Welcome to ControverSunday all!
First off, I have to tell you all that Amber over at Strocel.com wrote a great post earlier this week, that while she didn’t brand official as ControverSunday (though she is welcome to), is on exactly our topic this week. So check it out.
Okay, here is the low down. Everyone is welcome to join. Just write up a post re: protection versus acceptable risk (see the topic post for more details). Grab your handy dandy badge from Accidents. And come back here to put your link in the comments so I can link you up in the post. And you can do that today, tomorrow or whenever this week.
You know that parent at the playground who is letting their kid climb to what seems to be heights inappropriate for the age of the child? That’s me. (Wave and say hello when you see me).
That’s probably not totally true. Maybe some days more then others. My husband is likely to let Audrey climb even higher. But I still feel like I am more willing to let Audrey try things she may not be ready for on the playground then others.
Maybe I am paranoid, but sometimes I think I see a look in the other parents eyes that either they think I am being neglectful and not caring, or I am being reckless and don’t know what I am doing. Truth be told, as much as I would like to be more confident in my parenting, when I see those looks I tend to give in and hover a bit more closely.
But it is not just because of the looks I get from others. I find myself constantly battling two parental instincts. One is to let Audrey explore, make mistakes and learn, and the other is to keep her safe. You see, I think we have two main jobs as parents: keeping our kids healthy/providing for their needs and teaching them to not need us. And I think those two things often come into conflict; at least for me they do.
I am all for reasonable safety measures. There is no need to be reckless. Car Seats, not leaving kids unattended in the bath tub, holding hands while crossing the road, knowing where my child is; these are all good things. I appreciate how things have changed in the last 50 years (at least based on my unscientific observations about parenting in the 1960’s via Mad Men). We have done a lot of things to keep kids safer. Safer cars, homes, schools, playgrounds. Warning labels, less chocking hazards and guidelines. We ‘baby proof’ our homes.
But I think it has gone too far. (Maybe not with the peanut ban in schools; I hear the critiques of my last post that why should one kid be at serious risk so a few others can have their favorite sandwich.) But I do think we don’t give our kids the opportunity to learn, explore and build confidence because we are so afraid to keep them on anything but a short rope. We don’t just try and protect them from physical harm, we try to protect them from any emotional struggles. We try to protect them from the feeling of someone not liking them, or not be included, or not getting an A. Normal things that happen to us emotionally throughout our lives that we need to experience.
One good example is toddler play areas. My instinct is to step back and let Audrey do her thing. But I see other parents hovering around their kids and apologizing to me when their kid touches mine. Or plays in the same space as her. Or reaches for the same toy. Or whatever. Really? Why?
We spend a lot of our time at outdoor parks where, more often then not, sadly, we are the only ones there. We go to the indoor play areas for Audrey to be able to interact with other kids. And my feeling is that we should step back and let them interact and learn about socializing. That means not stepping in unless someone is at risk for actually getting hurt. (And I don’t mean ‘hurt’ like when a toddler pats an other toddler a little to hard. I mean actual hurt- like enough to leave a mark.)
I don’t care if your kid hits mine. Or if they fight over a toy. Or if they have to, I don’t know, actually work something out themselves. I want her to learn about interacting with others. Certainly I would step in if I saw her being unkind to an other child and explain that it is not nice behaviour. But the line at which we step in needs to move back a bit, in my opinion.
And I know this is just the beginning. The beginning of seeing that stereotypical ‘hellicopter parent’. I don’t want to be that parent. I would rather my kid skin her knee riding a bike on her own then have me right there all the time making sure she doesn’t fall.
Would I take my school aged kid to the park and leave them there for the day, a la Free Range parenting? Hells Yes.
Would I let my middle school aged kid take public transit to school? Hells Yes.
Would I let my teenager walk through the ‘bad part of town’? Hells Yes.
Our kids need to learn how to protect themselves. How are they to do that when we suffocate them with rules and over protection?
I don’t know. It is not a black and white subject for me. It is all shades of gray. I want to keep my kid safe, for sure. But when I see the confidence in her eyes when she does something that I wasn’t sure I should ‘let’ her try to do, Wow. She knows she can accomplish something, even if it is difficult.
I just wish we weren’t so afraid. We hear all these awful things that happen in the news and we panic. We don’t want our kids to eat Halloween candy for fear of poising. Even though every year there is a ‘feature story’ on the news about how poison in Halloween candy is pretty much a myth; the only kids to ever be poisoned that way were poisoned by a family member or family friend. Tragic, none the less. But not the same. We are worries about our kids being kidnapped. Which does tragically happen. But again, usually by someone the kid knows, not a stranger. Is our kid really any safer if we drive them to school every day instead of letting them walk?
You see, you can’t stop every possible bad thing for happening. You can try to take measures to keep kids safe, like car seats and teaching them about strangers. But you can’t keep them in a bubble. Nor should you. A child who is sheltered and protected their whole life.. they struggle as an adult, because they don’t know how to make good choices. They don’t know how to assess risk.
It sucks being a parent with all these topics of internal conflict. It sucks. And I can certainly understand that we have different tolerances for different amounts or types of risk. But I also think we have to keep our eye on the goal; a kid who is confident, makes good decisions, knows they can get back up again when they fall down. One that can assess a situation and figure out for themselves if it is safe. And one that knows that their parents will always be there when they need them, but that doesn’t really need them.