Early Rejser: Arming children … with the tools to succeed

This summer, while others got their kicks from the best World Cup this century and Denmark’s warmest weather for decades, I was exploring more exciting waters.

Offshore poop park
Yes, you guessed it: the government’s energy proposal published at the end of April. It’s hard to choose just one aspect, but gun to my head I would opt for the plan to build one of the world’s largest wind energy parks off the coast of Denmark – surely the most exciting offshore construction announcement since John Hammond unveiled his plan to build Jurassic Park on an island near Costa Rica.

It’s true a park comprised of giant turbines won’t provide as many thrills as one populated by giant dinosaurs, but it will provide 800 MHz of clean energy.

Yes, you’re right again. I saw the new ‘Jurassic Park’ film this summer – several times. To maintain my sanity while the kids who dragged me there went mad for the oversized action, I thought through issues like how many MHz of clean energy could they produce if they converted all that dinosaur poop into biofuel.

Cinema paradisio
But the issue that gave me most pause for thought, as the seven-year-olds either side of me revelled in dino-saster, was that they could go and see almost any movie at all if I was with them.

Though I wouldn’t take them to a Lars von Trier movie, it’s good to know I could. In England, the only thing seen as more of a threat than exposure to adult themes is the adult male accompanying them.

The more relaxed approach to raising children here is one of the most positive contrasts with my life in England, where the value of individual freedom isn’t often extended to kids and childcare.

That’s not to say it hasn’t produced more moments of mild terror than the entire ‘Jurassic Park’ franchise. I vividly recall collecting the four-year-old girl I was responsible for from school to find her shakily holding a nail in place while a boy, unsupervised, wielded a hammer over it.

For someone used to wrapping kids in cotton wool, my shock was as much cultural as it was by the peril at hand. My suggestion that he “be careful” was about as useful as it would have been had I said it in Danish. But while such scenarios must occasionally end in the injury we fear, this one produced nothing more than an adorably shoddy birdhouse.

Axing the stablilisers
Dangerous tools have since become a feature of my career in Copenhagen (though not one I include on my CV). A subsequent employer once called to casually inform me her seven-year-old son had, unbeknownst to her, taken an axe to school that morning, and could I please make sure he remembered to bring it home again.

Collecting this boy another time his teacher said, as an afterthought: “Oh, just so you know, he has a very sharp knife in his bag.”

This wouldn’t fly in England, where the assumed consequence of a child having a knife or axe is several missing fingers. The scariest consequence in this case was a collection of expertly carved dinosaur heads.

Now, I’m not saying we should actively arm children (such arguments are best left to the NRA), but allowing them to operate and develop in an arena with real-world features, like risk and responsibility, seems logical to me

Immediate success isn’t guaranteed – no self-respecting bird would be seen dead in the second-rate home those two four-years-olds cobbled together – but you have to give kids the freedom and tools to succeed in the long-run.