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Last Friday, as I made my way to the subway, I picked up Metro and lo and behold, saw a piece of news that has haunted me ever since. This definitely wins my favorite silly local news story of the year, beating the story of the missing and later found giant fiberglass chicken (god bless her fiberglass soul):

A long story short, there’s a school in Vaughan next to a nice little park, with a few trees kindly providing shelter and beauty. But no, the trees are of the evil sort – the kind that will come and poison your children: Oak trees! Those bloodsucking plants that devilishly sprinkle acorns around their trunks, only to lure in innocent children with nut allergies. Well, worry no more, a local parent has come to the rescue by asking the trees to be chopped off so that our beloved children can be safe at school and live happily ever after (and interestingly, her children who do suffer from nut allergies are, according to Toronto Star, in their teens!).

Sadly, I think the story has very little to do with allergies and everything to do with the phenomenon of the decade: helicopter parenting, where parents hover over their children, cleaning up all the obstacles on their path as much as they can for as long as they can. In order not to go into the depths of modern parenting philosophies and ‘who knows best’, I’m going to end with a quick story and let the story do the talking.

Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite books by Astrid Lindgren; Ronya, the Robber’s Daughter (Ronja Rövardotter/Ronja ryövärintytär (the haphazard translation is mine):

– Lovisa, he said to his wife. – Our child must learn how one lives in the Mattisforest. Let her loose!

– Aha, said Lovisa. – You have finally come to understand it. This should have happened ages ago, if I would have had my say.

And ever since that day Ronya was free to wander according to her own will. But first, Mattis taught her a thing or two.

– Beware of the flying goblins, the grey trolls and the Borka robbers! he said.

– How will I know which ones are flying goblins, trolls or Borka robbers? asked Ronya.

– You will know when you see them, said Mattis.

– Alright then, said Ronya.

– And take good care so that you will not get lost in the woods, said Mattis.

– And if I do get lost in the woods? asked Ronya.

– You will search for the right way, said Mattis.

– Alright then, said Ronya.

– And be careful you won’t fall in the river, said Mattis.

– And if I do fall in the river? asked Ronya.

– You swim, answered Mattis.

– Alright then, said Ronya.

– And be careful you won’t fall into the Hell Gorge, said Mattis.

He meant the gorge that separated Mattismountain in two.

-And if I do fall into the Hell Gorge? Asked Ronya.

– After that you won’t do much of anything, said Mattis and howled as though all the evil of the world weighed heavily on his chest.

– Alright then, nodded Ronya after Mattis had howled enough – then I won’t go and fall into the Hell Gorge. Anything else?

– There’s much else, in all shape and form, yes indeed, said Mattis. – But all that you will learn little by little. Go now!

And so Ronya went.

Soon she understood how foolish she had been: How could she have thought the great stone hall of Mattiscastle was the entire world?