Friday, May 15, 2009

Protecting them or Stunting them?



What do you think about the Mom who let her 9-year-old son ride the NYC subway alone? At first glance, it sounds unthinkable. But I've read three different articles about it, including one by the mom, and I must say I'm torn. Are we overly concerned with safety? Are we robbing our kids of what should be normal experiences due to trumped up fear created by our media?

Perhaps we Americans are so freaking scared of the random that we surround our kids with bizarre safety devices thinking that will keep the evil at bay. And we all know those crazy parents who won't let their kids touch dirt without a complete hose-down with bleach, and we shake our heads.

We shouldn't be idiots - I'm not advocating sending Junior over to Hannibel Lector's daycare center or letting Suzie snack from the change jar. But have we truly gone too far?

During my days in Social Work, I had many clients with horrendous brain injury - from motorcycles and one from a tragic game of teenage touch football that left him a quadriplegic. And don't all us parents go weak in the knees when we hear of another child abduction? Don't we all project the faces of our beloveds on the news of the child killed in a farming accident, a tornado, a drowning.

One of our local grocery stores has boxes of hand sanitizer right up at the check-out. Our schools have asked that ANY child with "flu-like symptoms" stay home for a full seven days, even if they are better. Our kids aren't allowed to play on snow hills surrounding the playground because 20 years ago a child died of a head injury there. Our school nurse must crush up cough drops so kids won't choke. People will have a loaded gun in the house, which is HIGHLY LIKELY to hurt someone in the family, in defense against the spectre of an intruder that is statistically never going to show up.

Yet . . . we still haul them around in buses with no seat belts. We still feed them toxic lunch food.

But where does common sense stop and hysteria begin? I have no answers. I'm just as hysterical as the next parent, really.

18 comments:

Bubs said...

My vote goes toward stunting. I think the 24 hour cable news cycle has made what should be local crime news into national news, and gives everyone the impression that crimes against children are far more widespread than they actually are.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

People are waaaaaay too protective of their kids today. Most of them would not last an hour going through what we did when we were their ages.

FranIAm said...

What a great post! Holy crap, you are so right to put this out there.

As Bubs and Monkey say, the perspective is so far off. It becomes a mental condition that leads us to believe that we are exercising some control over things, while other things are worse. You mention the school buses without seatbelts, something I always wonder about.

And lunch food! My stepdaughter reported with pride that she bought nachos for lunch in the cafeteria on Friday. Even my normally devil-may-care when it comes to nutrition husband got worked up over that one.

I was at a presentation (you read about it on my blog Mnmom and commented) the other day and the speaker was talking about addressing folks of younger generations. He spoke about how people who are now young adults have grown up in a world of bike helmets and video cameras; it skews the worldview. Not a value judgment, but just a reality.

I see that I have these overprotective tendencies now as a stepmother, but I try to fight them.

Often a useless journey!

Shan said...

It's funny, I often think parents today are way overprotective etc. etc. etc. just like you discuss here, and THEN I watch a 20/20 episode last night (WHY do I do these things to myself?!) about an 11-year-old girl who was abducted and presumably killed FROM THE CURB OUTSIDE HER FRONT DOOR while waiting for the ice-cream truck within the 90 SECONDS she was left alone. Seriously. Now who would ever question the appropriateness of letting one's 11-year-old sit out at the front curb for less than 2 minutes waiting for the ice-cream truck?! And yet she was kidnapped most likely by a sex offender who lived in the neighborhood and is no doubt dead (this happened 10 years ago).

Honestly! How can a parent win?! (And yes, I know these things are rare, but what really shocked me was when they showed the # of registered sex offenders living within a mile of this girl's house--must have been 20 or more--and this was just a normal town in AZ, not even a large city. And I know from when we looked at houses in Mpls. and actually looked up such stats that this is probably par for the course--you just don't know about it because it is against the law to be explicitly warned that those people are nearby (you can seek out the info yourself however).

OK, I'm done now....now that I'm sick with worry over ever neighbor on my block....

Mnmom said...

I watched that same 20/20 episode, and that also prompted me to write this post. The evil is so random.

themom said...

My husband let me know in uncertain terms that I was "overprotective" of my children. I finally came out of that trance and lessened the reins a little. Now, with all the sex offenders that are allowed to live anywhere (we have three within 3 blocks), I find myself highly overprotective of my grandson. He was molested when he was three years old - the justice system sucked on that one. I refeuse to even allow him to get close to any of these premises. Karate classes are next for him!

