are. You’re trapped alone in the wilderness and all you have is this one match…”
On this front I’ve been a little more successful later in life. I’ve taken some survival training and at least have the basic skills to start a fire with a pair of sticks. The disappointment I felt at not being able to meet those early expectations was always brutal, though, and I think I was still shaking that when taking the class and expecting that somehow this was something I was supposed to be able to do. I think the compromise here is in giving a kid a few pointers and the expectation that they shouldn’t be able to succeed the first time, but that they can learn. This gives them more room to fail and feel exhilarated when they finally do succeed.
Click on image to find photographer’s flickr page