In case you missed the last column, I was advocating for a parenting style that avoids raising kids in an unnecessary atmosphere of fear.
I promoted expending your worries on such things as bike helmets and car seats, while avoiding worry about rarer events that are sensationalized in the media, such as child abductions by strangers or being poisoned by Halloween candy (which again, has no know record of event).
Subsequent to that column, an alert reader posed a very good question to me. Essentially, the question was, "If a parent followed that advice, and then the bad or feared event did occur, what would I say to that parent?"
This is an excellent question because some form or variation of that question rumbles around in the head of any parent as they try to keep their child safe, while also not keeping them packaged in bubble wrap.
The variation inside our heads is something along the lines of "Could I live with myself if a decision I made brought harm to my child?"
First, to anyone who has faced such an event, words are of little comfort. We all know that families and parents in our community have suffered beyond comparison when the unthinkable happens to their child. As parents we are often left with 'if only' in the aftermath. Certainly in the face of such an event, arguments in support of 'free-range' parenting mean nothing.
In the end each parent is left with a balancing act, essentially a risk-benefit question. Is the risk of playing Little League baseball worth the benefit?
I recall distinctly my parents arguing about me playing Little League.
Dad: "I'm going to sign him up for Little League."
Mom: "No!, He'll break his arm or something!"
Dad: "I'm going to sign him up anyway!"
ME: (6-years-old and staring up at them.)
My dad signed me up and I did in fact break my arm ... and my hand ... and two fingers, and got a concussion so severe my vision was impaired.
I would also tell you (and long-time readers will recall the column) that baseball saved my life. It was the significant connection I had with my alcoholic father, and it allowed me to navigate my adolescence and high school years with something to do besides drugs and alcohol.
I'll repeat something I've said before: Parenting is not for the squeamish. It is a dangerous business.
A close friend of mine was out bike riding with her kids when her 10 year old was hit by a car and killed. A horrible, unthinkable event. Yet should that event stop everyone from taking their family on a bike ride? Obviously not.
Our task is to take reasonable precautions. What is reasonable or not is up to each individual parent.
The best advice I can offer is this: Parenting based in fear never ends very well.
Parent 'toward something' not in 'avoidance of something.'
My challenge to you is to not get caught up in a parenting style that is driven by sensationalized media reports that cause you to believe things are more dangerous than they are.
Your children will be potentially robbed of the events that build things such as self worth, self efficacy and self confidence.
I've never seen kids develop those qualities without some risk involved.
Think about it: We teach them to drive, we worry over their drivers ed class, and eventually we hand them the car keys to try it on their own, even though that is profoundly more dangerous than eating Halloween candy.
For fans of "Finding Nemo," you may recall the classic conversation between Marlin and Dory.
Marlin: I promised I'd never let anything happen to him.
Dory: Hmm. That's a funny thing to promise.
Dory: Well, you can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.