Should We Bubble Wrap the World?

funny-bubble-wrapWe all love bubble wrap right?  What we love about it is popping the bubbles, right? (Does anyone not see a metaphor coming?) In a post a few months ago  about the idiot that petitioned Facebook to remove the “feeling fat” emoji, I said that “nobody’s going to bubble wrap the world to make it safe.” In fact, I don’t want anyone to make the whole world perfectly safe.

Much like our immune system, unless we’re exposed to dangers, we’ll never learn to cope with them. Sadly though, I think that as a society we are doing our children a disservice by trying to bubble wrap the world. I rather liked when I was a kid and our parent’s seemingly didn’t give a rat’s ass about our safety. (How did that saying come about? Did anyone in history ever literally give a rat’s ass for something? How did a rat’s ass become a form of measurement or currency?)


As I was saying, when I was a kid in the 1970’s it seemed that our parent’s, all of ours, not just mine, didn’t really worry too much about our safety. Seatbelts? We didn’t need no stinkin’ seatbelts! I remember once when some of the kids in the neighborhood went to a summer day camp at the elementary school. When my mom came to pick me up she offered a ride to my friends from the neighborhood. Ten kids crammed ourselves into a Ford Mustang! Not a one of us had a seatbelt or an airbag. Other times I remember kids riding in the open back of pick up trucks. You just held on and hoped there weren’t too many bumps. That’s kind of a metaphor for life, isn’t it?

In the 1970’s so many of us were allowed to go home by ourselves after elementary school that they made up a phrase. We were called latch key kids. Nowadays there’s before school programs and after school programs so that every minute of children’s days are supervised and bubble wrapped. As kids that directed our own time, we learned about the world on our own and used our imaginations to come up with solutions. Sure, sometimes kids broke an arm or a leg, or once my sister tipped over a deep fryer of scalding hot cooking oil on her arm, but those were life lessons and mistakes we didn’t make twice.


Even bullying was allowed in the 1970’s! Everyone who thinks that cyber-bullying is the end of the world, guess what? Back when I was a kid we bullied and got bullied in person, face to face. I think that’s got to be a lot more traumatic than idiots typing bad words on the internet.  Because my birthday is at the end of the year, I started kindergarten younger than most of my classmates. As a result I was always the youngest, and until puberty, the shortest kid in my grade. Of course I got bullied! You know what? My parents didn’t know about 90% of it and I figured out how to deal with it. Yes, there are limits to what should be tolerated, but if all confrontation is removed or bubble wrapped into polite, non-offensive language, how are we going to learn to have confrontations and disagreements as we grow up?

In the 1970’s life wasn’t bubble wrapped and it was fun. We had Jarts, lawn darts; a toy that was outlawed because of people too stupid to play without hurting themselves. We just threw those sharp metal things around the neighborhood willy-nilly, day and night. If someone lost an eye, well, they learned to be a hell of a lot more careful the next time. That’s the way life should be. Life is one big, stupid learning opportunity that kids of today are deprived of. Let’s see…kids of my generation, grew up, moved out of our houses and got on with things. These days kids never leave their parents home, and maybe it’s because they were never given the freedom to navigate and make mistakes in the real world.

Sorry about the preachy, soap box kind of post today. The genesis was from a conversation I had with a co-worker about how much stupid, dangerous, fun stuff we did growing up that would never be allowed by parents today. In the comments I’d love to hear some of your funny stories about funny, stupid stuff you did growing up. Have a great weekend! ~Phil

34 responses to “Should We Bubble Wrap the World?

  1. Looking back I am surprised I made it through puberty! I ran with knives in my hand, I ate candy from my Halloween haul and I talked to strangers. I played on train tracks and in a gravel pit. I played on the mud flats when the tide was out, not knowing when it was due in. I jumped off a roof into a pool, barely made it and walked deep into the forest to explore. Damn I had fun!

  2. Totally agree Phil! The makers of bubble wrap have just produced a new type that doesn’t pop too, so there isn’t even going to be the fun of that now! I work with so many kids who are scared of everything because their parents have instilled fear into them…

  3. Love love love bubble wrap 🙂

  4. Great post Phil. For those of us who grew up playing outdoors – on and near water, in trees, using our imaginations to amuse ourselves – life was a huge adventure. I still marvel that none of us were hurt along the way.

    I compare that to a sterile childhood of computer games and eyes glued to a screen of various sizes. Our world was messy and unpredictable. I wouldn’t have exchanged it for a minute.

  5. When hubby was born was it bizarre
    That they took him home in the front of a small sports car
    Not even strapped in in the back
    He sat on the front on his mother’s lap
    And never did they have the need
    For Anbesol when he started to teeth
    That was all a bunch of crap
    See they had whisky for that
    Cause parenting was top banana
    In the 70s in Connersville Indiana.

