Who hasn’t enjoyed popping the air bubbles on Bubble Wrap, and who hasn’t danced around on it, or run on it. Most of us would have wrapped something fragile in it to mail to someone? And who wouldn’t want to protect valuable, fragile gifts?
Bubble wrap was invented through failure. Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes were attempting to make a 3D wallpaper in 1959, but it failed, however, the material they ended up with was useful for packaging fragile objects. And, in 1960, Bubble Wrap was born. I don’t remember it before 1973, but maybe I wasn’t paying attention!
Bubble wrap is a polyethylene product, a hydrocarbon derivative, and in the current situation, an unwelcome intruder in the environment as a non-biodegradable plastic. It will be hard for commerce to wean themselves from this highly effective and cheap product.
Bubble wrap is also a metaphor, as per the image above. The desire to protect ourselves, our family, and our friends, is a powerful one as the saying: “Don’t bubble wrap your kids” indicates. I’ve known parents prevent their children from doing all manner of normal play activity in an endeavour to protect them from physical harm. And local government have compounded the matter by overprotecting communities with by-laws. Pool fences come to mind (how on earth did we ever survive without them?), my own children quickly leaerned to conquer pool fences as do many children, nor have they prevented drownings. In one classic case of beaurocratic madness one family I knew were ordered to put in a pool fence around their new pool, which was not far from the farm damn, and also near the river, anyway, you get my drift.
But there are all sorts of overprotection, emotional, mental, physical. In my work, I encounter parents who overprotect around grief issues, as if not talking about death will make it go away and their children will not be upset!
I might be good to bubble wrap and ornament to send overseas, but it is counter-productive to bubble wrap people. Psychologists can now show that overprotecting our children can cause anxiety, can erode self-esteem, and in some cases can result in anorexia. Just some of the results of over-protecting. and like its plastic counterpart, the psychological bubble wrap will be difficult to abandon for some.
Psychotherapist Michael Ungar Overprotection Leads to Psychological Damage has written on the dangers of overprotecting children. One of his main points is that we actually neglect our children when we prevent them from experiencing risk, we do them a disservice in preventing them learning to face problems. Australian advocate for children at play Maggie Dent, has long pushed for play grounds that are real (like they used to be). One school in Perth has reintroduced tree trunks as climbing aparatus, a major step away from the culture of overprotection.
In 2009 journalist Lenore Skenazy coined the phrase “free range kids” following the liberating experience of giving her daughter more freedom in public, and on her own at the age of nine. www.freerangekids.com
I find it refreshing that there are parents and individuals willing to confront the bubble wrap parenting methodology. But we are on notice as adults, do we overprotect ourselves, are we so risk averse that we will no longer “have a go?” And are we guilty of squashing our inner child? We need more free range adults too!