Sheleta said...

I was a latch key kid. Mom was at work, I was responsible for going home, opening the door, cooking and getting my home work done. All this with my little brother in tow. And I was about 10 years old.

FranIAm said...

Not to bring ants to the picnic, but as a kid who encountered great and terrible danger in her own home, I am always of the mind that we can do what we can, but...

I just know so many people who live in fear and I see how easy it could be to become one of them now that I have a child in my care.

That 20/20 piece scared the crap out of many of us.

Bubs said...

"and THEN I watch a 20/20 episode last night (WHY do I do these things to myself?!) about an 11-year-old girl who was abducted and presumably killed FROM THE CURB OUTSIDE HER FRONT DOOR while waiting for the ice-cream truck within the 90 SECONDS she was left alone."

Shan, this illustrates my point I think. The very fact that this occurrence is a freakish anomaly is exactly what makes it "newsworthy". Attempting to protect your child from an event such as this would be somewhat like trying to protect your child from being hit by a runaway truck or struck by lightning. Those events would also get extensive news coverage, precisely because they almost NEVER happen.

The problem is that these types of stories go directly to our worst fears and anxieties as parents and cause a visceral, non-thinking reaction on our part.

Mnmom said...

"The problem is that these types of stories go directly to our worst fears and anxieties as parents and cause a visceral, non-thinking reaction on our part."

Excellent point Bubs, and that reaction is what drives TV ratings and sales of newspapers. So how to we disseminate this information? How do we sort the real from the hysteria?

Churlita said...

It is scary, but I think it's even scarier to think of people growing up in so much fear. I was unsupervised for much of my childhood. I have to say, there were some bad things that happened to me, but not as bad as when I lived with my very strict, very abusive Aunt and Uncle.

Liberality said...

My parents (no, my mom) was neglectful but not abusive toward me. But because she was so neglectful I probably overcompensated with my kids by being overly protective. However, I still knew that something bad could happen to them no matter how much I try to protect them because that is just the way life is. A freak storm or car accident could change your life in a second.

FranIAm said...

Your post and other things inpsired me to write something...
Fear.

Is it obnoxious for me to blogwhore and link myself in this comment? If it is please delete! I trust your judgment and opinion Mnmom!

Mnmom said...

Fran - I love it when we get each other thinking, and something I said creates another blogger to add to the discussion!

Anita said...

I read this and had to spend some time thinking about my response. I do wish my children were growing up in a less "in touch" world like we had. Imagine now that I freak out if one of my girls goes out for a run and doesn't take her cell phone, I mean, they've had them since age 12. At 12-15 I was riding my bike all over town, miles from my house, doing silly teen things, like meeting boys and kissing and seeing friends and buying penny candy........but not my kids. I drive them everywhere. Now my girls are near driving and most of their friends drive but they have to call me at any change of plans. When I was a teen and I left the house, God only knew where I was going, and I just had to make curfew.
I know I'm protective and anal, and I wish it weren't so.
I think I'm glad I missed 20/20.
Thanks for bringing up this issue.

Mommy Lisa said...

I know, I know, I know. I thought she was a NUT too.

I KNOW right now I am overprotective - But, dang - how could I ever let Boo Boo out of my sight without someone I trust. It took me three years and a miracle to get her...
Heck, I get nervous letting my 67 year old Dad drive her around and would NEVER EVER let her stay over night at my in-laws - they don't pay close enough attention and have an open stairwell....

Maybe when she is five?

However, I do let her dig in the dirt, pick her nose and fart in public. ;) Your welcome!

Mauigirl said...

I'm in the stunting camp - I agree with Bubs that the 24 hour news is what makes every local event sound like something that happens everywhere and just heightens all the paranoia.

When I was a kid I walked to school starting at age 6 with a neighbor child who was 8 - and then alone starting at age 7. Now kids all get driven to school till they're who knows how old.

My friends and I at age 11 used to go play in the woods all day by ourselves - didn't come back till supper. Our parents didn't really know where we were.

These things are hard to imagine now with everyone being so afraid.

I realize there really are dangers and things do happen - but I don't really think they happen that much more than in the old days - we just hear about them more.

Julie said...

Protecting them or Stunting them?
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