I’m not bashing McDonalds here. If I’m going to eat fries, I’ll eat theirs. If I’m going to pick up something cheap on the way home, it’s going to be their sweet chilli chicken wrap. Back when I was a student I had an impressive collection of Happy Meal toys. So understand that I’m not standing on a pedestal and waving a finger at people who eat at McDonalds, but I saw the new McDonalds Ad on TV tonight and it is honestly everything that’s wrong with our view of childhood today.
Yeah, okay, there’s some sense in not running by the pool. But I’ve heard people say the same about the park, the playground or even their own gardens. If a child was running at 30 miles an hour I’d understand. I’d also be impressed. Don’t let them lose out on the opportunity to experience and manage risk because we’re afraid of bumps and scrapes.
This excited boy drags his parents into a museum. They can’t walk fast enough. He finally sees what he wants to show them, and puts his hands up on the glass. Not on an ancient artifact, just on a bit of glass, that someone will be cleaning later on anyway – and he’d just been holding his mother’s hand so we know he wasn’t covered in ice cream. Way to deflate the kid’s enthusiasm. And tomorrow he doesn’t want to go back and we say he’s not interested in history, or science.
Okay, here again, it’s not their bed. Fair enough. And it’s not great for the bed. That’s why my kids need a trampoline… this is obviously a child with a lot of energy, and bed shopping is boring.
Actually my daughter was refused a ride on a roller coaster recently and I was really very glad about it, having gone on it myself. I’m an adrenaline junkie, and I was mildly terrified. Sometimes these things have valid reasons. Sometimes they have ridiculous health and safety limitations. How many kids today have never even climbed a tree? Not because it’s more dangerous, but because we are afraid of their pain. We are afraid of them evaluating risk in a safe(r) environment.
We got stuck on a different roller coaster at the same park recently, and had to sit in driving rain for 15 minutes waiting for the fire department to come help us walk along the tracks: 7 meters to the public platform. Along a solid pavement. It was ridiculous. Health and safety leaves us with a generation of people who are incapable of understanding their limitations because they’ve never been allowed to test them.
The boy tries to make a ramp with his bicycle. It’s not even high. But no, no… too what? dangerous? puh-lease.
I understand the concept of other people’s property, and that children need to learn respect for things that aren’t theirs, but really? Keep off the grass? Isn’t that the bit they play whatever sport it is on? Is a young boy running on the grass on his own going to wreck it? I doubt it. I sincerely doubt it!
Why? Because his feet might get wet? His shoes might get muddy? Well, that would have been a lesson well learned. Jump in puddles, get wet feet. Now, instead, outside is just another boring place where you can’t have any fun.
But don’t worry kiddo. There’s always McDonalds. There you can hear ‘yes’. There you can have fun, and laughter and freedom to truly enjoy the best that childhood has to offer. With your cardboard children’s meals and plastic toys. (Yeah, I know, my kids have it sometimes too. That’s HOW I know.)
This advert does not make me want the chicken wrap I so enjoy (when I don’t think about the farmed chickens.)
It makes me sad for a fictional boy named Harry and all the children like him.
It makes me want to run my children barefoot down a hill to jump in puddles and leap over logs. It makes me want to carry an extra tin of plasters for every little booboo that teaches them to fall and stand up again. That teaches them just how far you can pull a branch before it snaps, that teaches them how unpleasant thrown sand in the eye can be. That teaches them that if a fall from knee-height hurt, a fall off a cliff will be fatal. That peers don’t always have the best advice or intentions.
It makes me grateful that my children are free range and hopeful that somewhere out there, when they’re grown up and looking for partners of their own, there will be someone left who had a freerange childhood too.