So I opened my Facebook account early this morning and came across this gem.
A friend of mine had linked to an essay at the BBC by a woman named Joanna Robertson. It was about a new ordinance in Berlin making it legal for children to make noise between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 pm. That’s right. The Germans had to pass a law in order for children to be…well, children.
When you read the author’s very funny account of what it’s like to raise a child in Germany, you may be a bit taken aback. As she reports, “‘Excessive child noise’ warranted a police call-out to our building for the crying of a newborn baby and, one Saturday afternoon, a group of cheerful 12-year-olds playing a game of Monopoly.”
And it’s not just in Berlin where things are rough for kids. Robertson also describes the rigorous and hyper-centralized French educational system her daughter was forced to endure, as well as the prohibition on getting your kids’ clothes dirty in Italy.
My friend on Facebook added this comment to her link: “Interesting comparison – wish they’d included London!”
Funny she should ask. One of the very first essays I published after moving to London a few years back was tellingly entitled “Where Have All the Playgrounds Gone?” It ran in the International Herald Tribune and it was an account – based on my then-newbie American eyes – of just how eye-poppingly different British expectations of childhood were from those I’d experienced in America.
As I wrote at the time: “Drama classes don’t advertise creativity; they talk about self-confidence, public-speaking and diction. Swimming lessons are not about making kids more comfortable in the water. They’re about learning the backstroke, dammit!“
(Of course, Americans are also annoying in their own right. Robertson notes the advice she got from one American parenting coach about how her family should all just “sleep together on cushions on the floor and switch to unpasteurized milk.”)
So today – to let the world know that it’s not just Germany and France – but all of Europe that seems to want children to grow up really quickly, I’m going to link to that early pre-blog essay I wrote on parenting culture in the U.K. and my own reactions therein.
Image: Pondering At The Playground by christopherdale via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
Speaking of kids, I am off to the hospital for the last of my son’s in-hospital allergy tests. The score so far: Peanuts: win. Milk: loss. Let’s hope that sesame is more than a draw…