Friday, June 1, 2012

Fat and Parental Fear


Skating in Central Park in New York in November 2010. I want to go back to New York City for a visit. Pleeeeassse.

I spent my elementary school years in the city, in the Snowdon District of Montreal. In those day, before the Decarie Expressway was put in, the road behind our duplex was lined with used car lots. One day I met a 'war veteran' who was using one of the cars for a home, a one-legged war veteran and went home and brought him our left over roast of beef.

That night, when my mother asked where the roast had disappeared to, I was afraid to tell her about the 'war veteran' so I said I gave it to a stray dog, a German Shepherd I said, embellishing the story for effect.

She laughed. She thought THAT was funny. (Food was cheaper in 64.) I knew not to tell her about the 'bum' in the car, because she would have freaked. Even though I played outside all day with all the local kids, getting into all kinds of mischief.

I say this because a day ago a study was released: BREAKING NEWS: Parental fear contributing to kids obesity.

No duh! It seems some social scientists have figured out that Canadian kids today don't engage in enough free play.

They could have saved the research: in 1997 I wrote an essay In Praise of Nothing to Do about the same subject. And I think about 1000 such essays have been written by others over the 15 years.

When raising my boys, in the 80's and 90's I lived in the suburbs, the rural suburbs..snore. Even then some parents were paranoid about their kids' safety and kept them inside to watch The Simpsons or play Nintendo rather then let them run around outside, or ride their bikes to the pool without them.

The article I read was in the Globe and Mail. The people contributing on the message boards covered all the reasons for this phenomenon, blaming the Media most for its coverage of the seedy and sensational and very very rare kidnapping, etc.

I actually blame consumerism most, because anything "Free" is this society is frowned upon. It doesn't contribute to the economy or corporate coffers.

Parents have always been paranoid about their children: in medieval times, wild beasts and falling into the fire were  perceived dangers for their children. In the mid 1920's (I read while researching my play Milk and Water) the ever-increasing automobile traffic started scaring parents, so much so, the Moms preferred their kids hang out in the firetrap Motion Picture Houses, despite the fact that moralizers thought the motion pictures were an evil influence, the Cops and Robbers movies being especially corrupting.

Anyway, I'm watching the French Open now. I have just started watching tennis, oddly, since many of my friends are long time fans.

I've discovered in my more than middle age that I enjoy watching very fit young people do their eye-hand coordination thing. And I like tennis players because they seem like 'ordinary' athletes, not steroid-enhanced behemoths.

At least I thought they were ordinary, until I listened to the commentary to hear that many of the top seeded players have parents who were professional athletes in their respective countries.

I noticed that with the last Olympics. To be a champion in any event these days it seems your parents must have been champions so that you can be trained since birth for the sport.

In other words, we're breeding top athletes these days. (Like the Russians did in the 70's and the Western Media criticized them for their 'cold scientific methods' and non-telegenic robotic athletes. Do you remember? All Russian women were ugly in those days. Amazing how their  grandchildren have improved upon the stock :)

No wonder kids today don't feel they have a chance! Or maybe they understand intuitively that their job, as dull ordinaries, is to watch these super-athletes on the TV and absorb the ads for junk food.(Hey, I just heard that Sharapova, the highest paid female athlete ever, the new breed of beautiful SLIM consumer age Russian, is coming out with a line of ....candy. She's a favorite with the fans, especially the kids, says the ESPN announcer. Poor Jamie Oliver, he doesn't have a chance.)

I actually live across the street from the family of a rare Canadian professional soccer player. The family was hardly at home the entire time they were raising their boys. Soccer, soccer soccer. And when at home the boys were outside, kicking a ball. The mom is super fit too.

It's all or nothing in this modern society. In this suburb, like so many others, every parent puts their kids in Saturday soccer, until they drop out at 10 and stop playing any sport entirely.

Our suburb doesn't even have a properly maintained ice rink! We're still in Canada, last time I checked. The only rinks in the area are indoor and therefore used only for organized sport.

My husband remembers the local outdoor  ice rink once was filled with kids, whose stay at home mothers wanted them OUT OF THE HOUSE, and tended by a retired- town employee who took pride in keeping it smooth and perfect. (Of course, winters were colder.)

If you build it, they MAY come. Can you skate and Tweet at the same time?

Anyway, about the Decarie Expressway. I recall when it was being built in 1966 for Expo. Pound pound pound all night long, the pile drivers. I also recall, (I think) my brother scaling it one day, a la tight rope artist, walking a thin plank across the big deep hole that was to become the 'trench'.

My mother never found out. She would have freaked. Although the lead-laden exhaust fumes and horrible 60's air pollution on the street didn't tweak her maternal fears. I recall being oddly enticed by the sweet smell of car exhaust wafting from the rear-end of the likes of some huge winged pink T-Bird convertible. (Go Granny, Go Granny, Go Granny, Go.)

My mother, like women of her era, worried most about trichinosis in pork. A terrific cook most of the time, who let me test the raw hamburger as she seasoned it, she fried those delicious  La Belle Fermiere sausages until they  had a thick black crust, to kill the trichinosis bugs that would eat the flesh off our young bones or something.

 Of course, it was soon proven that that black crust was carcenogenic! So my mother's irrational? semi-rational? media spawned fear of diseased pork actually ended up endangering her children.

The same as today?