39 Comments

  1. I think the rope is metaphorical. The father recognizes that Baldo is becoming an adult, and that it’s time to start letting him go. That it’s time to let him be more independent.

    Baldo appreciates that his father is getting less restrictive, but misinterprets that as being “cooler.”

    There is no joke.

  2. It could have sort have been a joke if, instead of releasing the rope, dad cut it, “cutting the cord”.

    I think the thing is, CIDU Bill, that modern parents do not give their children freedom. This topic came up for me the other. I mentioned that my parents let me go to the library a mile from our house, on my own, when I was 7. They let me go to the movies (Saturday matinee), which involved a bus ride and a subway ride) when I was 9 or 10. That sort of thing gets you on the news, charged with child neglect.

  3. But what is the particular fear? I mean, how old is Baldo — can his father be thinking he will see a car at the car show and buy it on impulse, with either financial or safety consequences?

  4. Mitch4, I think not a car, because Baldo doesn’t have that much money. But lots and lots of accessories that he can’t afford.

  5. @Singapore Bill – when I was ten years old – OK, three weeks before my 11th birthday, but still – I was at boarding school in York (UK) ready to go home for the Xmas holidays. The rest of my family was in Beirut (Lebanon), where we lived. I was issued my pre-purchased train ticket by the school, walked to the station and took a train to London. There I was met by my older brother’s 19-yo student girlfriend and put up for the night with some of her friends. In the morning she took me to Heathrow and put me on a Kuwait Airways plane to Beirut. My father worked for the airline (though he wasn’t flying that service) and presumably I was handed over to some employee in charge of looking after lone youngsters, though I don’t remember that. We got to Beirut and I got off the plane and walked to the terminal. My mother was waiting on the balcony overlooking the tarmac and threw down the money I needed for my visa – 75 piastres (a 25p coin wrapped in a 50p note). 19th December 1968. Unlikely such things would be allowed today – airlines don’t like young unaccompanied minors, and no airports allow open balconies where you can watch the planes (see pic if it works – we used to go sometimes and pick up my father when he arrived). Even the solo 200 mile train trip to London would be frowned on.

  6. And yet whatever dangers kids are subject to now, we had them way back when I was a kid 60 years ago. Strangers in cars who would offer you candy (I never saw one of those but was told about them.) Wolves and bears in the woods and skunks in the street. We left them alone and they left us alone. The biggest dangers were the other students, especially those who went to a different school or were one or two grades above us. It was difficult to avoid them.

  7. @ Mark in Boston: I did have a “stranger man” encounter when I was probably around 12, on my way back from the library. I was waiting for the streetcar, which I was going to take over a little ways, then transfer to a bus home. My mother gave me the dime for the fare as it was winter and it got late early, so she preferred I come home that way, rather than walking up the hills to our house.

    When I entered the shelter to wait, a man started talking to me and asked me if I wanted a transfer (so I could have a free fare). It seemed a peculiar offer and I had been taught not to take things from strangers. He also sounded…creepy. I declined and walked down to the next stop. I got on the streecar there and saw him and he certainly looked the central-casting pederast type. That was the end of it, but it came not long after a rather grisly child murder in our city, so I remember it and the talking to about being wary of strangers. Even so, we were just taught to be wary, not forbidden from going outside.

  8. Baldo does have a job, in an auto parts store no less. In later developments, Sergio no long needs to worry about Baldo buying a car.

  9. My first thought was “Wait…kids go to car shows these days without being dragged there by an adult?”

    Then I dug through the Baldo comic storyline to find that Baldo dreams of building a lowrider.

    Then his father surprises him with this:
    https://www.gocomics.com/baldo/2019/04/20

    I’ve been going to classic car shows since I was a teen myself.

    As I was always into old cars, when I shopped for my first car I was sooo tempted to look at a ’60s Rambler in the background at one lot, but practicality prevailed.

  10. These stories of kids who were given independence to go miles/buses/trains/planes unaccompanied are not at all dissimilar to stories of kids who rode around in cars unbuckled or restrained. Yes, you survived. As did the VAST majority of families and kids who rode in cars without restraints. But at some point people realize they can reduce the risks, even if those risks are small. Just because someone survived doesn’t mean there isn’t a better or safer way to do things and it isn’t helicopter parenting to look for ways to reduce the very real risks kids face. “Back in my day, we… ” is never a good measure of what is a good idea.

