22 June 2011

Fear Culture

When I took the girls to the beach, I was pleasantly surprised at how well they handled the situation.  Both of them used good listening ears, played nicely and showed a great respect for the water.  The thing that pleased me most was that they did these things while not showing any real fear.  This is a big deal for me because, like every other parent on the planet, I am always struggling with how to walk that fine line between teaching my kids to look out for themselves and teaching my kids to be paranoid wrecks.

 Certainly we want to teach our kids that the world can be a dicey place.  You do need to be aware of safety at all times, but when does "caution" become a fear culture?  Sure my girls should grow up knowing to wear their seat belts, be careful on boats, be aware of what they eat and eventually (be-still my heart) make wise choices about the biggies like drinking, drugs and even the sex.  However, I don't want them to be the kids who are panicked every time their faces get splashed with water or who freak out when presented with non-organic snack. 

In our current parenting culture this is especially challenging.  In a world where one gets a lot of "mileage" out of being the "concerned mom" I can see how it is easy to race across that line and just keep running.   Major good mom points are handed out to those who are the most apoplectic about "safety" and "thinking of the children and our futures."  Before you know it, every single thing is riddled with hysteria and worry.  Not only is it just exhausting to be that worked up all the time over everything, but I am not sure that teaching our kids to treat the world that way is healthy. 

What is the answer here?  I am sure I don't know.  I guess we all just need to wade through these murky waters doing the best we can to keep our kids healthy and safe while not turning them all into total neurotics.   As is so often the case with parenting, you just make the best choices you can at the time and hope for the best.  I can't protect my kids from everything the world puts out there and maybe (on a small scale) that is okay. 


Ginger said...

The culture of fear is one of my biggest pet peeves about our society--sadly, it's not just limited to parenting, but it does seem to have a different..urgency in that realm.

I try to walk the line between giving in and ignoring my fears (and my word, the amount of fear I've experienced since becoming a parent is somewhat astounding--mostly surrounded by some sort of falling with the kid).

But at the same time, I want my kid to have common sense mixed in with a healthy wariness of the world. I want him to flat out be afraid of a very very very few certain things (running in front of cars is my current worry), but the rest, I want him to have a critical eye, and a head on his shoulders that keeps him in check. I liken it to what I told my grandmother about living in New York. I'm not afraid, but I am AWARE.

I can only hope I teach that to my kiddo.

Sheila said...

I'm in the same boat. I want to keep my kid safe without teaching him the world is to be feared, or that he needs me to handle everything for him. How do you DO that?

I do let him scrape his knees, climb (small) things he might fall off of, and so forth. Eventually he'll learn, but it won't be something to panic about (I hope).

Got in a Facebook conversation the other day with a mom whose son is two and likes to run around naked. I said, "Oh, I'd just let him."

Her answer? "You never know who could be looking into our yard."

I just don't want to teach my kids that scary people are staring into our yard. First off, they aren't. And second off, I want to raise kids who aren't afraid all the time. How do you do that when most MOMS (sometimes myself included) are afraid all the time?