For the first time in perhaps my entire life I sat down and watched the whole Super Bowl. Mostly I just read Twitter comments and watched the commercials. I am still not sure why anyone watches an entire football game when the last few minutes is where all the action happens.
But what about those commercials? They were certainly earnest. That’s good, right? I am not so sure. In fact, I am miffed at Nationwide, not for being a Debbie-downer during a shared cultural experience but for contributing to the culture of fear which keeps parents from letting their children grow, thrive, and fail naturally and in nature. The commercial featured a young boy who could never grow up because he had died in a “preventable” home accident.
This is a serious problem.
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle recently spoke at a local school and had much to say about the current lack of nature in the lives of modern children, but one point struck me as particularly relevant to Christian parents.
Louv feels that modern children lack hope. They lack hope about the environment as they have spent their entire school lives hearing the message of environmentalism which, he claims, is essentially a negative message. Louv feels this causes young adults to shun the outdoors, to block it out or ignore it. They are overwhelmed with the heaviness of the problem. They are past feeling they can help the environment by their actions. They feel it is too late.
Our children have been fed a negative message about the environment. Parents and Christians also feed children negative messages about the future-messages full of fear and Dystopia. Did you know that stranger abductions are significantly down and yet we live in fear our children will be abducted. Even as I write one of the stories on the news cycle, that neverending parade of fear, is about a little boy abducted in 1979. Hide your wife. Hide your children.
When we moved to a small town a few years ago we asked our neighbor if the children could fish in his pond. He said he would love for them to but he was afraid they would drown and he would be liable…..so, no they could not. You might almost wonder what kind of parent would allow their child around a pond? Or on a bicycle? Or in a football game? Or near a tick? We are not that far from that sort of fear and judgment.
Fear and judgement walk hand in hand. Judgment is a tool we use to stave off fear. Young parents live in a world of judgment which propagates even more fear.
I would start blaming technology for all of this but as Richard Louv points out you cannot fight negativity with negativity. We must have a message of hope. Our children do not need any more pictures of Dystopian survivalists, rather they need pictures and stories which illustrate “a future and a hope.” That little saying comes from the Bible and I would ask you a question. Are you teaching the Bible as a book about destruction and fear or are you leading your children to understand the Gospel as a message with a future and a hope? If you think about it you might be surprised by the true answer. I often find myself wringing my hands when I should be shouting hallelujah.
Richard Louv suggests that schools should spend $1 on nature for every $1 spent on technology. I think as parents we need to do better than that. We must always make sure hope overwhelms our personal fears for our children and the future.
Nationwide did us no favors on Super Bowl Sunday. My mom used to say you can drown in a teaspoon full of water. You can also die from dehydration. Tonight as you sit in the bathroom watching your child play in his tub of non-scalding, non-bubbly water with non-allergenic toys appropriate for his age why not use the time to tell him a few stories that have a happy ending.