  11. “reduce the very real risks kids face”

    With as much civility as is conveniently possible: Bullocks.

    These types of risks have always been very, very low. They are even lower today than they were back in the day. Kids are very, very safe today. We are very poor at assigning risk intuitively, and do a very poor job of it especially where emotions are involved. Something terrible happens to one kid within the last 10 years, and we ALL hear about it, all around the world, billions and billions of us. What we discount is how rare the event is, nevermind how horrible it is. Literally hundreds of times more chance of being struck by lightning. Also, we badly categorize within the risk, so that we have this nonsense of “stranger-danger”, where it is again hundreds of times more likely that the danger that does exist, slight though it is, comes from people you know quite well. Yet we are incredibly bad at protecting kids from their relatives and people they know, but are hysterically over concerned about random strangers.

    Risk mitigation is always about a cost benefit analysis: what do you lose vs what do you gain. Wearing seat belts: what do you lose? Practically nothing, a little freedom of motion within the car while it is in motion; for children from the point of view of the parents, this is even a plus. What do you gain? In the unlikely event of an accident, a whole huge dramatic increase in likelihood of survival and avoidance of injury. So that’s an easy one.
    Prohibiting children from going alone into the world: what gain do you get? A dubious sense that the kid is safer from random strangers who will harm him. Have you actually mitigated this danger? Not really, because a) the danger is ridiculously small to begin with (it’s like a banana in the ear to keep away the crocodiles), and b) a determined predator can still find your child at home, at school, or, as is most likely, within your family. And what have you lost? A child’s growing sense of independence, self-reliance, social growth, just to name a few. You instill in the child an incorrect sense of danger in the world, which will cause this malady to perpetuate in society, until possibly to the point where it actually creates the ill you fear so much. You raise a less capable and less prepared child. At some point this child will be a grownup and have to deal with these things anyway. You do a dis-service keeping the child from learning how to navigate within society from early on. And ultimately you hurt us all keeping children from realizing their full potential and all the potential discoveries and just good interactions that child could be having with society at large, instead of cowering in fear from imagined dangers.

    “Back in my day, we… ” is neither a good measure nor a bad measure, it is just a reminder that things were not always as they are right now. Sometimes things are better now, sometimes things are worse. (eg: we are much safer now crime-wise than we were, but we are much worse off in our perception of how bad crime is — we were happier, less stressed back then while we were actually less safe, and we are much more unhealthily stressed about crime now, even though we are much safer…) We need to be constantly evaluating the things we do now to see if they are the best way we can do things. Automatically assuming that everything we did in the past is wrong and was worse is just as bad as nostalgically assuming everything was better.

  12. I was going to write a long response to BillClay, but I see larK has already said everything I was going to say, but better. So I’ll just say, “Yeah, what larK said.”

  13. larK – Unless you have any actual cites to backup most of what you claim, I hope you’ll forgive me for not automatically taking what you say at face value. We are more stressed today? We are safer? We are creating less independent, less confident adults because of the lower freedoms we give kids? All nice claims. Back them up and we can talk.

    We totally agree on your final thought and I hope we can leave it there. “Automatically assuming that everything we did in the past is wrong and was worse is just as bad as nostalgically assuming everything was better.”

    Good stuff.

  14. ” . . . is just as bad as nostalgically assuming everything was better.”

    My 80+-year-old aunt recently sent me one of those clickbait thingies about how much ‘better’ things were in the 1950’s. I reminded her about segregation and Jim Crow, sexism in the workplace and everywhere else, the prevalence of polio until the Salk vaccine, etc. I then told her, the only reason things SEEMED better in the 1950’s was because you were younger then. End of THAT subject.

  15. And here’s the evidence that people’s perception of safety is nevertheless worse:

  16. As for the evidence about what helicopter parenting does to kids, that’s obviously less quanitifiable. But if we’re misidentifying likely causes of harm, as the graphs above demonstrate, then we’re going to be misjudging what things to worry about. Common sense suggests that being protective is a cost-benefit tradeoff, rather than being costless. Teaching kids to wear seatbelts is likely to produce adults who wear seatbelts, which is fine. If you teach kids that it’s not safe to walk half a mile to school, is that teaching likely to magically disappear when they turn 18? It certainly may for some kids, but it seems common sense that that for many, misjudgment about safety that they’re taught as kids are likely to translate into misjudgments when they’re adults.

