Quit Trying to be So Safe!

Hi Readers! This was a comment on the post two below this one, and I was nodding along so much, I decided to give it its own post. It’s by a woman named Nanci, who describes herself as “a Midwest mom of two.” — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: ….  I really think the bottom line problem is that our society today is “too safe.”  When we begin to defeat all the things that used to be dangerous, we lose quite a bit of perspective.  We start to gauge safety/danger against absolute safety.

One hundred and fifty years ago it was almost unheard of for any family to have all of its children survive to adulthood.  There were so many dangers back then, from diseases to wild animals, to harsh living conditions, to dangerous machinery and so on.  Everyone expected people to die.  No one looked for someone to blame when a particularly cold winter claimed many lives, or an outbreak of typhus swept through.  Even 75 years ago young people were being killed by polio and world wars.

Nowadays, though, America is so safe that we have begun to see death as unnatural, especially the death of a child. “Surely something can be done to prevent it!  Surely if the parents would have just done a better job, been more vigilant, their child would be okay!” And so now we have generations growing up with the idea that if you protect enough you can prevent any tragedy. This is America, it’s 2011, we have good hospitals, doctors, everything is state of the art, surely there is no place in this society for children to die!

And now, after anything that kills a child, no matter how freakish the accident,  a product appears on the market within months that would have prevented it (and normal life) from happening.

In Third World countries they do not have these issues with Free-Range Parenting.  There, because children do still die, at least the parents have the freedom to live without the fear that they will be blamed if they don’t create a absolutely safe environment for their children.  They know it’s impossible! Unfortunately in America we are so close to complete safety that we can’t see that it’s an illusion that will destroy us if we seek it.

There has never been a safer place or time in history to raise children than America in 2011, and yet parents are more paranoid than they have ever been.  Parents today will only accept absolute safety, nothing less. Unfortunately the victims of this screwed-up thinking are their children, and eventually all of us, because as we all know the children are the future.  Too bad this next generation will be living in their parents’ basements playing video games into their 30s. — Nanci

127 Responses

  1. I was wondering the same sort of thing – is society too safe? There’s interesting commentary here about a polar bear attack. Is there a change in the air? I’m not sure.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/jemima-lewis/8686457/Norway-polar-bear-attack-Why-adventure-must-involve-an-element-of-danger.html

  2. Well said.

  3. As a grandparent, I have had to prove I can be “trusted” to watch my grandchild in “today’s” world.

    I don’t know CPR. I’ve been asked to learn.

    I’ve been on probation warnings after allowing the dog to lick fingers and faces, or allowing mud pie making.

    “Don’t say that”, “Don’t let her touch…””I don’t want her alone in the backyard alone for one moment, not even with the dog”.

    It’s a good technique, I suppose. My own mother and mother in law declared they’d raised their own children and had no intention of raising mine – visists and babysitting were a huge imposition, and I rarely asked.

    Although I frequently ask to spend precious time with my grandkids, I rarely am asked. I’m not bubble wrapping and sanitizing enough.

    It’s a very odd world.

  4. Immediately before reading this post, a friend had posted this on Facebook under the title “MOMS BEWARE!” It had been posted for less than a hour and had 47 responses and ALL of them were fearful and hysterical!

    “OK the weirdest thing happened today I had to return something to Wal-Mart so N@** (who is 12) and I are at customer service and their is a lil display of pay as u go credit cards and gift cards there in the aisle in front of customer service, anyway I am standing there doing my return and N@** grabs my arm and says momma that boys motioning me over there, I turn around and there is a thuggy looking boy standing there and he looks down so N@** squeezes my arm and said hes doing it again so I turn around thinking I will give him and ugly look and he will realize she is just a kid when I do he looks back ugly at me and kinda sticks his chest out by this time N@** has tears in her eyes and is begging me to not walk by him, It took probably 10 mins to do my return and he was there up until they handed ne ny gift card, and when I looked around he was gone when we walk out hes standing by the bothrooms and staring at us, N@** is squalling by this time and I admit I was a little freaked myself!!! Well we just walk on back towards the clothes cause N@** is begging me to go home and I told her we werent going out that door!! Well I kinda get in a group of people (who I assume think I am a nut myself) as we were walking behind the registers towards produce, he was walking in front of them staring at us but after we get in the group he finally goes out the door, no bag nothing!!! I told N@** that we were going find a male manager to walk us out to the car I just had a really, really creepy feeling, so we walk around and run into a couple from church (by this time I am standing an isle hugging my child who is crying so hard she is shaking!!! The guy from church walks us to our car and waits until we get backed out of our spot before he goes back in!! I had just been thinking a couple weeks ago, I need to not be so protective of N@** and start letting her walk around wal mart or stores by herself well guess what that aint happening!! I just felt evil around him it was sooo strange!!! Thank GOD for protecting us and sending D#@ and R(*%^ to us!!!”

    This is a 39 year old woman in a town of less than 3000. To say that everybody knows everyone else or at least their parents, is pretty much true. Not one single commenter asked why she didn’t confront him. Maybe it’s because I have spent the last 20 years turning “thuggy” boys into responsible soldiers that I’d have taken the confrontational stand..or maybe it’s just because at 39, I refuse to let a 15 year old kid hold power over me and my daily life. I think it’s sad that instead of empowering her daughter and teaching her to stand up for herself, she simply fed the fear and hysteria.

    Now she won’t let her kid out of her sight in the store, but she’s going to send her to school with this boy after having backed down. Way to let a punk teenager have total control over your parenting choices…SHEESH!

  5. I agree completely.

    We humans are built to look for dangers around us. And without any “real” dangers to contend with, it appears we’re content to make up fake ones to worry about instead!

  6. Lol. I tend to be quite free-range with my kids, although I’d like to be better about leaving them with other people. Thought that’s not a fear thing, rather an “I don’t like to ask for help when I won’t be able to return the favor” thing, as we live out of town and it would be awkward for someone to drop their kid off with me in order to get stuff done.

    I was wondering how best to send in stories to Lenore though…. through the comments here or via an email (couldn’t find one) or facebook or what? I do have some good, positive ones that I’d like to send you as a contrast to all the negative ones.

  7. And since I have one story in keeping with the theme here over the last few days, I’ll post it here:
    I have a friend who’s facebook account was hacked by someone down in California the other day (I believe she is now in Eastern Canada). So she was freaking out on her FB status, commenting that now they have access to her kids (she has 1, that’s right, 1 photo of them on there, and no personal info whatsoever, other than her name).
    I thought about ignoring it, but couldn’t help myself and asked her what exactly she thought they were going to do with this information. She replied that she didn’t know, but there were creepy people out there (or something along those lines), and that they’d maybe put her kids all over the internet, etc. I basically tried to reply in a way that would make her calm down and think rationally about this. So I said “Okay, say that they do. So what? Your photo is already on the internet, and don’t you think folks would take a look and say “cute kids” and move on?” We continued in that vein for a bit and she calmed down and felt better, especially when I pointed out that FB security measures were obviously working, as they’d caught the situation immediately and informed her, so that she could change her password.

    I shook my head, but in terms of your question from a couple posts ago, I think that helping them work out out the scenario in their mind and realizing themselves that it’s not as dire as they thought would definitely be one way to go. It wouldn’t work for everyone, especially those who are stuck completely on the worst thing possible going wrong, but it would work for some, especially those with a tendency to dramatize first and think about it later.

  8. @ kristy – Oh my god. A 12 year old hysterical because a boy tried to … talk to her. If my daughter acted like that at 5, I’d consider it a complete parenting failure.

    And what was the big deal to start with? A, I’m guessing, older boy tried to talk to her precious snowflake. Said snowflake freaked out and mom antagonized him and he harassed them back. Who started this problem? I don’t actually think it was the boy. I don’t think any confrontation was necessary. Not treating him as a criminal for wanting to speak to her almost teen – someone he may recognize though they don’t recognize him – might have been nice though.

  9. I’ve said this before- kids don’t know what real dangers are – parents have them so freaked out about every little thing. They don’t see the difference between, say riding a bike on your own road and bungee jumping off a cliff with no prior training. Or maybe as they become teens they think- well Mom exaggerated the dangers of riding my bike, she’s probably exaggerating the dangers of texting while driving- why should I believe her.

  10. I just saw a family that had a child maybe a year old wearing a helmet when all they were doing was walking around. Are parents now putting helmets on their kids just for walking?

  11. I totally loved the phrase about the next generation living in their parents basements playing video games into their 30’s. By making everything so safe, we are making our kids into indoor pets. We are practically crate training them by safety proofing everything.
    I think the fear mongering about “never letting them out of your sight” spreads like poison ivy. I try to avoid contact.
    As for free range kids, it spreads more like morning glory.

    I thought of the movie “The Village” the other night, the one where a community lived in fear of going out into the woods, and it was just a ploy to keep their “utopia” unexposed to the outside world. I wonder how far we are taking it with our own kids, because after all, it takes a village to raise a child, right?

  12. @Silver Fang: don’t be too quick to judge the helmet. While it’s possible they were just over protective parents, it’s also possible the child has seizures or some kind of head injury that makes the helmet protective. (My little cousin wears a helmet because he has cerebral palsy and falls a lot and cannot always “brace” to protect his head).

  13. Nothing to add apart from:

    Whenever I take my babe to the playground I am surrounded by ‘Mind your head!’s ‘Be careful!’s. The kids who get to hear this constant barrage have no freedom to just play. Their parents hover around and like a broken record ‘help the kids so they don’t hurt themselves’. Bah.

    Nev

  14. actually the kids who’s parents are overprotective have their parents calling the college helpline for them and writing their schedules. The ones who are playing video games in their parents’ basements were doing so and their parents weren’t so over protective…. And a good chunk of those kids got degrees or did something else useful. And it’s only that safe in suburbia. I really could care less what other parents do with their kid, it’s when they go omg your autistic kid is in a diaper and got a little dirty from running down your dirt road and omg we’re making you stand on the shoulder of a busy street and hang on to him even though it took 5 of us to corral him once he made it to the busy street and we’re going to freak out because he put a rock in his mouth… ya those people, they need to stfu, and say here is your kid, do you need help getting him back home, instead of judging me. but nope, the state’s taking my kids, whilst kids in detroit are dying and getting pregnant at 8.

