The other day, I noticed there were a whole lot of Munchkins wandering around the streets, most of them with glazed looks in their eyes.
Most of them were staggering under the weight of 20-kilogram backpacks. I thought for a moment it was some kind of pre-teen zombie apocalypse, and then I remembered it was that good, old back-to-school time of year again.
And then, whilst driving by the surrounding exodus of miniature humans, the car radio started talking about how some people leave their kids deep in the forest in the middle of the night and make them find their way out. Yikes.
So I turned the radio up.
Apparently, it’s called dropping. And guess which country invented and actively participates in dropping?
Think windmills, wooden shoes and that weird dude Goldmember in that Austin Powers movie. That’s right – people from Ontario!
Just kidding, of course. It’s the Dutch. I know, right? Those lovely people who normally just clomp along, smelling tulips and thanking Canadians for helping them in the Second World War.
According to newser.com, Dutch parents “drive their children to a remote location at night, drop them off, and say ‘good luck.’ ”
The kids – and we are talking tweens here – have to find their way through many miles of dark woods and dark roads on their own and make it back to the summer camp.
But, hey, they are allowed to have (only) a “basic GPS device” – which, and I’m assuming here, is what we Canadians call a compass.
So why on Earth would anyone engage in dropping?
Heck, most parents I know, fret when they send their kids tromping off on clean daytime streets, heading to school a few blocks away.
It’s a good question, and one that interested the New York Times enough that it sent a reporter to skulk along behind the kids in the scary midnight forest of Dutchland.
They were dropped off at the edge of the woods at 10 p.m., and it was almost 2 a.m. by the time the kids “staggered exhausted into camp.”
I should note recently, since there have been complaints about dropping, the parents are allowed to follow the kids from a distance.
They aren’t allow to guide, but they might leave “mysterious notes and sometimes hide growling in the woods.”
So much fun!
By now, I’m sure you’re wondering why on earth sensible, tulip-loving folks would do this to their pre-teenage children. I know I am.
The dropping parents, when they aren’t busy hiding in the forest scaring their children, say they don’t believe in “helicopter parenting,” and dropping gives their kids independence, problem solving and life-long nightmares.
OK, so I made that last part up, because it seems both droppers and droppees mostly agree four hours creeping around in a pitch-dark wooded area, completely lost, with no food, no clue, and no Nintendo, is actually good for you.
“It shows you, even in very hard times, to keep walking, to keep going …,” said one 11-year-old droppee.
From his hospital bed. OK, sorry again. I made that last part up also, because, boy, they must have some pretty tough kids in the Netherlands.
Either that or the Nintendo Switch gaming system hasn’t reached Holland yet.
Be that as it may, dropping may sound a little, shall we say, bat-guano crazy, but as one dropper parent put it: “Is it any wonder that Dutch children are reportedly the happiest in the world, as UNICEF reports?”
I wonder who the heck made out that report? Lord Baden-Powell?
Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.