Readers – I’m excited to introduce a new blogger on this site, Denise Gonzalez-Walker. Denise lives in Seattle with her husband and two kids. She regularly blogs about education at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Chalkboard blog and is a member of Seattle Mom Blogs. Here are her thoughts on childhood safety – and she is real expert, as you’ll see. Enjoy! — Lenore
BY DENISE GONZALEZ-WALKER
My life is one of contrasts. On one hand, I’m the mother of two bright, active kids — a 4 year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. Both kids love to run, jump, climb and roughhouse. My son, in particular, gravitates toward “extreme” sports like BMX and skateboarding, and yearns to spend time outdoors on his own.
On the other hand, I’ve worked for the past five years as a “child injury prevention specialist,” a.k.a. child safety expert, in a field populated with some of the most risk-averse people you’ll find. While there’s definitely value to the work being done by these folks, I’ve sometimes found my own worldview at odds with my profession.
For example, constant supervision will always win out over unsupervised time for kids, from keeping toddlers within arm’s reach to always knowing where your teen is at. Walking to school, or walking anywhere for that matter, will always be “unpredictable and dangerous”—the words a colleague recently used when describing her school pedestrian program. Swing sets will be yanked out of school playgrounds. Trees will be made off-limits to climbing. Etc., etc.
For parents like me, who believe in the Free Range philosophy promoted here, this can be a slippery slope. Sure, we all want our kids to be healthy, happy and successful. But how far should we go in protecting them? That is where both the research and opinions sometimes diverge.
I agree with Lenore—helmets, car seats, and seat belts are all simple to use and incredibly effective. But being scared to death every time your kid walks out the door is not as useful.
Prompted by my own instincts as a mom and tired of viewing the world through the lens of risk, I’m leaving the field of injury prevention at the end of the month. As I approach this transition, I’m encouraged by the great ideas shared here on the Free Range Kids blog.
I’ve also started questioning how the Free Range philosophy fits elsewhere in kids’ lives. How much latitude do you give your son to choose his own path in school or on the playfield? My hunch is that those same anxieties driving parents to wrap their coffee tables with foam bumpers (full disclosure—I did it once, too!), later are reflected in the compulsion to manage our kids’ school and sports careers.
How much safety is too much — or too little? How much parental control? I look forward to contributing to this blog, sharing my ideas and learning from you.
Yours — Denise