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the american wuss factor
buncha namby pamby pantywaist wusses
by robert a. melos
pop culture

When I was growing up my parents didn’t hesitate to buy me a bicycle and teach me to ride. They also bought me a skateboard and I tooled around on that for a while, without wearing a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, back brace or a hermetically sealed suit to keep the pollen off me. I fell a few times, scraped my knees, elbows, chin, and I survived.

My parents didn’t rush me to the hospital every time I got a boo boo. Yes I did end up in the hospital 3 times. Once for getting my finger caught in a car door and tearing a fingernail completely off, once when I fell off a three foot high table when I was 4 years old and hit my head on a heating register cracking the back of my head open, and once again when I was five and riding in my mother’s 1943 Pontiac, a car made mostly of metal, and flew off the seat hitting my head on the dashboard when someone ran a light. There were no seat belts in those cars. There was blood everywhere and a lot of screaming and crying, mostly my mother doing the screaming.

I went through all of that and as Elaine Stritch sings, “I’m still here.” For the record that was a nellie Broadway reference. I mention that here because I want America to know a 43 year old gay man is calling them out and telling them point blank they are raising a generation of wusses; and I’m not above the nellie reference in making my point.

What brought on this rant against the future generations of America? What pushed me to the point of calling the future generations of America a bunch of wusses? Well, I’ll tell you.

It started a week or so ago when I heard a story on ABC News about multi-billion dollar companies putting together information packages for the parents of perspective employees these companies are courting for crappy intern positions. Companies like Merrill Lynch and IBM are even having interviews with the parents of perspective employees. Now it’s not only businesses that are perpetuating the mollycoddling of the next generation, but colleges are contributing to the wussing of the next generation.

That’s right, colleges are also having interviews with parents of perspective students before the parents cash out their home equity and go into debt over their eyebrows in order for their children to learn something so the parents can then go on the job interview for their children and secure them a job from the get go that will be everything their parents worked years to achieve.

This all annoyed me to a degree. You see I wasn’t the toughest kid on the block back in the day, and while I was snarky to the extreme I couldn’t take the local bullies in a fight. I got hurt and felt the pain of being beaten up on a daily basis, and on occasion my parents did come to bat for me, when I was in grade school and needed some guidance toward becoming a man. Yet once I was 18 I thought I was an adult, and took on the world of college and employment on my own. I didn’t get patted on the back for showing up on time, or answering the phone, or filing in alphabetical order.

Sure I would’ve liked to have had a family business to go into, something that I didn’t have to learn but was taken into by proxy simply because of my birthright, but I didn’t have that luck. My dad was a mechanic in a factory and mom was a nurse, piano teacher and realtor. I ended up being a realtor, but it wasn’t because of mom’s influence. I wanted money, would that I were a successful realtor instead of one of those foolishly honest people who isn’t a pushy sales person.

Be that as it may, my mommy and daddy didn’t completely wuss me with their over-protectiveness. In fact, compared to current generations my parents might as well have thrown me to the wolves. And from what I’m seeing each successive generation is getting worse. We are raising a country of wusses.

Now I know some of you will say I have no place to talk here as I’m single and have no children, but that’s exactly why I have to talk. Those who can’t do criticize. I’m obviously never going to be a father as that would require renting a womb and I’m choosing not to be a parent. I don’t want the responsibility of raising a child of my own, but I do want to warn the parents who are my age that they are the people who are wussing there own children.

That’s right; you are the people preventing your children from developing the backbone to stand up for themselves. For the love of whatever deity you believe in, stop turning your children into namby pamby pantywaist wusses who can’t do a thing for themselves without relying on their parents as a safety net.

If you remember reading Mark Twain’s Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer you remember these boys were the tough kids who were the first to run barefoot in the summer and last to don footwear in the fall. Granted that may have had more to do with financial situations than with being less wussy, but the example stands because it shows children having to learn the ways of the world. Parents spend too much time trying to keep their children innocent and naïve rather than teach their kids the real dangers of the world.

The world is a dangerous place and the best way to protect children is to educate them to all the dangers, and then they will be able to grow up and be responsible adults who don’t need their mommy and daddy to go to a college interview for them or a job interview because they will be prepared to handle the injustices of the world and the hurts and bruises that come with daily life.

Blessed is the child who doesn’t need a pat on the back for showing up on time for work, or need to be praised for being able to perform the simplest tasks like opening a door or answering a phone; especially when that child is in their 20s.


Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

more about robert a. melos


good time bobby's got the blues
the ramblings of a man down on life
by robert a. melos
topic: pop culture
published: 6.6.05

downsizing love
a realistic low-carb look at how love should be
by robert a. melos
topic: pop culture
published: 5.31.04


reem al-omari
5.9.07 @ 2:58a

My parents don't wear their seatbelts (which annoys me, but I've given up on that argument), and they don't believe in helmets.

Though I wear my seatbelt, I ride my bicycle all over town without a helmet. I mean, what is the pleasure in riding your bicycle if you can't even feel the wind blowing through your hair on a nice day?

robert melos
5.9.07 @ 4:07a

I wear seatbelts when I drive. I think part of my rant here was triggered by something I didn't even include in the column. A school bus accident between two buses. It made front page news here, and was all over the local news. What annoyed me was one bus rearended another bus with all the force of a bumper car at an amusement park. A few kids did get thrown from their seats and there were a few scrapes and bruises, but the parents were on the news making it sound so much worse, and while I can understand a parent's concern for their child, it just pushed the wrong buttons with me.