  17. I gave what some people would consider mixed signals to my kids (but they really weren’t): they knew from an early age that I had a bit of a paranoid streak and why (at the time I did a lot of writing about missing and exploited children) — but once I was convinced they knew how to handle themselves, they probably had more freedom than any of their friends in this quiet western New Jersey town. At 14, they were both trekking into Manhattan and from there sometimes into Brooklyn (for concerts).

    The classic moment was when my younger son was 16, and he and a female friend (not his girlfriend) took the train into Philadelphia to see a concert and then missed the last train home. I told him I’d drive down and fetch them and he said “Nah, there’s a 24-hour diner a block away, we’ll just wait there until the trains start running again at six.”

    I do not know how the girl’s conversation went with her parents. I’m guessing not as smoothly.

  18. Well, I see Winter Wallaby has me covered for the cites, thanks!

    I will present my bibliography, though:

    Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children 2018 by Sara Zaske
    The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined 2011 by Steven Pinker
    It’s Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear 2018 by Gregg Easterbrook

    Slightly orthogonal:

  19. I think, as others have said, the disservice to children is in never giving them a chance to be independent or to have themselves challenged and overcoming those challenges. Hiding them away from anything unpleasant does not help them. In my story of meeting and evading the stranger I perceived as sketchy (see above), I was able to do that because I read the newspaper and watched the news and had my parents talk to me about the possible dangerous persons I could run into and that I should take care.

    How about some anecdotal evidence for children being coddled to the point where they cannot cope? In previous jobs, working for financial institutions (banks and insurance), I would get parents calling wanting to administer the accounts that belonged to their children. These were adults of legal age, 18, 19, 20, about that. I would politely explain that I needed to speak with the client, I could not discuss their financial information with anyone else without their permission. “I’m his mother,” they would say, as if this this trumped security procedures, terms of service, and privacy laws. Often yelling would ensue as they said that their precious couldn’t understand what they had purchased or enrolled in, etc. This is not going to help the kid understand what’s what or learn how to deal with their financial matters.

  20. We shielded our kids from just about nothing, including the reasons for my mild paranoia. This is why I found myself bring grilled by a 5-year-old about the difference between murder and manslaughter.

    (And for that matter, that same year, explaining Bill and Monica to an 8-year-old)

  21. Winter Wallaby, larK – Thanks for the stats and the measured responses. I’ve read them and am not ignoring them.

  22. The Peanuts gang went to France by themselves (in a TV special) and managed to return unscathed. Where were their parents? 😛

  23. Oh, and the comic Brian in STL seems a bit more realistic in tone than the one I posted. 🙂

    The ’62 Chevy is still a cool car though. A friend of mine had a ’61 Oldsmobile for a few years. That was a fun car to pile into for a cruise.

  24. Oh, and the comic Brian in STL seems a bit more realistic in tone than the one I posted.

    It’s not really clear why the model changed from a ’59 (as some perspicacious commenter mentioned) to probably a ’62. The blemishes might not have been unnoticed in a haze of initial delight.

  25. We ran into a group of very young children who should have been supervised – at all.

    We eat lunch 6 days a week at the same Wendys. Went in during this past week and there were 3 very young children running around – if any of them were as old as 4 yo I would be shocked. They were running and screaming. At one point I watched the boy slide into the glass door head first – on purpose. The place was fairly empty and we tried to figure out who they were with and what to do about it. It was not just that we were annoyed by them (which we were – they were loud and all over the place) but that we were concerned about their safety.

    As they ran past one table where an older woman was sitting we figured they were with “grandma” as they would stop at the table each time and the woman would kiss each of them and figured that “grandma” was too indulgent. To our surprise two women at another table (mom aged compared to the kids) finally called them over when they were ready to leave. They did not say anything to or acknowledge “grandma” so we presume she was unknown to them – and they did not feel a need to acknowledge to that she had been playing with the children.

