I Want a Blow Shit Up Life

Sunday 6 July 2008

Rob Horton and his boys celebrated Blow Shit Up Day yesterday, for their 4th of July celebrations. Apparently where he lives, that day is the only officially sanctioned day that you can let off the fireworks that it's legal to purchase there.

Fireworks are illegal here in Australia. If it was the same deal here as there, I would buy them all year and then let them off in a day of riotous joy (after deploying Lester somewhere else so he doesn't have a complete nervous breakdown). I love fireworks :)

Yesterday we walked along the river again. I noticed two different types of people. I noticed how I resonated strongly with the second type and felt a bit dismissive of the first. I wondered if it was purely rebellious, anti-authoritarian, childish irresponsibility that caused me to feel this way, but I think it goes deeper than that and I wanted to thrash it out here on the "page" with you, dear reader.

The first group was a family of four, two parents and two children. Both parents were riding those bikes I'm seeing more of lately, a kind of a hybrid tandem bike type thing. The children were probably somewhere around the ages of four and six, I suppose. The second group was two blokes in their early twenties, who I came upon when I went to cross the bridge (who's that clip-clopping across my bridge?) The council has installed some steel railing things at each end of the bridge as a deterrent to young larrikins like these two riding their dirt bikes across the bridge and noising up the environment. So, when I came upon them, they had got one bike over the railings and were in the process of hoisting the second bike right over the top. I waited for a minute or so for them to grunt and groan the bike over, and then they were free.

They were very polite about holding me up, apologetic about the inconvenience (that was the words one of them used :), maybe thought I would be all grumpy at them for being young little bastards who probably go and thieve things out of people's cars, when what I really wanted to do was have a ride on the back of one of their bikes, hehe :) I guess as a good, law abiding Christian citizen, I should feel more kinship with the first group of people than the second, but I just didn't. And this is partly why.

Those tandem bike things are cool in their own way, right? Cycling together - it's sweet. It means that you can go riding with your kids but also actually get a bit of a workout for your ride, instead of having to wait for your kids to get a jolly-up. Four-year-old legs can't pedal fast, right? But when I look at that tandem bike deal, all I see is boring efficiency, and fear. (Which is taking things out of context and a prime example of why using real-life people as models and examples of the points you're trying to make is a pathetic enterprise, but I do it anyway :).

Now, for all I know those kids spend 20 hours a week with their arses parked on their own bikes, having fun and being kids and getting to cut loose. But somehow, I would bet a lazy 20 that they probably don't. But that's beside the point. The tandem bike deal: with this fine little contraption you get your workout, but even better than that you don't have the nagging worries and fears that Madison or Taylah are going to accidentally ride their bike into the river, or into oncoming riders or walkers, or fall off and graze their poor little knees.

Now, this is the spot where I add in the "Yes, I knows". Yes, it's quite obvious I don't have children of my own. I don't know what its like day to day or what type of endurance you need to develop. I haven't experienced loving this little being as myself, that special kind of mother love that's protective and will do anything to ensure the safety of her children. And thusly it should be. Mothers should protect their children. If they don't, they're just bad mothers. What mother wants their child to graze their knees, let alone fall in the river? But does that mean that children shouldn't get grazed knees in their childhood? Not because grazed knees are good and kids should get stoic and all that stuff. But just because this life involves grazed knees. And if you don't get them, and your knees are four years old, then maybe you're not really living it.

Where does the line end, when protection becomes just a means to exercise your own fear? And if you're going to say that parents aren't too overprotective these days, and this is the level where it all should be, how do you define mothers of other eras? If I compare my mother back in the seventies to the stuff kids aren't allowed to do these days, she looks like a bad mother. And my Mum wasn't a bad mother. Does it mean that it's only now that mothers are actually starting to realise how scary the world is? I don't think so. I think maybe we are so starved of knowing what real love is, that we mistake our fear for it. Sometimes I wonder if it's not a superstitious thing, too - if I try and micromanage the people around me out of my own fear of something bad happening to them, then when something bad does happen, that lets me off the hook?

I think of what it was like in the seventies when I was growing up. Now, I can only vouch for Australia, but I don't think this country has become a ridiculously crazier place in the last 30 years, crystal meth use aside. At least, not to the extent that the fear levels have risen, like tidal bile. When I was growing up, I rode my bike around the streets all the time when I was, like, 8 years old or so. Our parents drove around in cars where seatbelts wre not mandatory requirements, where there were no booze/drug buses on the road manned by police to stop them being drunk at the wheel. There were way less laws, and way more freedom in everyday life. It extended out in both directions. Which I don't think is a coincidence.

