Advice for Worriers

Hi Readers! Jeffrey Goldberg penned this pretty darn perfect bit of advice in a column called, “What’s Your Problem?” in the current issue of The Atlantic. Here’s the question:

Ever since our first child was born, I have slept very poorly. When I close my eyes, my mind becomes crowded with worries. I worry about my kids’ safety, their future, college education, happiness, just about anything you could think of. Is there anything I can do to put my mind at ease?

N.E., Atlanta, Ga.

Dear N.E.,

Alas, no. You are suffering from an incurable disease called parenthood. The birth of a child is the most transcendent moment in a person’s life. It also marks the beginning of what I call “The Great Terror”…

Goldberg’s timeless advice?

To put your mind at ease, I suggest removing from your home all knives, turpentine, No. 2 pencils, bathtubs, medicine, electrical outlets, chairs, peanut butter, and stairs. You should also try to remember that many of the hazards facing our children are overblown: the Crimes Against Children Research Center, for instance, notes that rates of sexual assault, bullying, and other violence against children have declined substantially in recent years, despite media suggestions to the contrary. But statistics be damned; fear is fear. Only death frees you of worry entirely, and the onset of death brings its own anxieties. However, one advantage of death is that your children will no longer torment you with incessant demands for iPads and Ke$ha downloads.

Jeff, if you come hereto Free-Range kids: WE LOVE YOU! — L.

Of Peanuts and Pedophiles

You’ve probably read about the new, possible cure for peanut allergies. One very hopeful study at Duke ( http://tinyurl.com/cmbh39 ) found that by administering first a dust-size speck of peanuts to an allergic child, and then a slightly larger speck and so on and so on, you can sometimes train the child’s immunological system to stop violently overreacting.  It is wonderful to think that for some people, this may be a cure at last. But it’s also wonderful to think of the peanut story as an analogy to, of all things, stranger danger.

If a child is allowed to explore the world – a little at first, under loving surveillance, but more and more as the years go by — that child’s chances of overreacting to small, everyday risks diminishes. The child is gradually developing street smarts.

But what if that’s not allowed to happen, because the parents have been brainwashed by cable TV and what have you, into thinking their child is never safe out of their sights?

In my  book I write about a grandma who was in her allergist’s waiting room when a boy of about three came up to her and wanted to look through the magnifying glass she was using to read her newspaper. (Gotta love those newspaper readers!)

The grandma was delighted to show the boy, but instantly the kid’s mother swooped in and literally carried him off, saying, “He’s got to learn early NOT to talk to strangers.”

“Strangers” apparently including even little old ladies in waiting rooms. With allergies.

Think of that grandma as a tiny speck of peanut dust: The perfect introduction to the world of strangers. Just a tiny smidgen of the unknown, presented in a safe, controlled environment.

If we don’t let our kids interact with the world at all — if every stranger is considered a pedophile (and a quick pedophile at that, who can run out of a waiting room with a three year old under her arm), we are not doing our kids any kind of service.

We are making them, essentially, allergic to life. The world should be their oyster. Instead, it’s their their peanut.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                               — Lenore