  15. Nev’s comment reminds me of a blog post I made a little while ago:

    http://zheshiwoying.blogspot.com/2011/05/that-lady-is-bad-influence.html

  16. “And now, after anything that kills a child, no matter how freakish the accident, a product appears on the market within months that would have prevented it (and normal life) from happening” OR knee-jerk, emotionally-driven, LAW!

  17. @Silver Fang, the child might have a seizure disorder. Or could have had some type of brain surgery. My campus has 40 or some medically fragile children (out of 500). I’m used to kids in helmets. Most are in Pegasus (early intervention), or life skills (School aged kids who because of their disability will always need some type of supervised living situation but can learn basic self care and even hold a job). Some are in mainstream classes, of normal or above intelligence.

    Unless you are personally acquainted with the family and know the family to be over protective, how about having some compassion and assuming the helmet is a medical device being used properly. These families catch enough flack from strangers they don’t need your judgement.

  18. @Dawn, you’re probably right, but they do sell helmets for children learning to walk! Can’t let little Junior fall and bump his head even once!

  19. Part of the problem is also the size of families. When you have five kids and lose one, it’s not as big an issue as it would be if you lose your only child. The smaller size of families these days makes each child more valued, and creates more fear of loss.

    This also adds to helicoptering. If you have five kids, you can’t plan each day down to the minute, can’t either afford to have your 5 kids in 5 enrichment classes each–25 classes a week. Can’t manage to drive 5 kids to every different sporting/academic/peer event all day every day. You also can’t spend all of your life picking up after them and fixing their disasters. You have to teach them to pick up after themselves, do their own laundry, help with dinner, pick themselves up when the fall, and brush themselves off when they fail. In other words, the old-style big family led to self-sufficient children who learned how to look after themselves and their siblings. Today, we do everything for the little dears so they can go be enriched.

    I’d rather raise self-capable kids than enriched kids.

  20. @ Ann in LA That was awesome! And so true. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately since I originally wrote it last week and I think it’s a mix of how safe our society is, how much smaller our family size is, and how much more convenient life is that has all come together to make this perfect storm of helicopter parenting. Life is so convenient now that we have so much more time to worry. Doing laundry consist of throwing a load in the washer then an hour of free time while the machine does the work, then taking 3 minutes to switch the laundry to the dryer and then more free time while another machine works. We have nothing to do but sit around and worry and hover. No one used to have time to follow their kids around and watch them all day. The busyness of today is self-created. The busy moms I know are busy because they have created nightmare schedules full of art class and ballet and soccer. Everyone used to be so busy just living day to day. I certainly wouldn’t want to reverse time, I love the conveniences of modern life. I just won’t allow them to affect my parenting. Today I have nothing to do, but I’m not hovering over my kids. They’re outside with some neighbor kids (some I have never even met, my daughter came in a while ago and told me a new kid moved in on the next street) and I’m inside chilling and enjoying!

  21. It’s true at the other end of the spectrum, too. We just can’t tolerate the fact that when people have lived a long, full life, they will eventually pass on. We do anything to avoid death, even when the quality of life is significantly reduced. Elderly are told all the things they can’t do, instead of being encouraged to do things while they still can. I’d rather die doing something I enjoyed than live a long time in a puke green room hooked up to machines and taking pills that put me in a stupor. But we’re so afraid of death that that is what we do.

  22. @Ann in LA, Amen. I’m hesitant to say “it’s not as big an issue if you lose one among many,” although I am willing to consider the possibility that having your entire family vanish in one stroke is somewhat more devastating than losing one among several. But for the rest, definitely. You can’t helicopter five, or if you try, they wind up being REALLY stunted because you can’t logistically do much but keep them locked up inside, or force them all to engage in the same outside activities regardless of talents or interests.

  23. It seems that the result of safety is not peace of mind but more anxiety. Dare I say that the human animal needs drama including risk to feel alive and fulfilled. We have drama hunger. In the absence of drama we will escalate the trivial into the “important” to feel something like faux drama.

    So many of our problems stem from being so successful that we are no longer have real lives and have to make do with fabricated ones instead.

    The human animal was designed to problem solve our way to paradise but not to live in that paradise. Designed to dream but not to realise.

    I am not not religious and I am glad I’m not going to heaven for it would be the most dysfunctional place you could ever imagine.

  24. Re: the Walmart story, that girl is going to have lots of problems over the next several years if she sobs hysterically because a boy looked at her. Life as a teenage girl is an endless parade of boys and older men trying to hit on you, and the sooner girls learn to glare at them or ignore them or say “thanks but no thanks,” depending on the situation, the better.

    Somewhat related, I was at Target with my 12-year-old a couple of days ago and could not peel her off my leg for anything. Every time I walked 10 feet down an aisle to get something, she literally chased me with the cart, going “Mommy, don’t leave me!” I finally convinced her to go and check out the magazines, and then I couldn’t find her because she’d gotten nervous and was wandering around looking for me. She’s not usually that clingy…maybe she saw a villainous-looking eighth grader lurking near the bathrooms.

  25. I find that “perceived prevention” and “blame” are two huge problems. The attitude that all accidents must be preventable feeds into the idea that the parent must somehow be to blame in so many situations.

    I have found recently, as a mother who has had two pregnancy losses, that blame even comes then! Both of my losses were due to chromosomal defects which is a quite common and UNPREVENTABLE problem. I wasn’t “advanced maternal age”, I ate right, I exercised, I didn’t drink or smoke, and I still lost those two babies. You wouldn’t believe how many ignorant comments I have received from people who think that I could have somehow prevented it. I know many women who’ve experienced still births who have been blamed outright for something in which they had no control. Let me tell you, subsequent pregnancy is NOT fun for someone who’s lost a child and is led to believe it was her fault.

    I also found people saying, “well maybe you shouldn’t have any more children”. Yes, that’s a great idea. End my adult life dreams and hide in a corner for fear of another accident. No thank you.

    I tried again and succeeded in having another child who I am now proudly raising free-range. I can’t imagine life any other way.

    America needs to be educated. Folks need to realize how much damage they are causing to the next generation because of their own irrational fears.

  26. What’s wrong with 30-year-olds playing video games? =~(

  27. Ben, I think it was a package deal — the kind of people who live in their parents’ basement AND play video games (probably implying MOSTLY playing video games) rather than being functional adults.

    Functional, self-supporting adult who plays the occasional video game to relax = fine. Dependent 30-something who does little else = not fine.

  28. Nanci’s post really says it well. Thank you Lenore for highlighting it. As I was reading it I was thinking about a corollary – that of loving, a partner, a parent, a child, a friend. If you do love a partner you risk heartbreak at the loss if they leave for someone else, or severe grief if they die. My mother is 86 and I know she will die sometime in the not too distant future. It will cause me severe grief because I love her so much and enjoy spending time with her so much. I can’t imagine the grief if my children died. As my son was in Afghanistan that was a real possibility. When children died of more things 150 years ago I know the parents suffered as much, but at least then they had people commiserating with them rather than blaming them. As my son was in Afghanistan that was a real possibility. My husband had a stroke a month ago from which he fortunately fully recovered, but I had a taste of the grief I would feel if he dies. My stepfather died and I only felt relief that my half brother wouldn’ t have to continue caring for him. What am I saying with all this talk of death or loss? You only feel the pain if you truly love someone. If you choose a life of trying never to love you will not feel that pain but you will not experience much of life either. If we try to keep our children so safe that they never experience the joys and perils of childhood experiments with gravity and other such things, they will have little to no experience of life.
    The overall perception of fear is driving so much of it too. A teacher in her 30’s just got back from Turkey and shared that she was surprised by how many young people she met who were backpacking around Europe in these unsafe times. I commented that in my early 20’s I had hitchhiked alone all over the United States. Her response was that it was so much safer then. I said actually it wasn’t. I had no cell phone, no internet and rape in the late 60’s was hardly prosecuted. It was assumed women asked for it. And most cars didn’t have seatbelts yet. And the overall crime rate was higher than now. She gave me the usual look I get that says she believed it really is less safe now.

  29. I am new! Just read 14 pages of your blog…. I am a little horrified and a lot intrigued! I may let my 8 and 10 year old walk to school 0.2 miles away! But I am scared of the 2 side streets they have to cross.

  30. What did she think was so unsafe about Europe nowadays?

  31. My child has to wear a helmet sometimes. He is autistic and bashes his head against things. So unless those parents are a little nutty, chances are pretty good the child may have had a disability.

    I work in an industry that deals with death on a pretty frequent basis (old people’s home). I am stunned at people saying ‘wow I could never do your job, you deal with dead people all the time’. Death isn’t scary. Dying can be scary but once you are dead, death isn’t scary.

    I guess we are lucky in NZ because we only blame the parents when a kid dies when they actually murdered them. We had a case a while back where a two year old girl got out of her yard and fell down a drain hole and died. Who was blamed? The council, because they should have fixed it. The mother and grandmother were met with sympathy. I hate to think the hell they would have gone thru if they lived in the States.

  32. Absolutely we are becoming too safe as a society.

    Wow this post made me think a lot, I started a post to reply to here and it went way OT so I can not post it here lol. But I am starting to write it down so I can figure it out for myself, so that is good!

    I for one hope that in 100 years my great great grandchildren will still be able to have a free will, a free mind, and a free body, maybe that is why I feel the urge to be a free range parent, in the “Big Brother era”…

    It is survival of the fittest after all;)

    Let the races begin!

  33. @Silver Fang Besides the other suggestion but the kid could have an issue with his head being out of shape (like one side of the skull is too flat) the helmet will correct it. They can start this about 9 months and the kid has to wear the helmet all the time, only allowed to take it off for about 30 mins a day. I know cause my friends son went through it.

    My kids are young but I do try to let them do the things they can do. It makes life easier for me and better for them. My husband is a little less free range than me but I do think in time he’ll be there with me.

  34. Hi Nanci – Although I understand some of what you are getting at, I do not agree with most of what you said.

    I’m tired of hearing parents who live in the West revere the “good ole’ days” and the Third World as bastions of wonderful child-rearing ideals. They’re not. You miss the point of why many of these laws and regulations are now in place. They came about because of the pain and suffering of children and families before yours.

