I was with an old friend today and we took our kids to the Children’s Museum. Her and I chatted and caught up while our kids played in the sea of children at the loud and kinesthetic museum. My son was, of course, always on the move and there were a few times I hadn’t seen him for many moments. I’d go off to look for him after I had a bit of that, “hmmmm….I hope he’s still in here with us” moment. He was always there, safe and sound, having tons of hands-on fun.
While my friend and I chatted, the topic of fear and letting our kids roam a bit came up in our conversation. I told her about this site and I’ve also been catching up on it recently. Now I’m not ready to let my 5 year old wander down our busy street to get some change from the gas station all by himself, but I’m challenged again to continue to deal with my fears and believe in the decency of humanity in their love and care for children.
I’m a typical mother that wants to protect her children and at times can be overprotective. I hate to see my kids sad, hurting or fearful. I do have to deal with the vibe in our fear-based culture that screams out mistrust in how adults view children (we’ve come to believe that it’s common for adults to want to hurt children and actually rare for them to nurture). I’ve been reading crazy articles, written by intelligent adults, that fear things like decals on their mini vans of figure-drawings of a family. The fear is that a predator will see these decals, know there are children in the car (as if the mini van wasn’t a dead give away), follow them home and abduct their children in the middle of the night. Well, maybe they don’t fear it WILL happen as much as it COULD happen so best to avoid potential danger.
Let me say that I would NEVER forgive myself if something bad happened to my kids while they were away from me but statistically speaking it is actually more likely to get struck by lightning than for your child to be taken and never returned. Usually abductions happen to children by someone they KNOW rather than a stranger. Yet, from the media attention given to these topics, you’d think this kind of thing happens ALL THE TIME!
Again, I understand the fear to protect our kids. It’s actually our responsibility! But I do agree that this really gets taken too far and it creates a fear and mistrust within our culture. It also creates children who fear and mistrust and are unable to be independent from their hovering parents. I do understand the fear but I also agree that our kids need to be given portions of age appropriate independence, freedom and room to roam.
Our current housing doesn’t allow for huge amounts of freedom outdoors but I still love to get my kids to parks playing with other children, climbing trees and hanging from bars, even if they may fall. I also enjoy posting photos of my kids on my blog because I believe it is my friends that read this and they love to see my kids grow. I occasionally let my kids go in the buff at the beach if there aren’t many people around. Usually the only people that have a problem are those that think I’m exposing them while ‘there may be a predator around’. Well, I have thought of this and I’ve never felt someone staring at my kids bodies. If I ever felt funny we wouldn’t do it. People should trust my judgment as a parent. I’m there with them, watching, taking notice. But I’m also letting my kids have a childhood. They will remember times swimming in icy water, climbing trees, falling from trees and playing with sticks and rocks. In fact I think it’s good for them to do so.
As they get older more challenges and fears will come. I’ll have to deal with giving them more amounts of freedom even if I want to hover and shelter them from danger. But it’s not healthy to teach our kids to fear. Caution is a must and it actually teaches our kids independence; they can problem solve (but the key is to teach them how to problem solve on their own). As my kids get older I’ll have to deal with personal fears that come up in my mind but I know I don’t always want to live in the ‘what if?’ zone.
I remember what my friend Dan B. said in regards to fear. “It’s not that I don’t have fears anymore. I still have them but I continue to face them until I’m not afraid anymore.” Raising kids is a courageous endeavor and is not for the faint hearted. But it is also my responsibility to teach my children courage and to give them the freedom to learn, explore, grow and live. I’d love to hear any thoughts on this site and some of these articles. They are very thought provoking, indeed!
Here’s to raising children and facing our fears!