In Sweden children are protected by law from spanking and are becoming the chief decision makers in homes at very young ages, leading some to fear that the country is turning into a nation of “ouppfostrade,” loosely translated as “badly raised children.”
Badly Raised Kids? Sweden Has a Word for That
The Wall Street Journal
When I first saw Heidi I knew she was the girl for me. We were playing three-on-three KinderKick, no goalie–you wouldn’t want to discourage us, would you?
She was just standing around, like me; bored, amazed that other kids would actually run after a stupid ball just because some fat adult told them to. What sheep!
I sidled up to her and gave her a sly, sidewise glance. “You wanna blow this pop stand?” I said.
She looked at me–suspicious at first. Then her mouth melted into a smile like a spring thaw on Kebnekaise, our nation’s highest mountain at 2,117 meters, but who’s counting?
“This soccer–it is too much like work, yah?” she asked with that rising Swedish valley-girl inflection that drives me nuts.
“Got your juice box?” I asked.
“Right here,” she said, patting her fanny pack, which I hoped to be patting myself as soon as we were beyond the prying eyes of adults.
“Then let’s go!” I said. We turned and walked, trying to appear nonchalant, towards the sidelines. I rifled through the backpacks sitting on the ground–they had the right idea–and scored enough Swedish fish to last us until we could knock over a convenience store.
“Hey–what are you doing?” It was Mrs. Jonson, worried that we might lift little Filip Jonson’s smorgas, the traditional Swedish open sandwich with bread (duh), hard boiled eggs and leverpastej. Her warning cry was a tip-off, so I dove into Filip’s lunch box with the image of Arne Anka–Sweden’s knock-off Donald Duck–on the side. Paydirt!
I stuffed the smorgas in my pocket, yelled “Let’s roll!” and Heidi and I lit out for the Tyloskog, one of the many forests that cover 53% of our nation’s land.
Heidi wasn’t in great shape–all that standing around picking at her blond split ends when she was supposed to be going off sides or something on the soccer pitch.
She was panting by the time we reached the edge of the agricultural plain and disappeared into the forest primeval. I always wondered about that; was the forest primeval better or worse than the ordinary eval forest? Did the forest get primevaller the deeper you went into it?
We plunked ourselves down behind a mossy rock and watched the confusion of the adults trying to track us down. “Look at those fishsticks,” I said with contempt. “We’ve been ordering them around for so long they’ve lost the capacity to command.”
“We really shouldn’t let them run things anymore,” Heidi said. “It’s time the children of the world took charge.”
“You’re right about that,” I said. “They’re starting to get restless, and talking about throwing off their chains. A guy has even written a book about it.”
Heidi snorted. “Adults–writing books? What next?”
“It’s true. Somebody named David Eberhard, a Swedish psychiatrist and father of six . . .”
Heidi burst out laughing. “If he’s so smart, why did he create six children to be his bosses?”
“Who knows what goes through their rapidly decaying minds,” I said as I shrugged my shoulders. “Anyway, his book ‘How Children Took Power’ has people talking.”
“‘Took power’? Don’t make me laugh,” Heidi said with disgust. “Adults own all the houses, all the cars, all the stocks and bonds.”
“He’s fighting the notion that parents should just be friends to their kids, not actual, you know, parents,” I said.
“I hope his book doesn’t give adults any more stupid ideas than they already have.”
“Heidi–HEIDI!” we heard someone calling from the edge of the forest.
“You’ll never take us alive!” I yelled. “No more pencils, no more books, no more muesli in breakfast nooks!”
“C’mon,” Heidi. “We can’t let them catch us!” She got up and started running, a look of fear on her face.
“What are you worried about?” I asked with a blase air. “The only weapon they have left is stern looks since spanking was outlawed.”
She stopped, panting a little, like a hart after the water brooks.
“Thanks to their unilateral disarmament, they can’t lay a hand on us,” I said as I held out a bag of Swedish fish.
“You are too cocky,” she said. “They can still do us grievous harm.”
“If they catch us, they’ll start in with their tedious talks about how we have to learn to control our impulses.”
“Sticks and stones can break your bones, baby,” I said with a gleam in my eye. “But how exactly are they gonna teach us that?”
Heidi groaned just a little. She was a bit older than me, and wiser. Perhaps she knew something I didn’t.
“What is it, my little Punschrulle?” I asked tenderly, referring to the green marzipan pastry also known as a “vacuum cleaner.”
“You don’t know what they can do to you,” she said beginning to sob. “‘Impulse control’ is but a euphemism for the cruellest, most sadistic torture ever devised by the Swedish mind. It will break even the strongest child’s will!”
“What do they do to you?” I asked with frightened anticipation.
“They strap you into a seat and make you watch an Ingmar Berman film marathon!”