    Having lived in a Third World country for most of my adult life (in a village of 200 people), it is not the place of joy you might imagine. Yes, the kids are “free-range”, and yes, people have 10 or more children. However, this doesn’t make it hurt less for parents to lose a child. In fact, it is incredibly hard on the entire community each time a child dies. Believe me–I witnessed many more deaths than I ever thought possible.

    Furthermore, in many developing countries, children die all of the time due to unnecessary reasons. It is not celebrated, but rather mourned and condemned, and if the communities could afford to fix most of their problems, they would. I saw children fall in open wells and drown as they were pulling water to drink (as young as 4 or 5), be seriously maimed by a donkey kick, and children without working legs due to polio (no access to a vaccine).

    And despite what you may believe, unless they are abandoned or orphaned, the children are not allowed to roam free without supervision until they are at least 14 or 15. Before that, they are under the watchful eye of some adult, whether relative or friend.

    It is our duty to protect our children. We’re mammals. We each do what we can to the best of our abilities. I’m tired of this blog demeaning people for trying to protect their children as they see fit. And society can and should step in when parents cannot do an adequate job. If you live in a village, then your village elders intervene. If you live in New York City, then its Child Protective Services.

    Just as you don’t want people to judge you for how you raise your children, don’t judge those who are trying to raise theirs as they see fit.

  35. @Silver Fang -some kids are wearing a helmet due to seizures, flat head syndrome or other medical reasons. My kid wore a helmet because we spent half an hour wrestling the thing on him so we could go for a bike ride and we didn’t want to wrestle it back on him after our break at the playground. Or after wrestling said helmet onto the child, he know has developed some attachment to it and has to wear it everywhere and I decided to pick my battles and taking the helmet off isn’t really a big deal to me.

  36. @ SilverFang, my niece had surgery on her skull to reshape it and had to wear the helmet for a year.

    @InternationalMom, thanks for pointing that out.

  37. @ InternationalMom I was not in any way trying to trivialize a child dying. I don’t think it’s good in any way and I’m very glad that our society is much safer than its ever been. The point I was trying to make is that something as wonderful as creating a very safe environment like we currently have in the US came with the unintentional consequences of parents who are now looking for things to fear. We now strive for absolute safety to the point that the things we are forcing on our kids to protect them are actually weakening them. Instead of safe kids we end up with a generation who has no idea how to defend themselves because mom always defends them. They don’t know how to listen to that little voice inside them that something is dangerous because mom has always been that voice for them. They are protected and sheltered from all the potential danger out there, even though in reality their lives hold little real danger, and when they grow up they will be naive and fragile and then they will be in danger.

  38. Ann in L.A.
    I am a mother of 4, soon to be 5 (8 years and under) and I have to say that your comment of losing one child if you have a small family as more devastating than losing one of 5 is completely off. The thought of losing any one of my children is terrifying to me, I can’t imagine my life without any one of them, they are all amazing kids, which is why we have so many:) And even though life would have to go on for the sake of the other kids (which may be construed by some as me being OK with the loss of that one compared to a mother who lost her only child who can retreat to her bed forever) trust me, my life would never be the same and I would forever be devastated by the loss of any one of my unique little people. And I value each one of them as much as I valued our first when she was our only, in fact I think I cherish their uniqueness and am quicker to appreciate the little things that make them who they are and the stages a lot of people are over-whelmed by because I know from watching the oldest one grow and change so fast, how quickly each stage goes.

    But you are correct on the rest. My kids are taught how to put their laundry away, expected to clean up their messes (even the baby who is 1.5), help set and clear the table and spend most of their days playing without me hovering over them since I am busy doing my mommy chores. I do hold them and hug them and kiss their boo-boos when they need me, except sometimes they do it for each other before I get there (unless of course they inflicted the boo-boo on said sibling on purpose:)) The older ones go out to play and go to the park alone, because otherwise they’d spend their days inside (bored and fighting) while the baby naps.They are allowed to pick one extra curricular activity each (which for now is 3 classes because the youngest is a baby) because I think kids need free play time to be happy and we don’t need all that extra running around. The older ones (7, 5 and 5) are also very good at helping care for their toddler sister. I find it ridiculous how many people (with small families) today say that it is wrong to have older siblings help care for younger ones. My older children LOVE to play with the baby (and care for her while they play), they have an amazing relationship with her that is completely independent of me, and she would rather be playing with them then chained to me too. One morning when we were getting ready to go out I told my oldest (7) I was getting in the shower and the baby was upstairs with me, could she keep an eye on her. When I got out the oldest was so excited to tell me “mommy I took the baby downstairs, and fed her breakfast”. She was BEAMING with pride and had helped her down the stairs put her in her high chair and got her a bowl of cereal, some strawberries and a cup of juice (a good healthy meal). I was as proud of her as she was of herself! I can’t see how that would ever be a bad thing?

  39. I find it ridiculous how many people (with small families) today say that it is wrong to have older siblings help care for younger ones.

    It’s only ridiculous when you abdicate all parenting responsibilities in favor of having the kids do it. Which some people HAVE done, but I don’t think many of us would seek to emulate them.

  40. The worst thing about this is that when something goes wrong, people beg the government to step in and ‘protect’ us from having it happen again. Then we get all kinds of laws about 8 year olds having to sit in booster car seats and 12-year-olds not being able babysit their younger siblings, and if you just try to do what’s best for your kids based on your experiences and knowledge of them, you can be in danger of being arrested or losing them! It’s horrific how little freedom we have just to take care of our children these days.

    whyimconservative.wordpress.com

  41. I have this conversation with my daughter-in-law all the time. She wants absolute safety for her child even when there is only a slight chance of any danger. When you strive for total safety you start to distrust other adults. I constantly remind her I raised her husband, my son, and he lived through childhood. Her fear trumps my experience.

    Great post.

  42. I am happy things are so safe for our kids. Surely there will be a lot less traumatized kids out there that never had to see a sibling die like my grandmother did. Does not mean we should shadow our kids 24/7 or never let them grow up. But still I welcome all the medical advances, vaccines, childproofing merchandise, safe toys, car seats, etc. Its a good thing that less children die.

  43. Dave, you are allowed to feel how you want about your beliefs in rearing children. However your daughter in law also has that same right to rear her children the way she wants. If she sets a rule for your grandchildren you have to follow it. My father took a lot of risks with me and luckily nothing bad happened. However they were risks that did not always need to be taken. I am not that easy going in some parenting ways and that is my right. If he tries to override what I set out for MY kids than it becomes an issue. He is now the grandparent and his job is to follow the parent’s lead

  44. Marcie: It is not a bad thing for siblings to have a good relationship or watch out for one another. It is a bad thing if you put them in charge of their siblings though in place of you because if something horrible did happen, then now that child will blame themselves and the parent will blame the other child. Like the true story the “Deep End of the Ocean” movie was based on. The mother told the 6 year old to watch the 2 year old while she registered at the desk. The 2 year old went missing and the older son never got over it and neither did the parents. That was not a good parenting move. Or when my grandmother left my 5 year old uncle alone with his new baby brother. He had a hammer raised over the baby’s head preparing to kill him and my grandmother caught him a second before he lowered the hammer. That would have been her bad parenting move for leaving them alone. That is when I protest with the sibling stuff. That puts everyone in a bad place.

    I have twins and I leave mine alone together but neither is significantly stronger than the other. They are both mentally in the same place. I never tell the other to watch the other one. Each child is responsible for himself and I am responsible for them. They are not their brother’s keeper. They can help out and watch out for one another, but in the end I am the one in charge, not them.

  45. @Mrs Lukner I don’t know CPR. I’ve been asked to learn.
    If not for your grandchildren, then learn it for your neighbors, maybe your spouse, or the guy who collapses in the vegetable section of your neighborhood market while you are selecting broccoli.

    Seriously. You have 4 minutes to intervene and prevent brain damage (less than that if you didn’t see the collapse). The EMTs can take 5-15 minutes to arrive, by which time your child/neighbor/whoever is brain damaged or dead.

  46. Mrs. Lukner: Sorry that maybe your children are overprotective about their children. However, as a grandparent you do have to tow the line if you do want your grandchildren. Because they are the parents and they make the calls. You don’t have to agree, but you have to follow their lead. I get into it with my own parents (mostly my father) about them not following the rules I set out for my kids. I have that right. They are my kids. I trump them every time.

    My inlaws ran their mouths about me being too overprotective when my twins were infant preemies. However, I was following doctor’s orders about not letting young children around them and making people wash their hands before holding them and upon entering the house etc. So they can run their mouths all they want, and they did, but I am making the call as the parent to follow the doctor’s safety precautions and general preemie established safety precautions for my children. If they don’t want to follow it, there is the door, don’t let it hit you on the way out.

    So I would try to follow the guidelines your children set for their kids and for you and then more time with your grandchildren will come. If you are not willing to do that, then accept you might get limited visits with the grandkids. It may be unfortunate, but it is what it is. You raised your kids how you wanted and now they are raising their kids how they want.

  47. I am with Tsu dho Nimh. It is a good thing for EVERYONE to learn CPR.

  48. Okay let me give an example to explain what I mean about the grandparent thing.
    Yesterday I visited my dad. They have very steep and slippery steps going down from their second story porch to the car. I told them to hold the boys hands while going down the steps. My Dad undermined me and said “Oh they are fine.” Okay well first of all you just pissed me off because you undermined me in front of my kids. Second, that is not your call to make.

    The reason being: should one of my sons fall and break their leg, who is going to be sitting up all day and night in the hospital with them while they cry out in pain? Me. Who is going to have to pay all the medical bills and doctor’s bills? Me. Who is going to have to drive my son to all the subsequent physical therapy and doctor’s visits? Me. Who is going to have to entertain and care for a child with a broken leg? Me. So therefore it goes to reason, that only ME should be the one who makes the call on whether or not to hold their hands on said steps. The grandfather’s involvement will end with maybe taking us to the hospital. He would not be putting in the work if a leg gets broken so he does not get to make the call. End of story.