    The children could have been hurt. Any of them could have run out the far door when it was opened by someone (into the parking lot and in front of the driveup line) and been gone or injured. They could have run to people with food trays – with hot coffee on it – and ended up with scalded by the coffee. The boy was just lucky that he did not hit his head – hard – into the door when he slid it into. The “grandma” could have been feeling up the kids when she was touching them and kissing them.

    Children who don’t learn to behave as children also run the possibility of not knowing how to behave when they grow up. Which can lead to getting into fights and injuries to them.

    I say this not as an old lady who was annoyed – I would have been just as annoyed as child and complained to my parents that the children were going to get hurt or taken by a stranger.

  26. Oh, and I took the cartoon to mean (since Baldo works and goes out on his own all the time) that his father was trusting him to go to the car show and not buy anything stupid or blow all his money. (But that’s what I mean about I think strangely about things)

  27. I remember a joke that dates all the way back to the 1950’s. A rich woman was walking with a servant who was pushing her teenage son’s wheelchair. A passer-by said to the woman, “Oh, the poor child. Can’t he walk?” The woman answered, “Of course he can walk. Thank God he doesn’t have to.”

    I suppose the joke would be business as usual today.

  28. @Meryl – I often take solace that parents who can’t enforce rules can’t not enforce the laws of physics: gravity will make things fall, no matter how hard some parents try to deny it; force will always be proportional to the mass multiplied by the acceleration; and absent the application of external energy, usually in the form of effort, things will go to a state of least energy which is to say maximum randomness. Sometimes a kid just needs to slide head first into a glass door on purpose to learn these rules. (Millions of years of evolution have made it so most of these lessons are not permanently damaging — we have the most shielding over our most vulnerable areas, and kids are extra padded and benefit from the mass / size scaling differences; being small with less surface area mitigates the lessons of Entropy, F=ma, and G.) Sucks for them because up to now now most of the “rules” in their lives have meant jack, but the universe is a harsh mistress. It will eventually teach even the most spoiled of kids…

    As for the the fear that they were going to be taken by a stranger:
    1) pity the stranger
    2) see Arthur’s filk above
    3) the very fact that you were concerned about them proves what Arthur’s filk says

  29. “As for the the fear that they were going to be taken by a stranger:
    1) pity the stranger”

    ‘Ransom of Red Chief’ by O Henry comes to mind . . .

  30. Apparently I was overprotected. I didn’t take a trip hundreds of miles with only another kid my age until I was 14. (This was 1975 or 6.)

  31. My SIL has two adopted daughters from China. When the first one (only one at the time) was about 5 SIL wrote a chidlren’s picture book about her adoption. She had a reading and book signing at a fairly good sized local book store. Niece had to stay with her during the reading. Then when she was signing books (for the friends and family who were there and buying the book) niece wandered off on her own. We followed her around the store just far enough away for not to notice, but close enough for safety.

    After Robert explained to his sister the concept of kidnapping a child and she needed to keep an eye on niece. “Oh, she walks away all the time.” Luckily niece is still with them. SIL has no concept of crime. She will leave her purse in full sight in their car with the doors open and go into a restaurant or store.

  32. MerylA: Virtually all kidnappings are by family members. On average, 1 out of 500,000 American children are kidnapped by strangers every year. In terms of things to worry about, they’re more likely to be killed by lightning, or in a train crash, or in a plane crash, or by hornets.

    Depending on the child and the environment, there may be other good reasons to keep an eye on your child. e.g. are they likely to knock things over, walk into the street without looking, etc. . . But worrying about a stranger abducting them doesn’t seem like it should be a major reason.

  33. Carl Fink – I did not go on a trip without an adult traveling with me/us until after my second year of college when I was 19. I was an editor on my college yearbook and the next year was to be editor in chief (as I would be a senior in my third year). Our yearbook was published in Dallas and the outgoing top editors and two of the incoming top editors went there to proof the book. (Robert was one of the two next in line as editor beyond those on the trip). What would be my business editor male) and I were to fly down to Dallas together – this would also be my flight. We were flying student standby and it went haywire. By the time there was a flight for us the other two editors (a couple) joined us for the flight and on the other end we were met by our yearbook rep (a responsible adult – well, once he did take the candle from a club and set his jacket on fire as he did not blow out the candle before putting it in his pocket) when we got off the plane.

    Later that summer the other female editor and I went to Mexico together. Trips after that were with Robert who I started dating during my senior year.

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