There’s a line somewhere.
Somewhere between keeping your family safe and being overprotective. Between being realistic about dangers and being overwhelmed by fears. Between being prepared and being obsessive.
Last week, I watched a TLC show called Livin’ For The Apocalypse. Last month, there was an incident at a local park that’s been fairly riddled with problems and where a local homeschooling group meets for playgroups. Both of these have gotten me thinking about where that line is. Obviously, that line will be different for all families, but there is also a place where the line is too far to one side – yes, you can be too fearful, but the opposite is true, too – you can be too UNfearful.
My mom used to look down on parents whose children had broken bones. The parents were not being careful enough, she would assert. Even as a child, I knew this was ridiculous, and now as a parent (who has not yet had a child with a broken bone) I can see it as even more ridiculous. You cannot wrap your kids in cushions and bubble wrap and prevent all harm. It is simply not possible to keep them within arm’s reach at all times, and even if it were, those kids are really fast.
However, it IS possible to take prudent steps to prevent physical harm to your children. Adequate supervision can prevent a small problem from getting worse. Establishing rules about jumping off of high places and enforcing those rules enough that you’re reasonably certain the kids won’t climb something high and then jump – or keeping kids who are prone to jumping within eyesight. If you’re OK with the potential consequence of a broken arm or leg, then you’d obviously relax those rules a little. What you probably would NOT do is just refuse to supervise your kids at all and let things happen as they may… right?
As we tell 7 year old Wally all the time – accidents happen and it’s nobody’s fault, but there’s a difference between an accident and carelessness.
We have a pool in our backyard. I know that we cannot be 100% certain that no harm will ever come to a child in our pool. But does that fact mean that I should just throw caution to the wind and let the chips fall where they may? Should I say “well, I can’t prevent all drowning deaths, so I’ll just hope my kids float?” No. That’s being too unfearful. We have clear, established rules about when we may and may not get into the pool. I will allow 7 year olds into the backyard without an adult. I will not allow 2 and 3 year olds into the backyard without an adult. I remove the ladder when we are not using the pool. Are these steps evidence that I am living in fear, or teaching my kids fear? No, of course not. They are prudent steps to avoid a disaster.
It’s easier to protect your kids from harm within your own home, but what about outside the home?