Despite the mountains of rational evidence to the contrary there are still a lot of folks out there holding to the claim that come December 21, 2012 the ire of the universe will refocus upon the planet Earth and cast us all into an end-of-the-world scenario of some kind. If those folks are right then I’ve got less than one week left to get some hard-earned advice out to my readers before this blog goes offline… It’s time for another Week of Lists!
Like any good parent, you probably want the best opportunities for your kids. In the pre-apocalyptic world, this means driving them to piano lessons, teaching them how to safely cross the street, and navigating them through the tricky world of school-aged social peer pressure.
The problem is that, simply, when the world eventually ends and society collapses into survival-based tribalism, knowing how to score a breakaway goal slightly better than little Johnny down the street, or the ability to protect their personal privacy from cyber bullies on Twitter isn’t going to mean squat. So, what’s a parent to do?
While many hard-core survivalists have been (likely) vying for post-armageddon curriculum studies to be taught in school, the reality is that parents can start nurturing skills that will serve kids well both before and after the inevitable viral plague that will ultimately wipe out ninety-nine percent of all human life and leave the remaining survivors struggling through a nightmarish version of a post-civilization wasteland. Whether society collapses next week, next year or a hundred years on, kids who have some of these base skills are going to be the future leaders of Society Two-point-oh.
…food will be scarce and precious…
1 :: Not Being Picky About What They Eat
If your kid is anything like my daughter, being presented with a fully-cooked, perfectly-tasty and one-hundred-percent edible meal at dinner time will garner one of two reactions: Either she’ll recognize that it’s pepperoni pizza, spaghetti, tacos, or a peanut butter sandwich and thus scarf it down before we’ve even dished up… or it will be something else and the epic struggle to force feed her will begin anew. She’s picky. All kids are picky at some level. I seem to recall reading once that it is a genetically programmed safety switch resulting from the fact that — in pre-modern times — the kids who survived to adulthood were those that didn’t eat every piece of (sometimes literal) crap that they found on the ground. But following any apocalyptic scenario, food will be scarce and precious and parents won’t have time to sit around each night and debate the merits of nutrition with stubborn kids. The old adage “there are kids starving right now somewhere in Africa” will become a feeble platitude that will not hold much impact when Africa — and every other continent or nation — no longer exists (no offense to Africa, by the way.)
I’m as guilty of this as the next paranoid father out there. We’ve got all sorts of “mysterious” fire devices in our house — a gas stove-top, a fireplace, and a barbecue to name a few — all of which may as well be wrapped in yellow “don’t touch, danger” tape as far as kids are concerned. But just as our ancient ancestors enslaved the mysterious power of fire, harnessing it to help the survive at the dawn of pre-civilization, mastery over fire — for everyone, kids and adults alike — is going to be a key skill that will mean the difference between living and warding off the giant, mutant, sentient insects that will inevitably arise from the ashes of our once great cities to challenge us for domination of remains of the Earth. By making a mystery out of fire for our kids now, sure we’re making our property safe and secure from inadvertent kiddie-arson, but we’re not exactly balancing that equation through helping them master humanity’s greatest tool. I’m not advocating a fire-free-for-all, but as soon as a kid has the dexterity to light a match, she should probably learn to do it properly under parental supervision.
3 :: Differentiating Between Good Strangers and Bad
If television and movies have taught us nothing else, it’s that when society crumbles, the social contract that keeps us all in line — what stops us from stealing, killing, or becoming roving gangs of angry henchmen in league with a ex-military genius out to claim dominion over the remains of the planet — crumbles right along with it. The instant that happens, morality will very likely shift from the broad spectrum of human behavior encompassing a range of character qualities and motivations to a much more simple, monotone, good-versus-evil paradigm (or so we’ve been told.) No matter what side of the fence you as a parent ultimately land on, your kids are going to need to have the skill to pick out helpful strangers in the crumbling wasteland that was once your local neighborhood. Of course, many modern paranoid parents already try to address this issue by blanketing their kids in the message “don’t talk to strangers!” But this is nothing but a failed proposition for kids who are going to need to independently evaluate unfamiliar people following the collapse. Why? It’s not enough to label everyone as “bad stranger” because the in the chaos of survival the stakes for not approaching someone — anyone — will be just as high as for approaching the wrong someone.
4 :: How to Field Dress a Blister (or something worse…)
I was riding on a bus a few years ago and a young mother was (in the most negative definition of the word) coddling her toddler: the kid had an “ouchie” that needed a bandage. But he didn’t really. He thought he did. So the mom in question pulled one out of her purse and wrapped up the imaginary wound and the kid went back to his standard misbehaving. I watched this from my seat realizing that such a kid is not apocalypse-proof in many, many ways. Thing is, and let’s get this on the table right now, as the world is collapsing around you it’s going to be a struggle just to stay alive. If you’re hoping to get through without any scrapes, bumps, bruises, blisters or festering wounds you’re kidding yourself. That said, any kid who is wasting precious first aid resources dressing imaginary “ouchies” is a detriment to your survival party. It would be best to not only get that mentality out of them as early as possible, but also teach them some basic first aid… y’know… just in case you need it.
…those camping trips were “Intro to Testing Your Mettle 101″…
5 :: Foraging For Food and Shelter in an Urban Environment
Last, but not least is the very basics of scrounging. Of course, you may be sitting back in your chair and asking yourself “hey now, I’m all about teaching first aid and building independent social skills, but I’m not about to teach my kid to become a lock-picking, food-thieving street-rat on the off chance the world ends next week.” And you’d be right to be wary. But then you need to remember that groups like the Boy Scouts have been doing exactly this thing for years: it’s called camping. I was no more than thirteen the first time a half dozen of my peers and I were sent off alone into the woods with the basest of supplies and left to survive. Sure, I acknowledge THAT was hardly a post-end-of-the-world horror and the only zombie drones guarding the food supply were the cashiers at the grocery store, but those camping trips were “Intro to Testing Your Mettle 101” for my pals and I. So, I guess what I’m saying is, well, take your kids camping… before it’s too late.
This post is part of my (satirical) Seven Days of Apocalypse Week of Lists countdown to (almost certainly not) the end of the world. Share and enjoy.