Last night’s Cotton Wool Kids illustrated, with sickening clarity, modern parents’ obsession with keeping thier children safe from alleged ‘harm’. In the space of one generation, we have gone from allowing little people the freedom to explore and learn about the world on their own terms (something parents have successfully let their offspring do for, oh, three hundred and fifty thousand years), to locking them away and keeping them safe from the supposed dangers of the outside world.
Whereas you or I took it as read that we could come and go as we please from a very early age, a lot of children today are kept prisoner in case a paedophile gets them, or they’re run over, or they hurt themselves, or a million and one other supposed threats. That this is palpably nonsense holds no sway with a lot of today’s parents and it certainly held no sway with the parents in the film.
For instance, there was the father so paranoid that his little girl might come to harm that he spent his life pointing out to her how dangerous everything in her environment was. She, being about six, had a young and malleable mind and took in this man’s preposterous nonsense as if it was gospel truth.
“What did Humpty Dumpty do?” he asked her at one point.
“He fell off the wall and hurt himself,” she replied.
“And that’s why you shouldn’t sit on walls, isn’t it daddy? You might hurt yourself.”
“That’s right,” this creature replied, “you shouldn’t sit on walls. Good girl.”
The same girl was later seen walking round her back garden pointing at various bits and bobs and then pointing out the many and various ways they could hurt her. As a result, she was brainwashed into thinking everything in the world was dangerous. Nice work there, pops.
Then there was the disgusting ‘mother’ who taught her children that the world wasn’t a safe place to be because it was full of monsters. Wandering through a supermarket car park, she explained to her children that any of the people around her could be potential child-molesters. Pointing at a security guard, the children wondered if he could be a child molester.
“He could be,” this irresponsible harridan replied.
So that teaches her kids to interract correctly with adults (run away, they’re all kiddie fiddlers) and respect authority (don’t listen to them, run away, they’re probably paedos), then.
Or how’s about the Egyptian dad who wouldn’t allow his fat son (fat because he spends his entire life locked away inside) to catch the bus with his school friends in case he was snatched by a slobbering paedophile? This boy wasn’t three, he was thirteen. I’ll say that again – thirteen! This poor, sheltered, obese boy was driven everywhere by his father, never allowed to leave the house on his own. Thanks to galloping paranoia, the poor little sod spent his entire summer holiday indoors. Can you imagine that? Six weeks that should be filled with bike rides, flowering teenage crushes, lazy days by the river, and potential train-derailment attempts in the company of your contemporaries, instead taken up with enforced imprisonment with only a Nintendo Wii for company? Christ, I’d have murdered my parents if they’d thought they had the right to do that to me.
What came across strongest in Cotton Wool Kids was just how deperately lonely and afraid these children had been brought up to be. They were haunted, unsure, weird, un-kids – their lives of confinement leaving them socially incapable and just as paranoid and scared as their idiot parents. One little girl, when asked if she’d like to be let out on her own, was wide-eyed at the prospect,
“What? Outside? On my own? Like I was FREE?”
It was desperately, desperately sad.
I’ve ranted about the child as prisoner concept on my own blog before, so nothing surprised me about Cotton Wool Kids. I wasn’t surprised when a child said she ‘played tennis with her friends’, and she then went on to explain it was Wii Tennis. I wasn’t surprised that the parents used the excuse that ‘things are different these days’, when facts point out that they are exactly the same as they were in 1988. I wasn’t surprised when the father of the fat thirteen year old wouldn’t allow his son to go away for five days to another house with equally paranoid parents ‘in case something happened to him’. I wasn’t surprised by this, I was just saddened for the children, and enraged by the behaviour of the parents.
If you get the chance to watch a repeat of this show, then don’t be surprised if you spend an hour hurling abuse at the TV. if you watch it, and you’ve got a cotton wool kid of your own, and you don’t immediately throw them out and tell them not to come back until they’re covered from head-to-toe in mud, then shame on you, you’re destroying their childhood.