My definition of parenting is simply this: parenting is a series of decisions, right or wrong, that a parent makes and hopes that when all is said and done they haven’t fucked up their kids too badly. Most parents will probably tell you that raising their children is the most fulfilling, frustrating, and terrifying thing that they’ve ever done in their lives. The fulfillment and frustration is fairly self-evident. There’s something immensely satisfying about watching the product of what is usually a sloppy, awkward, and prohibitively messy union grow into a walking, talking, and hopefully functional human being. The pride you feel when your child learns to walk, talk, skate, read, get an A, or really just accomplish anything that they’ve set as a goal is so cockle-warming that there is very little in this life that rivals it. Unfortunately, at the same time they’re growing into these wonderful people, they’re constantly questioning you, disobeying you, making you angry, ignoring you, and just being the general asshats that people are wont to be. That doesn’t mean that we love them any less; to the contrary, I like to think it gives the product of my seed “personality”.
It’s that third emotion which is the hardest to deal with as it usually happens when a parent relinquishes or gives the child control in some form or another. Whenever we allow our children out of our sight, or that of a trusted teenager or adult, we run the risk that something may happen and we will not be there to prevent it. Actually, it can be argued that even when we are present, shit happens. It’s a parental risk vs. reward conundrum. By allowing our children to be exposed to different situations and take on more responsibility we can help them to become more well-rounded, self-sufficient, and critically thinking members of society. By doing so, however, we increase the amount of risk that they and we are taking that something may happen to them. It’s a delicate balance that parents must decide for themselves but, should something go awry, it is a virtual guarantee that they will be judged harshly.
In this age of instant news coverage and the fixation on the negative aspects of the world in which we live, we are constantly bombarded with tales of children been abducted, hit by cars, murdered, hurt, starving, bullied, threatened, harassed, and so forth. It’s heart rending to read such stories and every parent is right to be concerned when their child is braving the harsh climate that the world provides. But locking your children up in a protection bubble isn’t going to help them any. Think back to when you were a child: Did you walk to school? Go out and play all day in the neighbourhood without checking in every half hour? Have a mobile phone? Get driven to every single outing that was more than a block away from home? Of course not. These days though, it seems like you’re looked down upon for letting your child do any of those things. I work in a village with a population of 182 people. There is a woman down the street that will drive her son to the bus stop every single day. If dad isn’t home at the time she bundles all four kids up, loads them into the fifteen-passenger van and makes the fantastic voyage to the nearest bus stop… four houses and one intersection away.
It’s an extreme example but it is becoming the norm more and more from my observations. In this day and age of fear mongering, we’re quietly turning out kids into dependant and unthinking people without a modicum of common sense in their frail little bodies. As I said, it’s every parents right to make their own decision as to how much they are willing to let their child do and how much risk they are willing to take. One should consider the billions of children walking to and from school every day without being accosted by the man in the trench coat or the stranger in the van with candy; however, more often than not, we don’t. I’ve always been of the position that I should give my kids whatever amount of freedom that they’ve demonstrated they can handle responsibly. Of course this varies from child to child even within my own house but the constant between all of them is that I educate them on risks and threats and how to mitigate them. I’ve even demonstrated the consequences for not heeding my warnings by showing them news articles on kids being hit by cars when not paying attention, abductions, and my middle child’s favourite - the dangers of frostbite. It may seem cruel and horrible but it does get the point across. This is the method that works for my family and I, and I feel like using scare tactics is perfectly reasonable if it gets the point across. I always tell them that this will probably never happen, but just in case it does…
I don’t mean to foist my parenting philosophy upon you good people as I’m sure all of you could argue against it. It’s only meant as context for the educational aid provided in this post and I ask that you take a moment and watch this short instructional video on child safety. It deals with every parent’s worry that their child will fall for the whole “candy in the car” trap that has been used to lure many kids away from school and family. I firmly believe that if we can educate our kids as early as possible about what is lurking out there, we can raise smart, street-wise, and cognizant children that will be able to enjoy the wonders of the world safely. I’m absolutely delighted that someone else finally seems to share my views.