  49. @Dolly-
    I guess it depends on relationships, by my late Father, who raised 10 kids and has watched 25+ grand kids, helped me relax and keep in check my paranoid parental ways. There was never a power struggle (which it sounds like you have issues with), but I accepted his parenting knowledge and learned from it.
    It the steps are an issue, can’t you coach your own kids to walk down them?
    Life is too short to get yourself worked up over hypothetical accidents, er visits, and imaginary broken legs.

  50. It is one of the greatest gifts when a child can have a relationship with a grandparent. Its all too rare in our Western world.

    Sure there are some “rules” we prefer but it falls into the same answer as the previous post. The good that comes from that relationship so far outweighs any slight additional risk from slightly less overprotective parenting. There are things you might want to do differently but even more things you might learn.

    I actually have the two extremes in my life with one set of grandparents who are more overprotective and one that are more lax than me. It makes for an interesting dynamic.

  51. “Nowadays, though, America is so safe that we have begun to see death as unnatural, especially the death of a child. “Surely something can be done to prevent it! Surely if the parents would have just done a better job, been more vigilant, their child would be okay!” And so now we have generations growing up with the idea that if you protect enough you can prevent any tragedy.”

    Although to some extent, this isn’t at all new. Look at the real case behind “Changeling.” The mother was excoriated because she was divorced, because she had a job, because she let her son spend time on his own. She didn’t do anything that I would consider negligent or even unusual today. But tragedy struck, and too many people saw it as somehow her fault, when in fact it was entirely the fault of a brutal serial killer.

    As for helmets, I’m glad to see that they’ve been addressed. Odds are that there is a medical reason for the child to wear the helmet, not that he or she was wearing it because the parents fear that a perfectly healthy child can’t walk without one.

  52. Is today’s world really ‘too safe’?

    While I think many middle and upper class families have expectations of near-absolute safety for their kids (and themselves), these are expectations, not reality. Expectations that are fed by both media images of near-perfect lives, and the reality that in America today, and for some time, most people do lead lives that are longer, safer, and ‘easier’ than people did in the past.

    Easier, but not perfect, and not perfectly safe.

    Many children, of all ages, get seriously hurt, and some die, in America today, everyday. I live outside the city of Chicago. In Chicago, kids are being killed, almost daily, from gunshot wounds, most of them inflicted as part of gang warfare.

    And here, in middle America, kids are far from perfectly protected. My niece died from cancer. The cancer-striken daughter of a friend is currently fighting for her life. My young adult daughter has lost three friends in the last year or two: one to cancer, another was hit and killed by a drunk driver, and another was shot and killed in a robbery attempt. My son lost a friend in a horrific, freak accident. A neighbor’s child was killed on a camping trip. I recently learned that the daughter of another friend was sexually assaulted.

    And on it goes.

    In fact, kids here, in my ‘nice’ suburb, are vulnerable to just about every kind of threat kids everywhere contend with, with two exceptions. They have access to better medical care than kids have in many areas of the country, so if they are sick or injured they stand better chances of fighting off whatever ails them, and they are not as vulnerable to violent crime as some kids are elsewhere.

    So I don’t think parents and educators are striving so much as to make childhood literally danger free (something that is impossible), as they are reacting to rising expectations that childhood should be as safe as humanly possible–an expectation that appears to be wildly fed by the media and my our litigious society–and by our growing technological ability to, indeed, insulate many of us from many types of dangers.

    This, however, is an impossibility, and daily kids and young adults die, or are seriously injured.

    Losing a child is so excruciatingly painful that most parents will go to heroic lengths to protect their kids from harm.

    What is too far? What isn’t far enough?

    Every parent has to wrestle with those questions, and come to terms with what level of risk they are willing to take with their kids.

    Is it a shame that childhood for many today does not resemble the childhoods many of us enjoyed in the recent past? Is it possible, or even desirable, to try to replicate ‘our’ childhoods for the kids of today, or does every generation reinvent childhood according to the needs and dictates of current conditions? (My kids’ childhoods didn’t copy mine, my childhood was different from that of my parents, and my parents were raised in markedly more comfort than my grandparents, and so on.)

    Personally, I think present day parents would do well to relax some of the hold they have on their kids; it looks like everyone might have a better time. But I am not a present day parent (my kids are now young adults, taking risks near daily, by the way, that I try not to dwell on too much), and I don’t envy parents today.

    More than anything, I am trying not to judge them; raising kids today looks like a daily tightrope trip between expectations of glory and perfection on the one hand, and kid-destroying threats and fears on the other!

  53. Lollipop lover: The steps are dangerous enough that even I am scared of them because I am not the most agile person. There is not any safe way to go down them. My kids know how to walk down steps at 4 years old just fine. Have for years. But THESE particular steps are just not great. I grip the railing with a death grip when I go down them. So the solution is either don’t go out that way even though its the most direct way, go down another even scarier set of steps, or go out of the way or just not go to their house period or hold their hands as they slowly and cautiously descend the steps.

    I chose hold their hands while they cautiously and slowly descend the steps. They only go down them 2 to 3 times each visit when we are all going out. It is not a huge deal to hold their hands. Yet, my father needed to undermine me and make a huge deal out of it. That is when I am going to have a problem with it. Just hold their hands like I ask and go on. There is no reason not to do what I asked. It is not hurting anything. I am not keeping them from anything.

    The particular stairs have caused problems before when they dropped their toys in between the stairs and they fell down under the porch and I had to go retrieve them. They almost fell trying to recover their toys. Thus why I want their hands held. Does not seem like a big request. That is an issue with my dad personally but also many other grandparents I have heard about or met will be the same way.

    They think they know better than their children and they are used to being the boss of the family and they have a hard time deferring to the younger generation. I think that is freaking stupid and I will fight it. Once the younger generation become parents they are adults now and they deserved to be deferred to. Period.

  54. I disagree that grandparents have to toe the line if they want to see their grandchildren. As a society, we have lost all respect for our elders.

  55. Someone who says that must have decent elders. Try saying that when you have mean and difficult elders.

  56. Beth, I agree. Kids are smart enough to learn that mom and dad have different rules than the grandparents and to enjoy the experience more. Who wants to visit the grandparents when all they ever hear is the adults bickering?

    Just like visiting a freinds house, those parents may let the kids take food and drinks up to their rooms. In my house we don’t do that. Do I have to let them if that’s what they do in theirs? No. So if the grandparents let the kids have snacks on the sofa while they watch tv, so be it. If the grandparents (who have lived and probably raised kids in their house) allow yours to walk down the steps alone, so be it. Whatever happens is going to happen.

    Dolly, the attitude of “they think they know better” is more telling of how you relate to them then anything else in your story. Hey, maybe they do. Maybe you could actually learn something from them if you put your defenses down for a minute and listened to them.

  57. Robin, on August 9, 2011 at 01:30 said:
    Dolly, the attitude of “they think they know better” is more telling of how you relate to them then anything else in your story.
    ________

    I agree.

    My mom loves to tell the story about me at 12months KNOWING that if I was Aunt Teenie’s house and I touched any of the (expensive, breakable) nicknacks on the coffee table (which was eye level for me at that age!) I’d be in trouble, but at home anything I could reach was fair game.

    Different houses have different rules, and even very young children/infants can know the difference.

  58. In Chicago, kids are being killed, almost daily, from gunshot wounds, most of them inflicted as part of gang warfare

    It may comfort you to know that, like NYC and other large cities (and small cities), Chicago is currently experiencing an extreme drop in violent crime, including murder. They, too, are down to 1960s levels, or very nearly.

    Dolly, I haven’t seen those steps, but I refuse outright to hold a child’s hands when going up or down stairs, no matter how steep. Why? Because when I hold a child’s hands going up and down the stairs, they start acting up. They try jumping down the stairs instead of walking. They deliberately lift their feet so I’ll drag them. They grab the bannister and try to swing. They are LESS safe than when I leave them to do it themselves! If the stairs are that steep, and the child is that small, I’d rather tell them to scoot down on their butts than hold their hands. Hand-holding, in my experience, is less safe. (I apply this same philosophy to the playground. When you hold your child going up a ladder, they let go of the ladder or lean back into your arms. Let go of them and watch – they don’t do that stupid stuff anymore!)

    Also, just FYI, it’s TOE the line, not tow the line. The metaphor is not that you are pulling (towing) a line, it’s that you are standing where you are supposed to with not even one toe over the line.

  59. @Ann in LA ~ I have 8 children and I assure you, if I lost one I’d be beyond devastated. They each have my whole heart.

    I do agree with your second paragraph. Large families lend themselves to being free range. I have several friends with large families and none of them helicopter, over-schedule, or particularly care what the neighbors think about them snubbing lessons/sports. Life in a big family IS a team sport.

  60. I had to laugh about the helmet. Yes, there could be very good medical reasons, all stated already. And the other reason is that the child *just wanted to wear the helmet*. Many times, we will bike down the street to play with the neighbors. My daughter will get off her bike, and start playing. If I ask if she wants to take off her helmet, she says No & keeps playing. I shrug & let it go. Don’t assume that the little one isn’t the one making the decision & the parent is allowing the child to make that decision (after all, my child’s decision to wear her helmet doesn’t put her in any jeopardy so why would I challenge the decision she made?)

  61. I don’t think that Ann in LA meant that you love the child less, but more that you don’t have the option to allow the child’s loss to shut down your life because you have X number of other children that you MUST care for. It isn’t that the loss is less devistating, but that you MUST find a way throught the loss to look after your remaining family.

    From personal experience I have seen this to be true.

    Two of my friends lost thier teenager sons tragically when I was a young adult. One family had only the one boy and the mother (my friend) ended up committing suicide. The other family had 8 children, and while the parents and other children were devistated, they had to keep living, keep struggling, and ended up a stronger family because they had the loss tying them together.

  62. Robin: see to me its telling that the example you gave of eating food on the couch shows you have normal grandparents. That is not even something I would worry about. LOL! I have to deal with stuff like my father trying to feed my peanut allergic son stuff with peanuts in it. Or him not holding their hands in a crowded parking lot and just walking off and leaving them. Or him not watching them in a pool. Or with my MIL and how she let her other grandchildren get poisoned not once, but MULTIPLE times so that poison control was called on her watch multiple times.

