COLUMN: Independence Day festivities shouldn't include dangerous activities for children

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 7:12 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Parades, patriotic ceremonies, picnics and public fireworks displays usually make for excellent Independence Day observances. Unfortunately, the day tends to go downhill after that, as both children and adults engage in the dangerous practice of shooting off firecrackers and other harmful explosive devices. I simply cannot understand why adults allow children to shoot firecrackers in areas where the activities are unlawful.

When we were children, an adult in the neighborhood would transport the kids to a safe area outside the city limits and supervise the lighting of sparklers, which were the only fireworks we were allowed.

It seems that no matter where one happens to be, there are always those who must throw firecrackers. In spite of the fact that every year some people are injured and even killed by this careless behavior, citizens seem to continue to condone this practice. For this reason, Independence Day falls just under Halloween as my second least favorite holiday. And what do I have against Halloween? Well, it's not just the fact that children are often allowed to eat food given to them by strangers, but it makes me nervous and uneasy when children are allowed to roam through neighborhoods that are often populated by pedophiles.

It seems like we Americans go out of our way to make trouble for ourselves. Why is it that we let so many things get out of hand before we put a stop to them? There might have been a time when the most serious harm that was done at Halloween was when children turned over outhouses. How many years has it been since people had outhouses? Unfortunately, there has never been a time when children were unmolested, so there has never been an excuse for children to be let loose in the streets. What has to happen before we come to a common conclusion that we need to find safer ways to commemorate these occasions?

After the invention of the automobile, how many accidents had to occur before people figured out that we needed speed limits to keep people from smashing in to each other? How many animals had to wander off before farmers understood that their stock had to be fenced in?

In my old Gregg Shorthand book there was a lesson called "we learn by doing." I've always taken that to mean that by doing we learn what works and what doesn't. In the present case, Halloween and Independence Day contain elements that aren't working. Could we please fix them?

Throughout the land there is the constant complaint that government is interfering in our lives. Perhaps that's because we have such a lousy record of taking care of our own welfare unless we're forced to. It's downright scary when one thinks of the number of dangerous things some parents allow their children to do.

I've heard of some who have tried to have Halloween activities confined to schools. Of course, they were shouted down on the grounds that such restrictions would be met with rebellion by the kids. Shouldn't we, at least, pause and ask ourselves how we got into such a position?

I'm sure there are those who would defend playing with firecrackers as part of the rights guaranteed them by the U.S. Constitution, which is something Independence Day is meant to celebrate. And it is that kind of childishness that so often takes the place of rational thought in our society today. The fact that so many Americans equate the right to freedom of speech and religion with the right to do whatever we want is responsible for much of what is wrong in our little world.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column asking what form of discipline works to keep children under control. I've learned that one method being used instead of spanking is that some children are being kept under medication to keep them from misbehaving. That seems to make sense to parents, boards of education and to legislators. I guess we'll learn in the future if this method worked.

One can only wonder why something like minding children that seemed so simple to parents for centuries is so perplexing for parents today. In any case, today we know what the rules are. Spanking is bad, firecrackers are good and allowing children to roam the streets on Halloween is the only way to celebrate that holiday.

Isn't progress wonderful?

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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John Schultz June 29, 2010 | 2:04 a.m.

Other things that I'm guessing would be law in Rose Nolen's ideal world:

Kids no longer climbing trees, unless properly roped and belayed by a corp of trained adults. Government-certified, most likely.

Playing contact sports. Teamwork, fun, and physical exercise certainly don't outweigh the possible risk of broken bones, let alone injured pride.

Sleepovers, because God knows Columbia must be crawling with pedophiles according to this article and her irrational Halloween phobia (someone please tell me there's a 30-letter Greek phrase for this!).

But things that are OK - drugging your kids so they mind you a bit better. Wow!

(Report Comment)
Holly Dee June 29, 2010 | 2:45 p.m.

"we have such a lousy record of taking care of our own welfare unless we're forced to"

Yes, please tell me how to live my life. I have no idea what to do without the government telling me.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 29, 2010 | 8:44 p.m.

A question. If we are going to bring up our children completely smothered by our protection (as opposed to giving them genuine guidance but allowing them to experience and learn), what sort of adults will they become?

I am continually surprised at what experts some folks are about raising children when they have none of their own. I suppose it's easier that way.

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