I think I might be turning out to be an overprotective parent. And I wish that wasn’t the case.
On my way home from work last week, I saw a little boy, out riding his bike through a fairly busy intersection near my house.
I’m not sure how old he was, maybe 6. He was by himself. He had bare feet. He wasn’t wearing a helmet. I went into “judgy mommy” mode, wondering where his parents were and how they could let him out like that by himself.
Then I came to my senses. We live in a pretty safe neighborhood and his parents were likely confident he knew how to safely check for cars and cross the street. As for the helmets, while I know they are recommended, they aren’t required, and most of us survived childhood without them. Although with the amount of distracted talkers and texters on the road these days, wearing one while biking near cars is a pretty good idea.
I used to walk to kindergarten by myself or with a neighborhood buddy. We were 5 years old. Once, a stranger asked us if we wanted a ride in his big, old, white car. We screamed “no,” ran to the school and told a teacher. Another time a crazy teenage driver nearly hit us while we were waiting to cross the street. We ratted him out, too, and the principal made him come over from the high school and apologize.
Our parents had taught us well how to take care of ourselves when we were on our own.
And that’s the kind of little person I want to raise. But I think it’s a lot harder to do these days when others are quick to judge giving a kid some independence as neglect. Just like I did.
I get uncomfortable when my 3-year-old is out of my sight, sometimes even in our own home.
I think I need to learn to relax.
We have been indoctrinated that danger is lurking around every single corner, from the threat of a TV tip-over injuring or even killing a small child to poisonings and suffocation.
According to the Center for Disease Control, the No. 1 killer of children and teens in the U.S. is injury, with more than 9,000 dying each year as a result of being injured and 9 million more being treated in emergency rooms.
And those statistics are an improvement over past decades.
Child car seats. Seat belts. Helmets. All of these things save lives. And as they say, “when we know better, we do better.”
But the anxiety of knowing about so many dangers can be crippling for parents, many of whom want to keep their kids in a bubble.
And I wonder if the result will be future generations that struggle to take, or even calculate, risk.
While it might not have seemed like it at the time, I grew up with a lot of freedom compared to many kids I see today.
Part of it was living in a small town. But it was also that my parents taught us be responsible for ourselves.
As for my own tendency to be overprotective, I think it’s mostly due to my “always be prepared for the worst case scenario” outlook on life.
But reading through so many criminal complaints and accident reports over the years has made for extra worry as well.
Then there are the 74 school shootings in the U.S. since the Sandy Hook massacre 18 months ago and all the bullying and seduction that happens online.
I’d prefer not to pass my anxieties about all of those things on to my son, and it’s going to require diligence on my part.
I just hope we are raising a generation of kids that are smart enough to make good decisions and take care of themselves when they need to.
Mandy Moran Froemming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org