    I wish my problems were little things like eating on the sofa. That must be nice. No, my problems are not life and death things or at least serious injuries.

  63. Oh and no, NO kids have ever been raised in that house. It is not a kid friendly house. He bought that house after I was grown.

  64. And to prove you wrong: These issues are not really a problem with my mother or stepfather. They defer to me and are reasonable. Occasionally we might disagree, but we deal with it. They accept that I know my kids better since I am with them day after day and they respect my opinion. They also just are better with kids. So if I can work out just fine with them, then its all on me.

  65. what Jynet said makes sense to me. If I lost both my sons I would probably kill myself. If I lost just one I would have to struggle onward for the other son no matter how terribly sad I felt. Just like primary and secondary infertility. They have done studies that showed that both kinds are very hard to deal with but primary infertility is way worse because you have no kids to hug when you are sad whereas secondary infertility folks at least have one child to hug. It does make a difference.

  66. What Susan said. My kids wanted to wear their little backpack leash monkey things long after we never used them anymore. I still have them in the dress up box. They just like wearing them. Which I guess shows that the few times we used them did not scar them for life. They think its funny because I make jokes about the monkey on their backs.

    Kids are weird in general. They do all kinds of weird stuff. No reason to think its the parents forcing them into anything unless the parent says something to confirm that.

  67. Quit being so safe! Congress agrees! (Some sanity!) After the scare with lead in children’s toys, in 2008 Congress knee jerked and demanded that ALL children’s products sold needed to be tested for lead. This included all toys for sale in thrift store, yard sales, Ebay, Craig’s List and such. If the product wasn’t tested, the seller could potentially face fines.

    And, since books are intended for children, all books needed to be tested too – including existing books in libraries. Libraries would have had to choose between restricting access to adults, or buying whole new collections. Congress has exempted books from this requirement now, so no need to be 18 to check out that collector version of “Ozma of Oz” or the board book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar!”

    http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/home/891483-312/feds_finally_get_one_right.html.csp

  68. Uly: You haven’t seen the steps. My kids don’t act up when I hold their hands. They cautiously go down just like I do. The stairs scare them too. They have been scared of them since they dropped their toys off of them. I am trying to be reasonable by letting them walk down them but I have their hands so if they start to slip I can try to right them. They have slipped before on them and it worked.

    The point is I could just tell my Dad to move or build an elevator but I don’t think that is reasonable. I just told him to hold their hands if he takes them down the stairs and he refused. Oh yes, but I forgot elders can be as stupid as they want and we are just supposed to take it. Right. My Dad did not do too much raising of me so that argument doesn’t work either. He was gone a lot and my mother did all the hard labor. So the fact that I survived to adulthood is not really his doing. I let him see them. I foster a relationship but I demand a few of my rules be followed. More than reasonable on my part.

    Again, the idea that I should just let them go down the scary steps alone and just hope they don’t fall and get hurt is something I have decided is not a risk I want to take. Because I don’t have the money for the hospital bills and doctor bills and don’t have the time to take them to the doctor and physical therapy and I certainly don’t want to deal with a whiny hurt kid. That is my parental call. It is not like my fear is keeping them from doing something. They see their grandpa, they go down the stairs, they just need to hold my hand. Suggesting that is being helicopter is ridiculous. If kids could do everything themselves than why even have parents?! Because sometimes they DO need our help.

  69. Nanci — very good OP.

    For a long time — most of the 6,000+ years of human history — families had a lot of kids, but a concept of “childhood” extending beyond age 5 or 6 is a fairly recent development. People had a lot of kids, and some of them made it past toddlerhood, and then the kids were put to work on the farm, around the house, in the factory, etc., because extra hands or extra income was needed.

  70. You’re right, Dolly, I haven’t seen the stairs. I said that first thing, actually. However, I’ve read other comments from you, and am reasonably sure that in most matters, our opinions about safety will differ.

    Why not meet them someplace other than their home, then? Save yourself the angst.

  71. I think a major issue is people always seem to need to have something to be afraid of. Our ancestors had real issues that science has helped us with. We don’t need to worry about our children dying of measles, polio, or the stomach flu because of vaccinations and modern medicine. We don’t need to worry about starvation because of pesticides and modern irrigation. So we worry that the vaccinations will hurt our children or that the pesticides might cause cancer in some unknown future time, or some piece of furniture might hurt our child, etc. I think these are pretty made up fears because we don’t understand the pain of losing our children or going hungry because of insects, the weather, and disease. I think if their is something real to fear for the children of today it would be the readily available pornography, hours spent on computers and in front of the TV, over scheduling of sports and music, the sexualization of younger and younger girls. Instead of actual death our children face death of a sound mind and body. What will the world be like when it is full of adults who spent their childhood sitting at a computer, getting whatever they asked for and never learning to work and play and care for themselves?

  72. I didn’t read all the comments, so if this duplicates anything I’m sorry… I completely agree! The lengths parents go to to keep kids safe is insane sometimes.. I don’t know how I would keep up with all of it! There is a woman in one of my “mommy & me” groups who did not bring her children to an indoor playdate because the wind was blowing too cold for her to bring her kids out in… huh? really? the walk to the car and from the car is going to traumatize them? I guess she may have had a different reason, but that is the one she gave. Seriously all the safety products in the world are not going to stop some things… For instance, what exactly was I going to do to prevent the wasp from dive bombing my son as I was carrying him in the house? (which consequently resulted in an ER trip and lifelong Epi-Pen perscriptions) And what am I supposed to do to prevent it from ever happening in the future? I refuse to terrify him, and I can’t keep him inside his whole life… so terror for momma, fun for buddy bear and an Epi-Pen with us at all times… Its a scary world thats for sure, but alll we can do is arm our kids with common sense and logic and wait for them to grow up!

  73. I’ve been saying for years that today’s “hyper-parenting” is very similar to the rise in the rates of allergies among children.

    Both are just my theories, but I think that with the elimination of most of the natural threats to our lives, our bodies and brains begin to attack relatively benign things. With the rise in hygiene, the body has fewer things to attack, so it goes after stuff like peanuts or pollen. With fewer things to harm or kill our children and adults, we start looking for other perceived threats, like (gasp!) merry-go-rounds and non-baby-proofed houses.

    It’s sad, really. I don’t see it getting any better any time soon, either. I wish I had a solution beyond just trying to show people that free range parenting is NOT the product of the devil, but actually a good thing.

    Oh, and I let the kids get dirty, too…as horrified as some parents seem to be by the very thought of it. 😉

  74. In a way, Danielle, you’re lucky. Not only do we have epi-pens now, but your kid’s first reaction was close enough to the ER that he survived, and now you KNOW he needs an epi-pen with him, so you’re prepared.

  75. Danielle: True, my son’s first bee sting was in an Old Navy parking lot!! Not the place you expect for a bee to sting you, am I right? Out of nowhere. Some things are just chance. Glad your child was okay.

  76. Uly: Well that is just one example of the many things he does that just shows that grandparents don’t KNOW best and that I am not going to just defer to my elders especially when my elders might be wrong. No, I deal with it and just try to be the one to beat them to the stairs so I can hold their hands since he won’t. Visiting with them in exhausting for me because I basically spend the entire time circumventing their bad decisions. Checking food labels since he won’t, rushing to hold their hands in parking lots since he won’t, making sure their seatbelts are fastened properly, since he does it wrong over and over again. But I do it because I do respect my elders in that I want him to be able to see his grandkids. But that doesn’t mean I am giving him free reign over everything. Not happening.

    If you asked him he would say I was overprotective but that is because he believes in taking NO precautions ever. Like for example, we are going camping in a couple weeks a campground area that is known for bears. Cool. I am not keeping my kids home in front of the tv. I am getting them out in nature. But I am going to take some precautions like not letting the kids go off alone, giving them whistles to wear if they get lost, having them sleep next to me in the tent just in case a bear attacks. He started making fun of me and acted like I should not even do that. I should just do nothing for their safety whatsoever. That is where I disagree. There is a happy medium where my kids can camp and explore the great outdoors but still be safe about it.

    That is what I have a problem with some of the followers of free range ideals. They act like ANY precautions is helicoptering and I don’t see it that way. Helicoptering would be not letting the kids camp period in the wild.

  77. I disagree that helicopter parents would not let their kids go camping. Many helicopter parents do indeed go camping. The activity doesn’t determine whether helicopter parenting exists. Overprotectiveness in the activity determines. For example, refusing to allow your 12 year old to play in the yard without supervision is helicopter parenting. It is not excused from being helicopter parenting because you actually are allowing him outside the house, albeit under close guard. I’ve yet to meet helicopter parents who refuse to allow their children to leave the house, even with them. Likewise, being overprotective while camping is not removed from helicopterness simply by virtue of the fact that you are camping.

  78. Grandparents can be difficult, but I’ve learned to let go enough that this year I’m sending my kids (aged 7 and 11) off to UK to stay with their grandparents and restraining myself from sending any instructions. I know full well grandparents will fill them with junk food, let them watch TV I consider inappropriate, forget about regular bedtimes etc, etc, but well it’s only for couple of weeks, and then they’ll be back to my rules….

  79. As someone who grew up in the ’70’s/80’s we had the freedom to explore our surroundings, basically had the run of the neighbourhood. We knew about the “dangers” out in the world, we weren’t left to figure them out for ourselves..we were told about them and our parents trusted us to put our knowledge to good use. They didn’t hover around us, they gave us the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. We knew if we felt there was a dangerous situation that we could go to practically anyone on the block for safety. It didn’t matter if we knew them or not, that was how it was for us back then. Now , I believe that very few people in their busy lives know who their neighbours are. People are leery to befriend the people who live on the same street as themselves. I am very lucky in that , where I live, I know most of the people who live around me, many just to say hi in passing, but..they all know my children and my kids know that if something was to happen and I was available (for whatever reason) the neighbours are more than willing to help. I guess the point of this long rant is that once we start trusting people again instead of seeing others as ” Dangerous!” to our kids, our world would be a better place to live. I should also note that this isn’t from someone who hasn’t had anything tragic happen..because I have..but I’ve learned that if you let that sour yourself on Society as a whole..you may as well go dig a hole and bury yourself right now..life goes on ..and its wonderful!