Sure, people died at the hands of drunk drivers. Children got abducted riding their bikes and murdered. People crashed their cars sober, but because they weren't wearing seatbelts they flew through the windscreen and died. But all of those things still happen now, now that we have 40 million more laws than we did back then, and people have learnt to not trust their own instincts. We would rather have our stuff imposed on us from on high, than follow our own hearts, guts and minds. What a bunch of sitting ducks we allow ourselves to be.

Laws have their place, of course. You need them to keep things functioning to a certain basic extent. But people are still going to do what they want to do. Those young guys are still gonna ride their dirt bikes around the river, and I'm glad because they're living!!!!! Life has always got a danger component to it. When we make it all nice and safe, we distort it into something tedious and terrible and deathlike. We start thinking that our fear is evidence of our love. When really its just evidence of our fear.

I want a life where I get to blow shit up. And I will never know how different it would be if I had children of my own. And I'm sad about that. And I'm happy about that.


  1. Yeah, it's hard in this world not to want to wrap your children up in cotton wool, but at the same time realising you are doing them no favours at all by not letting them experience the shit stuff in life. From the moment Alex was born and maybe even before, I wanted to protect him from everything bad, hurtful and dissapointing, but its not possible, no matter how strong and desperate the urge is. The fear of losing a child to something that you could have prevented is debilitating for the child and for yourself. So sometimes I have to wince but let Cam run off a little further than feels comfortable, or slide down the slide upside down and roundabout...even if he bumps his head ;)
    You are right, living in fear is not living at all.

  2. If it was dangerous in the 70's, you don't want to know about the 50's and 60's! As a friend of mine said to me, we can be justly proud of having survived our childhoods relatively unscathed. I remember going to the hospital for a tonsillectomy and sharing a room with kids who had concussions. It was pretty common then because kids climbed trees and did not have helmets to wear when they went cycling. We're tougher for it all, I suppose. Those cushioned kids have a lot to learn about the world around them. No wonder extreme sports are so popular these days!

  3. Fireworks are legal in the Northern Territory. You can by them by the bag full at the local general store along with your slabs of vb for Northern Territory day, which is sometime around this time of the year, from memory. We smuggled a few roman candles back to the quiet suburbs of Melbourne:)

    I wandered past one of those indoor playgrounds earlier today. It was choccas with well dressed parents and their kids in this completely enclosed environment with a cafe so you could watch your ankle biters bouncing off the well padded walls and netting. Further down the road, in a more diverse suburb, there was this loan woman with her daughter on some play equipment in a sliver of grass sandwiched between a safeway carpark and a train station. She was just sitting there staring into space, while her kid chattered away to herself and clambered all over the slide and swings.

  4. awesome post - sue - i loved it!

  5. Katherine - hopefully there is a kingdom land where one day we can meet in person and blow shit up together :)

    Andi - that must be such a hard thing, letting them go. I hope I didn't sound dissy at all in what I was saying? I can see that that fear of a parent is maybe one of the strongest emotions you could have, I imagine cause the love is the strongest too.

    Barbara - yes, you're right about extreme sports. What happens with all that excess energy and vim and vigour? Where does it get expressed these days? No wonder kids take drugs, too.

    Monk - there's a poem in that poignant comment. Those indoor playgrounds are so sterile they're creepy (although I wouldn't mind going down the slide into all of those coloured balls, hehe :)

    Rob - thanks. You inspired it :)

  6. Sue~

    That would be a blast (pardon the pun)!!! ;-)

  7. Hehe :) It would be a blast because if it was kingdom future, and I, like, accidentally let a Catherine wheel go off right into your eye, it wouldn't matter cause you couldn't die anyway!! :D

  8. Hehe! Yeah - I don't think we know the definition of fun - yet...

  9. You all's imaginations have given me a good laugh....my imagination the other night was seeing the neighbor's roman candle stuck somewhere that would have blown some other shit up.

  10. I really did have that thought the other night when the dogs were peeing all over the place but it really wasn't anything but funny when I thought it. When he said to me the next day that he hoped it hadn't got too wild I just said to him, Hey, it was the 4th of July.

  11. Oh, you're so two-faced, Kent


    I wonder how much extra dog urine was expelled that night throughout the entire country? :)


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