Tuesday, July 19, 2011

a minor parenting rant

You know what I hate? People who talk about "the good ol' days." How everything was so much safer, better, freer, happier several decades ago.

Really? For whom, exactly? White men?

It just chaps my rear when I hear people romanticize the past and hang their heads in defeat about the hopelessness of today. Because I think living during the Cold War - with threat of nuclear war hanging directly over our heads - was scarier. I think living during WWII - before we knew that good would win, that Hitler would die and that the concentration camps would be liberated - was worse. I think living pre-Civil Rights era - before we knew blacks and whites would one day share the same rights and the same drinking fountains, before we knew we'd have a black president, before we knew lynching and hate mobs wouldn't be the norm anymore - was worse.

And that's just the 20th Century.

C'mon, people. Every age throughout history has its good and bad. The number of annual murders today is actually lower than it's been since 1969. Even with millions more people living in our country. The crime rate itself is lower today than it was in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

Which means America is actually a safer place today than it was during my childhood.

Which is why it also drives me nuts when the media gloms onto incredibly sad stories, like the murder of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky, who was walking home by himself when he was abducted by a madman, or the story of Jaycee Dugard, or any of the sensationalized child-abduction stories.

Mean-spirited people, looking for somewhere to place blame in Kletzky's horrific story, say his parents shouldn't have let him walk home alone, even though his parents had gone over the route with him several times, and his community was generally considered a safe one. You can read the story (link above) and draw your own conclusions.

As an admirer of free-range parenting, and as a mother who has experienced the loss of a child, I just have to put my two cents in.

Bad things happen. They happen to children. And it is horrible. As parents, we do everything we can to keep our kids safe - physically, emotionally, spiritually. And that's how it should be. But we can't keep our kids in a bubble. Helicopter parenting suffocates children and teaches them that the world is a scary, horrible place, and that they aren't able or empowered to do anything about that. Kids can't learn that way; they don't grow and become confident, adventurous, curious, independent adults that way.

My son is 14 months old, so I have a while before my husband and I have to start making decisions about when and where it's OK for him to go without us. But I won't be basing my parenting decisions on a very sad and scary, but very rare situation. My son is in much more danger riding in a car each day - heck, he's in more danger of being struck by lighting - than he is of being abducted by a stranger. Those are just facts. Stories like Kletzky's tug our heartstrings and make us hug our kids a little tighter, but they don't change facts.

This article, I think, is a great one, about "dangerizing" childhood. My job is to raise a loving and loved child, confident in who he is and in his own abilities. The world now is at least as safe as it was in my childhood and I can't wait for my son to experience everything himself. A carefree childhood will be one of the greatest gifts I can give him.

1 comment:

Matthew Blake Williams said...

Wow - thanks for this voice of reason. Horrific things do indeed happen. But you're right - children have a natural curiosity and desire to expand their own limits that we shouldn't be stifling. And living life in fear of everything that could possibly go wrong... well, that's just no life at all. Good words.