  80. crap..that should have read as “if I wasn’t available”..sorry.

  81. Donna: Okay let me rephrase this then. I am the only mother I know that is going camping with her 4 year olds, real camping not backyard. None of the other mothers I know even dare undertake half the stuff I do with my kids. I take my kids all kids of places and we travel a lot. Most of the time I will get other mothers to go somewhere after they see that we pulled it off first and will get tips from me on how to do it. It is actually my strongest point in mothering. I don’t shy away from new places and experiences with my kids and never have. Whereas other mothers I know fret and worry about stuff so will just keep their kids home. So yes, I do see that as anti-helicoptering.

  82. See its not that I helicopter when it comes to grandparents. My boys spend tons of time alone with my mom and stepdad. They have stayed there since they were babies alone on overnights and I think the most was almost a week. They see that house as their second home. BUT I know I can trust my mom and stepdad with them. My mom follows the rules that count. She is good with kids. I know she respects my parenting decisions. She can give them ice cream for breakfast and I am not going to freak out even though I suggested that might not be a good idea.

    Some grandparents unfortunately cannot be trusted.

  83. Donna: You also must not know the parents I know. I know several parents who never take their kids outside with or without them. They make excuses about asthma or too hot or too cold etc. So I do think that kinda stuff plays a part in the over all. I have always taken my kids outside since they were babies a lot and in turn when they are older I will send them out alone. Whereas the parents I know who never take their kids outside even with the parents probably won’t be sending their kids outside alone either. I hate it, but the nature deficit thing is real. I know lots of kids who pretty much never go outside. So just the fact that I am taking my kids camping in the real woods and nature is already putting them ahead many other kids we know.

  84. One thing I endlessly appreciate about my parents is that after losing my older brother (born 2.5 months premature and with congenital abnormalities) before I was even born, they were able to give a perfectly normal childhood. They never let their fears overshadow my life. They taught me to think for myself and trusted me to do so. That’s why I became a successful student, successful professional, lived, studied, worked and travelled all over the world (most of it by myself, with the first foreign trip with a group where I didn’t know anyone before meeting them at the train station at the ripe old age of 12, same as the Wal-Mart kid described above!), I have never even gone through teenage rebellion because there wasn’t anything to rebel against.

  85. I don’t disagree that taking your child camping is step above never taking your child out of the house. I disagree with the fact that camping (or going to A, B or C) automatically equals free range parenting. Anything can be done in a very helicopter way. The two most helicopter parents that I know are very active and take their kids many places. Of course, their kids are not allowed more than an inch away from them but they’re out of the house. For instance, if I take my child for a walk in the woods, I let her explore, get a reasonable distance from me, climb logs and rocks, splash in water and otherwise enjoy herself. My helicopter friend takes her kid for a walk in the woods and the kid hears nothing but “Don’t touch that. Don’t climb that. Don’t go there. Be careful. There’s a stick in front of you, don’t trip. You’re getting too far away from me. etc.” While marginally better than watching tv, there is nothing free range about that trek in the woods. Same with any trip anywhere. Hovering at the museum is not more free range than hovering at home.

  86. Yeah I agree with that Donna. Still I respect the parent that at least gets out of the house more. Because if you don’t take the kids outside when they are little even if you have to go with them, by the time they are old enough to go out alone, they will already be an indoor person and won’t want to go outside.

    My husband is that way and I blame his mother. She never took them on outings when they were kids and he is a total homebody. I am a homebody too to a point, but I do like to go on day trips and vacations and travel etc. If it was up to my hubby he would never leave the house. I think that stuff starts with your childhood. Its a little bit of his personality, but I still think if his mother was a more outgoing person who took him out more he would have turned out different. You literally have to drag him out of the house.

    My kids will be allowed to roam as much as they want around the two campsites but because of their young age they are not going wandering more than that. I need to be able to see them because they are still small enough a wild animal might see them as prey. My mom actually lives in a very wilderness area and we have the same rule there. Unless we are right up next to the house they are not allowed out of our site because of wild animals and getting lost potential. We have seen bears, cougars, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, poisonous snakes, etc. It is not a good idea for an unarmed adult to wander around there either. My mom packs her pistol when she goes in the woods.

  87. @Elaine Grant, who said “People are leery to befriend the people who live on the same street as themselves.”

    This reminds me of the seemingly age-old argument about whether to drop your kid off or stay at a birthday party he/she’s been invited to, when you don’t know the parents well. Why are people so scared and leery of other parents, who love their child enough to give them a birthday party and friendly enough to invite classmates?

  88. I am happy to say that I struck a (small) blow for free range thinking. My mom’s group has a yahoogroup and a mom linked to an ABC article about “Bag Lunch a Foodborne Illness Risk for Preschoolers: Study”

    http://abcnews.go.com/m/story?id=14242726

    I read the whole article, is was ridiculous. Just a piece to scare parents for no good reason. So I wrote back,

    ***This was my favorite quote of the article:

    And Dr. William Schaffner, chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., said he could not recall a case in which a sack lunch was a definite cause of foodborne illness in a child.

    The media doesn’t think they are doing their job if they aren’t scaring us about something.***

    And then the original poster wrote back:

    ***also the part it says ”

    this is my favorite:
    “The much greater risks come from inadequate handwashing — by food preparers and food consumers — and from home kitchen contamination of countertops, sinks and other inanimate objects with insufficiently cooked meat, chicken and fish.”

    So we all learned to use our common sense and that a sack lunch isn’t the boogey man, waiting to kill our children with their lunch sandwiches. ***

  89. Arielle, I couldn’t agree with you more! I suspect that if a kid is living in a filthy house and kitchen, they are probably immune to anything in it, and any danger may be for the friend they are trading items with. The article next week will probably talk about kids should not eat school lunch. Just let them be hungry!

    My kids get upset at a fly on their cup when camping. Yes, I try to not to think where that fly has been, but we do not have the stuff to clean everything right away. They can drink from the cup. People all over the world, and for ages past, have been eating from on, or with, fly covered utensils, plates and food. They made it long enough to have me, so that chances of getting an illness while camping in this part of the work are probably pretty rare.

  90. The human animal has a collective narcissistic entitlement complex. This is especially true of those social primates lucky enough to be born in western countries.

    We huff and puff ourselves up to such chauvinistic proportions that we surely look like a bunch of clowns to other species. We are clowns because because the civilisation we have built ourselves is in fact a human zoo where we keep humans. Our psychological problems are those resembling the stereotypical behaviour displayed by actual zoo animals. We are dysfunctional animals poorly adapted to the paradise we have built ourselves. The human animal was designed to build utopia but not designed to live there. Problem solving is as natural to those apes with enlarged cerebral cortexes belonging to the homo genera as is nest building is to birds. In the absence of problems we will invent our own. The paradox of the human animal is that we are not happy with the results of our own labour except for a nanosecond rush to the brain that needs to be repeated. All glory is fleeting as the ancients knew so well. Just like a drug addict getting a fix requires us to creating and living in a world more and more out of sync with reality.

    We become scared about small things not because those things are a real threat but because we NEED to be scared and we need to fell threatened from time to time. The downside in a safe world is a world of paranoid people up to and including Breivik and phobias of such things as we rarely see in normal life like spiders and snakes. Breivik created a fantasy fear out of religion and in so doing created something that is REALLY threatening. He became the sabre tooth cat of the savannah which really did prey on human young crushing a child’s skull with a single bite as per evidence. A very safe environment will will create imaginary problems which will blow up into terrifying real problems by compulsive human need. Just as surely helicoptered children of today will blow up in our faces tomorrow. After all there can be no safer place in the world than Norway. We need to find ways to be fulfilled as the real animals we are, not just safe.

    How did H. Sapiens live on the savannah? They had many children. Most of them died. Girls started families early. Frequent and early child bearing is known to lower the risk of breast cancer. We can not go back there. Most children do not die. Child bearing needs to be delayed for various reasons and the resources of the world would not allow us to multiply like flies. We built ourselves an unhappy paradise and ended up looking like clowns in the process. Humans will become extinct like all animals and the anthropocine layer (probably made of pulverised plastic) will mark our presence in the geological column. Being use to one own extinction and the inevitable species extinction is one way to be less anxious about all manner of things. The process of reacting to a fear of death leads us to lead very safe lives that are indistinguishable from a living death.

  91. “Likewise, being overprotective while camping is not removed from helicopterness simply by virtue of the fact that you are camping.”

    Okay, this is an extreme example, but something like this just came up with me the other day. My husband’s brother married a Chinese woman, and her sister’s family is over for a month-long visit. Yesterday my sil and her sister went shopping while my bil went to the beach with the 9 yo, with the extended family (including my gang.) He was encouraging the little girl, who has been raised in the stereotypical regimented urban Chinese lifestyle (her mother’s not a tiger, but the lifestyle is regimented and not play-oriented) to run around with the dogs, get wet, splash in the waves, etc. She’s slowly loosening up, which her parents are in favor of, but she has a long way to go. I asked if she got to go the ocean back home, and my bil said yes, he’d been on a beach trip with them when he was over for a visit, but, “It wasn’t like this.” She was held much closer, and not encouraged to cut loose.

    So yeah, there are ways to do the same overall activities in a Free Range way, or a helicopterish way (or, of course, in between.)

  92. “what Jynet said makes sense to me. If I lost both my sons I would probably kill myself. If I lost just one I would have to struggle onward for the other son no matter how terribly sad I felt.”

    Don’t you owe something to your husband as well? Didn’t you take some vows?

  93. someone above mentioned Chicago and how it’s so dangerous to young people yet they lived “outside of Chicago”. I grew up in Chicago. In the city. I raised my kids there for most of the last 11 years in the same house I moved to when I was 12. Yes there are parts of the city where it is dangerous to live, where gang violence rules the streets and kids are shot just sitting on their front stoops (or, hell, even in their living rooms… bullets can go through wooden houses). But Chicago is a BIG city.

    I was free-range living there in the 80s/90s and my kids were free-range while growing up there in the last 10 years. Our neighborhood (near Midway Airport) was safe. I checked with the police website and there hadn’t been a violent crime in our area in forever. Lots of burglaries and vandalism, little violent crime. Our doors and windows were always open during the summer.