  6. When cars had running boards, I remember riding them, and nobody objected. When I was nine years old,my girlfriend and I would disappear for hours on our horses, riding around the 2,000 acre ranch, stampeding the cattle up canyons, exploring the canyons,and reenacting western movies we had seen. Our parents just let us go and have fun. When we summered at Balboa Island, we went all over on our bikes and swam the bay alone, and all our parents asked of us was that we were home in time for lunch and dinner. Somehow, we survived .

    • I loved that kind of life. In the summers I had to be home for dinner and when the streetlights came on and that was all I needed to know. The rest I learned in the other unsupervised 14 hours of the day.

  7. When I was in elementary school, I would start dinner before my parents got home so my mom didn’t have to do it all. then we could eat at a reasonable time. I have an older brother and two younger sisters, and we all walked home from school and stayed home without adult supervision. We even got snack for ourselves, did homework, and had friends over. It’s difficult to teach children responsibility if you never provide any opportunities for them to be responsible.

  8. I personally prefer to just find some unsuspecting person, drop the bubblewrap on the floor, step on it, and scare the crap out of them

  9. My bugbear is the fanatic need for a total germ free environment for kids. I grew up in the 60’s playing outside, making mudpies, picking up worms, and was once found sucking a coin which turned my tongue purple. My Granny just gave me a glass of milk to drink and sent me back out. It built up an immune system that’s stood me well in adult life. These days we have kids who seem to have little immunity to coughs, colds etc and I’m astonished by the number suffering with asthma – that bubble wrap’s a menace!

  10. Oh the jarts! That was fun! What kinda idiot didn’t play jarts in an open field? Who were those people who ruined jarts?
    Don’t even get me started on the supervisory issue! When we lived in Georgia, just as my 3rd child got old enough to do anything alone, they’d change the age! Drove me nuts!
    I swear to you, ten or eleven of us piled into my neighbor’s Impala to go to the pool or to get ice cream. The littlest kid rode in the back window!
    Anyway, I already wrote my own post about this, but man, I push my kids out, “GO! BE PEOPLE! EXPLORE! LEARN! DISCOVER! BE CAREFUL!”

  11. Fabulous post – as a teacher I completely agree that we are raising a world full of children with fewer independent experiences to prepare them for an ever complex world. Parents at my school are continually in niggling about this and that instead of letting children work through friendship issues. They seem to expect me to be the continual moderator of their child’s comfort zone, when in fact my job is to educate!
    Btw I played with a toy called “Clackers” which has now been banned. Two big balls on string which you could bash up and down noisily, and woe betide if your fingers got in the way because it hurt!

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  13. 100%
    We lived in Africa – Health and safety? WTF is that? We now live in the UK? Never mind giving a rats ass (Oh I do love that expression) How about ass about face? They concern about stuff that is silly and don’t bother with what actually COULD be an issue…or so it seems. A silly example:

    My daughter just had to do work experience through highschool. The place she aquired a spot (very happily as it is in her line of interest) had to abide the inspector. When asked what she would be doing the fella replied ‘Oh just making tea’ (pulling the piss with the guy – you know like we used to do before bubble wrap) –
    This inspector looked horrified and pointed to section 9000 and showed that they are to be supervised when making tea and coffee and TRAINED to take the needed precautions. I KID you NOT. Daughter is EIGHTEEN! If she were male she would be allowed to handle a weapon ) O sorry – THAT is sexist isnt it?
    The fella taking her on for the work thing said to the inspector,

    ‘OH and I am CBS/DRB (or whatever it is called now) approved for working with children.’
    The inspectors reply?
    ‘Oh no – we don’t worry about that!’

    Ah well thanks that got my blood all a flurry! 😉

  14. Reblogged this on Mind Chatter.

  15. I read a few months back of a school in NZ where the headteacher decided to abandon all the nannying/supervision at playtimes. The kids were allowed to be kids and explore their environment; up trees, into allsorts. Behaviour and attention in class improved over all. Parents were happy with the new regulations despite a broken arm or two. It would be interesting to see the experiment extended without schools/authorities worrying about being sued for negligence.
    Bubble wrap is great for popping – best part of some presents!

    • With all your kids I can imagine that you’re probably an authority on the merits of not over parenting and letting kids learn something’s on their own.

  16. Well, my recent experience should preclude letting my kids do anything on their own but the truth is we can’t bubble wrap them, much as I might want to sometimes.

  17. So true! This post reminds me of a similar one of mine. Take a look when you get some time and let me know what you think.

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