It seems since 9/11 people are over-protective. The school even brought in counselors to counsel children who weren't on the buses. This was an elmentary school, ages 8 to 12. The kids who weren't on the bus were upset? They didn't even know about it until they were told about it by teachers. So they need counseling because they weren't in an accident?

By the time I had written about the businesses catering to parents and treating 20somethings like children I figured the column was already too long, so I didn't go off on the parents and school system that was aiming 8 to 12 year-olds down the wuss path of life.

On a bright note, the war in Iraq will be ending by 2015 because that is about the time the current generation of kids will be reaching the age of fodder, and their parents will finally stand up and say no to war. Or the war will have to become parent friendly and invite the parents to the battlefields first before they allow their children to become part of the war.

tracey kelley
5.9.07 @ 9:38a

Again, misguided, control freaks with serious emotional issues - that's who these parents are.

But fortunately, not everyone is like that. A good friend of mine and I were having lunch at a gourmet restaurant/market the other day. We were both interested in these 'designer' chocolates made with seasonings like chilis, sweet curry and such.

We both broke a couple of pieces of the other's and tried them. I asked her if she wanted a couple of pieces of mine to take home to her son, and she said, "Uh, no. He wouldn't know what to make of it, and anyway, he doesn't need expensive chocolate at his age."

Now, this mother would stop a speeding train with her own body to save her children. But, she also has a brain, and doesn't think the children own the universe.

jael mchenry
5.9.07 @ 11:46a

A lot of fun stuff we enjoyed as children is now gone or illegal because of the danger factor. Playgrounds are like big padded sandboxes now; can't climb too high, can't spin too fast, can't land too hard. I miss lawn darts and swinging gates and penny drops.

robert melos
5.10.07 @ 12:03a

Somewhere in my garage is an original lawn darts game, with the metal spikes.

I'm not against protecting the children to a degree, but when I look back at my childhood, which I thought was over-protected, and look at things like counselors swarming schools because of a bus accident where a few kids got scrapes and bruises or, something I read in a recent news article, bringing in counselors because the school had a lockdown after a false shooting threat (someone wanted to get out of a test), I think we as a population are taking things too far.

Add to that the colleges that are catering to parents instead of aiming at the children, and worse yet the big businesses that are wooing parents instead of the 20something adults who will doing the actual work for the lousy pay they will earn until they become upper management, and you can see why I feel we are creating the wussification of the next several generations. I don't say we have to be stiff upper lip bullies, but there must be a median point where we can allow our children to be adults when they reach 18, and allow our children to be children without being overprotective parents to a point of taking away the child's ability to stand on their own two feet?

juli mccarthy
5.10.07 @ 1:27a

I'll tell you it's not easy to let kids sink or swim on their own. When she was ten - and wearing a bike helmet - my daughter flew over the handlebars of her bike and landed on her mouth. She knocked out a permanent front tooth and even now, almost eight years later, I wish I could figure out a way to go back and protect her from that.

Which, of course, is not the same thing as accompanying her on job interviews and vetting her potential employers. But still. It's a struggle to balance the urge to protect your kids from EVERYTHING and the knowledge that doing so is not doing them any favors.

robert melos
5.10.07 @ 4:42a

Part of the problem with kids, I think, is that accidents happen. Over protective parents ruin their kids lives by not letting them stand on their own two feet, and other parents ruin their kids lives by not doing enough.

I'm glad to hear from someone who actually has kids. As I've said before, I'll never have children, mostly by circumstance, but a bit by choice, so writing this column wasn't as easy on my conscience. I don't feel as though I have the right to criticize those who have done what I won't be doing, but on the other hand someone has to say it and it seems not a lot of people have the common sense to say it.

sloan bayles
5.30.07 @ 3:17p

Parents never want to see their children hurt - emotionally or physically. I think one of our biggest responsibilities as parents is to teach our kids how to make good choices. If your kid is a bully, he/she probably deserves to have his/her ass kicked. Preferably from someone whom he's been bullying. Choices and consequences.
This makes it sound all too simplistic, I know, but I agree with Bobby. The mollycoddling has got to stop.

ken mohnkern
5.30.07 @ 5:58p

Then there's the new book, The Dangerous Book for Boys, a "heartfelt plea for a renewed sense of adventure in the lives of boys," according to Amazon.

One reviewer, though, didn't think was quite dangerous enough.

robert melos
5.31.07 @ 3:33a

Sloan, I can understand parents wanting to protect their children, but at some point the parents should realize they have to let go or the child will never be able to stand on their own, or will be lost without the constant protection of the parent. I'm getting the impression the parents haven't taught their children to make good choices, or careful choices because the parents aren't making a good choice by being over-protective, or controlling.

I realized something watching some old television from the 80s. Fictional role models from that era included J.R. Ewing, Blake Carrington, and Angela Channing, all parents who controlled their adult children's lives.

I honestly can't think of any real life role models. Perhaps that's just me. I was raised on television. If I look back, even the Bradys and Partridges were controlling of their children. However, most of the real life parents I remember from my childhood seemed to take the hands off approach in raising me and my friends.

I don't think choice and consequence is too simplistic, because it it is the most common sense solutions that change things in the world.

Ken, that's fantastic. Although it is interesting to note the authors are British, and Americans probably won't learn much from it.

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