    People seem to hear about the worst parts of big cities and assume ALL of the city is that dangerous. When it’s not. There are areas of Chicago that are nearly crime free and other areas that are perfectly safe for kids to wander around. I was allowed free-range while living in the city. Heck it was demanded. When we moved to our house near Midway Airport when I was 12 my dad insisted I take my bike and go explore. I rode all over the place. Me and my 10yo brother regularly rode our bikes, walked or took the bus to the mall 2 miles away where we’d spend our allowance on candy and catch a movie in one of the 2 theaters at the time (on either end of the mall parking lot). There were no cell phones, no parenting shadowing us around. My mom used to drop us off for movies or she’d buy us tickets to PG13 flicks and leave us there, lol.

    When I was 16 my dad showed me how to use the L after they built a station at the airport. After that I spent many Saturdays wandering around the Loop alone and never felt not safe even when it was dark. In fact I felt very safe with all the people around.

  94. pentamom: yeah but considering I almost killed myself during the infertility stuff I already know that I don’t do well being childless. I can only imagine it would be worse after having children and then losing them. My husband is great but he knows and knew before I married him that children had to be a part of the package.

  95. I read about a micro chip they have made and tested on mice that give them memories. I wonder if the helicopter parents are un-knowingly setting there children up so they need to have them installed one day (when that is avail for humans) just to do the average everyday things. And maybe they are also making it easier for there grand children to live in a big brother society.

    Perhaps the movie the Matrix was onto something, and perhaps we free range parents offspring will be the ones who are free then trying to save the world from the machines we have grown to depend on.

    We are living in a new world from where we grew up. But I for one do not want my grand children to need a chip so they can feel human. I would rather them learn to stand on there own feet, and deal with life as it comes, good and bad.

  96. @Mary Garner: “Oh, and I let the kids get dirty, too…as horrified as some parents seem to be by the very thought of it.”

    HAHA, not only do I let the kids get dirty… I let him turn on the hose to CREATE a mud puddle at the end of our driveway! You should see the looks I get when he’s sopping wet, or covered in dirt/mud, or the other day when she had blackberry all over her face and dress… people are oh what a mess! and I always tell them, good thing kids are washable! haha! they look at me like I’m crazy (thats also the reason I don’t spend lots of money on kids clothes, they are just gonna get ruined or grown out of!)

  97. @Uly: Yes, we were very lucky! (my husband got us the 12 miles to the hospital in 7 min. and the ER didnt even make us wait a second, he was treated before he was registered! And after a 10 day steroid treatment still a little swollen, poor baby!) It was his first ever sting and that made the doctor a little worried, she feels like it will only get worse with subsequent stings, so I am ever vigilant, and as I said park trash cans in the summer TERRIFY me! but I can’t keep him in a bubble, and I know eventually he’ll probably get stung again. So thank god and modern science, he’ll be ok.

  98. Peter, Please check in with a mental health specialist before you think of killing yourself.

  99. Brad, why would you say such a thing?

    It is obvious to me Peter has studied what he posted about, I did not read it as being suicidal in any way what so ever. In fact I think he is onto something very possible.

  100. @Kathy McC has it right, I think: the thought of a child’s injury is made worse by the thought that the parent will be blamed, not comforted, in such an event. Maybe it’s because people confuse the fact that parenting has become *easier* with the idea that parenting has become *easy*, so easy that parents have to be idiots or evil to screw it up. And parents themselves are faced with the problem that it’s hard to tell whether you’re doing a “good job” as a parent, so some people rely on the amount of effort they make as a parent. Since parenting has become easier, parents have to find new ways to feel successful as parents, even if it makes them paranoid at the same time.

  101. @Brad I do not want to kill myself. I would rather be discomforted by what is true then be comforted by what is false.

    To quote:-
    “It is the nature of the human species to reject what is true but unpleasant, and to embrace what is obviously false but comforting.”
    – H. L. Mencken

  102. My point was that his view is cynical to the point of being non-sensical. I am not sure what his point is.

    “We built ourselves an unhappy paradise and ended up looking like clowns in the process. Humans will become extinct like all animals and the anthropocine layer (probably made of pulverised plastic) will mark our presence in the geological column. Being use to one own extinction and the inevitable species extinction is one way to be less anxious about all manner of things. ”

    So … kill ourselves so we become less anxious? Huh?

  103. brad, I read it more like this…

    The problems we have created will be our downfall. We are killing the earth as we know it with all of our “improvements” it can be seen in the oceans and on the beaches.

    If we continue on this path of waste and consumerism, eventually the earth will be filled with plastics and electronic parts. We wont have oceans anymore, or beaches to walk on. We will be living in our own garbage. All in the name of evolution. One day that garbage will consume us and yes we will die.

    How can you possibly read what he said as killing yourself? I see it as we have to open our eyes and see what we are doing. I fear not that my great great grandchildren will drown in a lake, but they will have no lake to swim in anymore…

  104. It’s possible to refrain from blaming “someone, anyone” for freakish accidents while still protecting our children to the extent possible.
    Space junk falling on a kid’s head – freakish.
    Disappearance of a 3-year-old who was triking alone through the neighborhood – preventable.
    Bus accident that defeats a child safety seat – freakish.
    Injuries that could have been prevented with easily affordable and readily available car seat – preventable.

  105. Do we learn to drive by getting in a car alone with the keys and heading to the highway? No.
    Do we learn to protect ourselves from danger from going out alone among adults and streets full of cars with our childlike bodies and brains? No.

  106. Fantastic Nanci! You are so right, in this day and age, we have begun assuming that all children should be healthy, safe, and not die when they are young. The reality is: Bad things happen to children in the way of accidents and random illnesses, etc. As scary as that reality it for parents, it is the truth. We like to think we can control everything in our kids’ lives, but the reality is, we can’t. Live each day, give our kids freedom to have fun and grow, and enjoy them as much as you can! Love them today and try not to worry too much about the future….we can’t control it anyway. Just be thankful for the time you have with them. Period. And be thankful if they’re healthy and happy. Thankfulness instead of entitlement.

  107. When I was a baby, I was allowed to go anywhere in my home. On more then one occasion I had got my fingers slammed in a drawer or cupboard door. I am sure I cried for a min or 2. But I did not break any bones or fingers.

    As an adult there have been at least 3 times that someone has went to slam a car door shut and my fingers almost got caught in the door. And many more times working tool and dye I had close calls, If it was not for my own experiences as a baby getting my fingers caught in the drawers I am sure I would not have had the quick thinking I did that saved my fingers from being crushed.

    My brother was born before me, and my parents were much more protective of him, he was a first child after many years of fertility treatments. So they had reason to be protective of him I guess. I am sure he never got his fingers caught in the doors or drawers (we had child safety things on most but by the time I grew up most had broken off due to the cheep plastic) When he was in his early 20’s he was working tool and dye with my father, he got his hand caught in a machine and lost 4 of his fingers, my mom was quite sure if it was me working that machine that day I would have had the instinct to pull my hand out.

    We have survival mechanisms built into us, we just have to be allowed to tap into them.

  108. I had my first child at age 18, he was born in the USA where we live. SInce he was born ive had endless ‘good natured’ advice about what i should do and how i should do, as though at 18 i was unable to make decisions about what was best for him. Im now 25 and i have 5 children. In a summer that sees us without their father, due to deployment overseas, ive had to think alot about ways for us all to enjoy ourselves and get the most out of our days. While i would like to be out and about everyday doing exciting and enriching things, i lack both the funds and means to provide constant entertainment. and with 3 under 2yrs old its impossible to find 1 thing we’ll all enjoy.

    As a result i thought back to my own childhood and the hours i would spend playing outside with my brother and our friends, not coming home until dark or hungry, whichever came first🙂 My childhood, even in the 80’s and 90’s was very free-range and i want the same for my own children. When i asked my 7y.o if he and his 5y.o sister would like to go knock for some friends and play outside in our quiet cul-de-sac he jumped at the chance. On return 10mins later to collect a football he told me that only a couple of his friends were allowed to play, the others moms wouldnt let them because there was no adults. I ensured him that he an his sister were still allowed to play and what time i expected them in. I did peek on them all outside alittle while later and found the boys playing football in the street and my daughter and her friends sat on a neighbours lawn playing.
    I was quite saddened that more parents hadnt let their children out to play, the boys could of used more players on their teams and im sure the girls would of enjoyed more company too.
    My son and daughter came in at the time they were asked to, tired, hungry and happy after hours of playing with their friends.

    We live in a community that has a very large military population due to our proximity to base. 95% of the families just in our street are Navy or Marine and although i would allow my children the freedom whereever we lived, i thought this would add to the security people in our neighbourhood feel. Clearly it doesnt matter how safe your neighbourhood is, people have an irrational fear no matter what.

  109. @Dolly — Is your father going to teach your kids bear country camping practice? Like keeping *all* food and scented things either in a closed vehicle or suspended from a tree away from the campsite, using bear bells & not hiking silently, and how to respond if a bear does charge?

    And did I really say “6,000+ years of human history” yesterday? Humans have been around a heck of a lot longer than that. I suppose I was thinking about the first development of what we would recognize as cities.

  110. vzwriter1:

    “If anything should happen to my children…if they are struck by a bolt of lightning I will hold the men in this room responsible.”

    You are correct and I think that is the goal. The problem is that the particulars muddy every case. There is always “something” that could have been done and also always some element that was an accident. I think the discussion is where those lines are drawn.

    to your second point, you also don’t learn to drive by sitting in the basement playing video games. You have to get out there and travel in cars, practice driving in parking lots and then gradually start driving on roads.

  111. @Nora.. your post is the biggest load of hooey I have ever read. You remember that you were allowed to roam the house when you were a baby? Not likely. And the story of your fingers being caught as a kid that allowed faster reflexes later in life? Hogwash! Since it didn’t happen to your brother – he was too slow in preventing his accident?

    So what’s the moral of the story? We should make sure to let our kids fall off of tall structures when their young (and hope they make it out alive) – so that they can “get” faster reflexes to prevent falling later in life.

