Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Risks

“You can just never let them out of your sight.”

And the depressing conversation ends. But it will rear its ugly head again. Unfortunately . Really, truly, unfortunate.

This is the conversation my parents and I have every time Mom reads in the paper about a child abduction, rape, murder; anything nefarious and child-related. “Tiff, did you hear about . . .” and she tells me what I’ve probably already, sadly, heard. She shakes her head, closes her eyes, in that “what a pity” way. And it is. It is a pity. Especially just how often the conversation comes up.

My parents, concerned grandparents, see danger around every corner, that creepy burglar from the Neighborhood Watch signs. Me, the concerned mom, worry that if I am overprotective I’ll raise fearful, isolated, children.

It’s not that I’m unconcerned about the dangers out there. I’m only trying to look at the whole picture; to look in the eye what is sacrificed when we laminate, bubble-wrap our kids.

Most of us, my age and older, can recall an unplugged and unscheduled childhood and have stories of the real freedom they had to explore their own neighborhoods with the children who shared them. I remember living in Lacey and riding my bike to the 7-11 about a mile away with my friends. I remember my brother Tom being dropped off somewhere between home and Rainier so he could hike to Lake Fifteen, fishing for hours at a time. No adult supervision, no cell phone leash. I hate that I see my kids so devoid of those independence creating experiences.

Unfortunately I also remember Janet Kleiner. When I was in preschool there was a girl who lived not far from my babysitter. I think she was probably eight years old and in March of 1975 she was found raped, murdered and hanging in a tree by a boy taking a short cut home through the woods. I remember being fascinated as the adults spoke in hushed tones about it. We had a strip of woods right next to our house. We played in them all the time.

From what I’ve read, crime rates are down to something like an early 1970’s level. Things like the advent of cell phones, more policing, increased awareness of abuse in the family, and psychiatric meds have been instrumental in this plunging drop in crimes in general. What has increased (and this is a gross understatement) is our access to information. When we hear what can and does happen sometimes, it’s hard not to live in fear.

But that’s not living. My generation has the challenge of figuring out what the risks really are and if we’re willing to let our kids take them. I suppose what makes it such a complicated subject is that we’re talking about what is most precious to us. It’s so easy to turn away from any risk because the potential price is more than any of us feel we could pay. I have a grandmother who was credited with saying something along the lines of, “It wouldn’t have happened if you stayed home”. While there’s truth to that, this house is feeling mighty cramped with five kids at home and all I really want to say is “GO OUTSIDE!”. Not just play in our yard but really get out there.
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2 comments:

  1. I swear that our lives must follow the same path sometimes! When you are writing about something, I am usually living it! Having my parents and my husbands parents visit us in Boston the last few weeks has been a bit of a test of my patience. I love them and they are all great people, but they want to isolate my children from everything. I know the city pretty well at this point and so do my children. They know the area's where they are allowed to run ahead, they love to have lunch on the balcony 35-stories in the air and they love to play in the rain with their umbrellas. For some reason, all of these things have my children's grandparents overly concerned that danger will befall the at any moment. I like you want my children to have freedom - to run and play and just be kids. I do all that I can to keep them safe, but I WILL NOT turn them into fearful hermits that don't want to explore the world. Here, here to freedom and just being a kid!

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