The greatest disservice that parents--and for that matter, all adults--do to kids today is to underestimate their abilities. The belief is that if a child has to endure the slightest bit of teasing that they will be left emotionally scarred forever. That if they aren't enrolled in some sort of educational program by the time they are three they will never learn. That if they ever lose or suffer some sort of personal failure that it will cause irreparable harm to their self-esteem. That they would never be able to memorize facts or figures. Or that hearing any opinion or premise that goes against what they themselves believe will leave them mentally harmed.
And that is why we have anti-bullying campaigns that start in pre-kindergarten. And it's why we have multiple levels of pre-school programs that take kids as young as 2 away from their parents for much of the day. And it's why youth sports don't keep score and give trophies to everyone regardless of performance, effort or result. And it's why kids have to figure out how to make tens when adding instead of actually just adding two numbers together. And it's why universities and colleges have to create "safe zones" and post warnings on courses that might contain content counter to what their own personal beliefs are--if such speakers and content are even allowed at all.
Everything is done under the giant umbrella of "protecting our kids" from threats--some real but mostly perceived--that they would "never be able to handle".
And then comes 11-year old Natalie Martin to remind us what kids are capable of when not being "sheltered". Natalie is the Sheboygan Falls girl who rescued her 9-year old sister from a house fire Tuesday night--and then ran back into the smoke-filled building to try and rescue her two younger brothers. An 11-year old who probably heard her entire life "Don't do that, you'll get hurt!" or "You can't do that, you're too young!" goes back in because she knows that waiting until the Fire Department shows up will probably be too late.
There are a lot of adults who wouldn't do that. But here is an 11-year old--someone that modern society sees as incapable of accepting an "F" on a report card or not being able to handle not getting a trophy at the end of soccer season--facing extreme danger and what had to be overwhelming fear to go back into that house because her brothers needed her help.
It makes you think what else our kids are capable of doing, if we actually let them face all that life will throw at them.