    I’m sorry but your post has to be the most comical I’ve read to this point on this site.

  112. Actually brad I have listened to the stories from when I was a baby a zillion times and how I was always on the move, and getting my fingers pinched in all sorts of things.

    It was my own personal experience brad, just because it is not what you would like to believe, it does not mean it is “hogwash”…

    and yes we should let our kids fall (not from high places) so they can learn balance. Studies have shown babies who are not allowed to ever fall have poor balance as adults.

    I can tell brad that we will not get along so lets just agree to disagree?

    As far as my brother goes, we are very different people, that is why my mother told me that. He can do anything on a comp, I can do anything with my hands. He was only doing that job so he could go to school and do what he wanted as a comp tech and now he works at IBM.

  113. And brad, I have not seen you make an actual response to the thread in question, all I see is you belittling other people and their beliefs. Perhaps you should try to keep an open mind, especially in this forum, we are free thinkers here and you may be viewed as a troll…

  114. “Do we learn to drive by getting in a car alone with the keys and heading to the highway? No.
    Do we learn to protect ourselves from danger from going out alone among adults and streets full of cars with our childlike bodies and brains? No.”

    Do we learn to drive by never getting into a car (let alone behind the wheel) until a parent, or some committee, or something decides we’re old enough to be safe, and then just start without anyone gradually teaching us how to handle a vehicle? No.

    “And did I really say “6,000+ years of human history” yesterday? Humans have been around a heck of a lot longer than that. I suppose I was thinking about the first development of what we would recognize as cities.”

    Actually, walkamungus, the way you expressed it was fine — history didn’t start until people started keeping…history!

  115. (Mary Garner) “I’ve been saying for years that today’s “hyper-parenting” is very similar to the rise in the rates of allergies among children.

    Both are just my theories, but I think that with the elimination of most of the natural threats to our lives, our bodies and brains begin to attack relatively benign things. With the rise in hygiene, the body has fewer things to attack, so it goes after stuff like peanuts or pollen. With fewer things to harm or kill our children and adults, we start looking for other perceived threats, like (gasp!) merry-go-rounds and non-baby-proofed houses…”

    This is really intrtriguing, and I think you might be onto something. Becasue we have defeated so many real risks (like Polio and other diseases) but we still have a natural tendancy to worry, we seem to be finding other things to worry about – even though those things rarely go wrong, and didn’t used to be considered risky.

    I also think it has to do with the “culture of blame”. 50 years ago, if your child died in an accident, people comforted you as if something bad happened TO you, now they treat you as if you DID did something bad. I think people often act as much out of fear of guilt as fear of the actual thing.

  116. @Brad my point is that the evolutionary adaptations of humans to the conditions of the African Savannah are maladaptive to what emerged by being the problem solvers we were. We were designed to build paradise but not designed to live there.

    Becoming used to the reality of our individual demise and eventual species extinction is a great way to maintain a sane perspective when so much of life causes us grief. That’s nothing new. Eastern religions realised this thousands of years ago. It’s a great antidote to our death denying narcissism.

  117. We humans are built to look for dangers around us.We should avoid this danger happened around us . Many things can be forbidden. such as crime !

  118. Peter, I wonder if what you say is part of the reason that I have always viewed death as a natural occurrence? My parents are from Scandinavia and they have never shielded me from death. I do grieve when we lose someone in our family, but it has never once made any of us stop doing what we have to do. We do take the time to respect them and will take the time to have a proper funeral. The only times I went to Europe (Im from Canada) under the age of 12 was for funerals. That happened almost every year.
    We understand that death is natural. When my grandma passed away, many medical professionals tried to get us to put her in a hospital, so she could die there. We refused and took her home and she passed away in her bedroom, mins after looking her first great grandchild in the eyes. It was a natural death surrounded by family(we were having a family dinner for my fathers birthday).
    No one in our family breaks down and feels they can not go on in life when someone dies. We all go on with life.
    It is only in North America that I have seen people who feel they can no longer live when a family member dies, it is as if they themselves have stopped living. I never understood that, because it is only natural that when you are born you will die. Why do North Americans have so much trouble accepting something that is so blatantly obvious to Europeans?

  119. Nora: For me, if an elderly family member dies that does not bother me. I am sad, but I know they lead a good life, they had their time in the world and now its their time to pass on to a better place. That is beautiful and natural. I deal better with that than most others I know. I never quite understood why people freak out over elderly loved ones dying. It is expected and common. I have met people who just freak out over a 90 year old person dying and I don’t get it. You knew it was coming. You had time to say your goodbyes. When my grandfather passed away last Winter it was sad, but I knew it was coming. I said my goodbyes every time I saw him. I dealt just fine with it.

    Now, when a child dies or someone dies in their early adulthood or someone dies from a disease or accident and it was not their time, that is worth freaking out over. That is not the natural order of things. They didn’t live their life out, they didn’t get their full time on earth. You probably didn’t get to say your goodbyes if it was a sudden accidental death. That is so so so much harder to get over. That I can understand why you might not be able to function for awhile or ever afterwards. Still unless it was my husband or my children I could eventually be fine with it.

  120. Of course it is more of a shock and difficult to accept when a child dies. That goes without saying. Nanci’s point, if we could get back to it, is that this generation is not sensitized as much as previous generations to the fact that children DO die, get hurt, get serious illnesses, etc. Because of this, this generation sees the occurence as very UNNATURAL and seeks to blame someone or something for it. What she is saying, and I wholeheartedly agree , is that we need to try and remember that these things DO happen, statistically they are GOING to happen to some children, as sad and scary as that is. We need to remember that we are NOT entilted to a perfectly healthy, safe child forever. Past generations understood this much better than we. That is why we need to live each day, enjoy it, enjoy our time with our kids, and be thankful. And try our darndest to keep them safe withought obsessing about what “could happen.” Now, go have a great day with your kids everybody!!!

  121. Just wanted to mention Chicago again, in response to Uly’s comment above, and a comment from someone else…

    I did not assert that, overall, violent crime stats are not dropping in Chicago (they are) or that Chicago is not an okay place to raise kids (I raised my own there for quite a few years and many friends and relatives make the city their home, and have for generations).

    I stated only that Chicago has a very high rate of gun-related crime (which it does), many of these crimes resulting in death, many involving juveniles, and many, if not most, involving gangs.

    Sorry to say it, I don’t like it either, but it’s the truth.

    The most recent report I’ve heard is that our murder rate is over 400 citizens per year; that’s, obviously, more than a murder per day.

    I brought up this situation for two reasons. First, to address, in a larger context, safety issues for kids. Not all neighborhoods are safe, not all childhoods are safe, many kids in America on a daily basis are facing very real threats to their safety. And, second, to highlight what seems to be so often forgotten in middle America, and that is that kids are being murdered daily.

    I’d love to see much of the silly and wasteful energy being expended on making life ‘perfectly safe’ for middle America diverted into serious efforts toward allowing our inner city kids to be able to walk and play outside their homes without being gunned down.

  122. Jynet, I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, but that’s not exactly what Ann said. She didn’t just say you have to go on because the family remains, she did say you value each child less.

    And just to be clear, I’m not upset by what she said or strongly reacting to it. I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to say. I’m questioning it, and my basis for questioning it is not so much “Well, *I* have five kids and you can’t tell me I wouldn’t be just upset,” as a firm belief that when people try to assess how they, or other people, would feel in a given tragic situation, as compared to other people, or other situations, they are almost always wrong, both because they haven’t experienced it, or even if they have, they’re not *like* the other person. You just can’t assess something like that; you can’t compare factors to guess at people’s emotional reactions. They’re too subjective, and too variable.

    So I would be very hesitant to say “I would feel like this as opposed to this in situation X as opposed to Y,” or “I’d expect other people to feel this this, etc.” about almost anything, because you just can’t judge that kind of thing reliably, when you’re talking about things in the “unthinkable tragedy” realm. Even Dolly might discover that she would want to fulfill her responsibilities to her husband if (God forbid) such an awful thing happened. And maybe I, with my five kids and my strong belief that my duty to my husband equals my duty to my kids, would lose it completely.

    Having said all that, I *do* think family size plays a role. In keeping with what Jynet says, we don’t have the “luxury” of completely falling apart if we have responsibilities to more people. It’s amazing what humans will bear when we have to. Not all of us, all the time — that’s part of the human tragedy. But often enough, that I think it’s fair to say that it does make a difference.

  123. The age of a person does not diminish our capacity to love them. When my 86 year old mother dies I will grieve for a long time because she is also one of my best friends. I will be comforted some by the fact that she had a long, active and full life, but I will still be very sad for my own loss.

    And Dolly, it is part of the natural order of life and death for children and young adults to die. It has been happening since humans have been on earth. Much of it by other humans such as wars. We have no guaranteed right to a long life. As Molly stated so well, we are not entitled to a perfectly safe childhood or adulthood. We are lucky if we have one.

  124. It just occurred to me (while pondering kids as indoor pets) that at whatever age those pets may be…considering they probably don’t miss what they’ve never experienced (freedom) on a conscious level – what exactly may be going on beneath the scene?

    Perhaps, maybe – some primal conviction that they’ve been screwed out of something fundamentally ordained as their right (ironically) in the “land of the free?”

    I should not wonder that the horrific irony of this would breed a generation of skeptics – bordering on that of religiously manic fervor.

    They are made safe….for what? To attain the age of consumption? (certainly not consent.) On a fundamental societal level we reject all this as nonsense…but on an economic level, we might perhaps do well to think a little deeper.

  125. Man this thread has taken a turn into some deep deep subject matter. I have enjoyed reading everyone’s philosophies.

  126. The thing I see with the fear of any danger is the fact that people are afraid of children getting hurt *at all*, not just killed. I grew up with the assumption that periodically your kids would do something stupid and get hurt and you would have to take them to the ER; as long as there were no permanent terrible effects, it wasn’t horrible, just scary at the time. Nowadays it seems people are afraid of everything. (Mind you, my son had his first ER visit at less than a year old when he crawled off the bed, hit his head on the wood floor and I panicked! By the time we got to the ER he was fine and looking for toys. Fortunately, they now can image the skull and reassure scared mommies that there is no concussion.)

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