Saturday, August 27, 2011

Too Safe?

When it comes to your child's safety, can you be too safe? I've pondered this idea for awhile now, especially since so much has changed since the midget was little, so just the last 7-12 years, basically. When the midget was little, babies were supposed to sleep on their sides to prevent SIDS, but now they're on their backs again. Back-facing car seat until 20 pounds, and front-facing after that. The midget was in a front facing car seat at about four or five months, whereas now that's not legal or safe until a year of age. So, apparently the midget was unsafe for about 8 months. Horrible parent, aren't I?

And then, when she was 4, and well over the legal 40 pound limit, I stopped struggling with the car seat in the back of our tiny Hyundai. And now, the law says she wasn't safe until she was 4' 9" and 80 pounds. I was reminded of all this thanks to a fantastic rant by my beloved Archaeogoddess on the difficulties of car seats. And, because I'd just finished reading this I thought it was an interesting question, can our kids be too safe?

When I was growing up, we didn't have seat belts half the time, let alone car seats. Our moms put us on our tummies to sleep. Stranger danger was a newish concept, and the dangers of pedophiles were talked about only in cheesy after school specials, and yet, most of us grew up more or less okay.

When my oldest niece was born, I remember thinking that her mother was going to suffocate her because she was obsessed with safety. I held the child once in her baby days because I couldn't handle all the instructions--"Don't kiss the baby! We're too concerned about germs!" "Hold her like this, not like that!"--and on and on. I remember thinking, "Ya know, I've had one of these, and she's still alive and sound...that's her over there, remember?"

Not coincidentally, my oldest niece was plagued with colds and bronchitis that led to so many ear infections that she had tubes put in at the age of two. Her growth was also delayed due to her many illnesses. You see, when you don't expose a baby to germs, their immune systems don't get the strength they need that comes with the experience of fighting off small infections. Said niece, though I love her dearly, is also the most spoiled and willful of all the children, and that's saying something. She is a victim (for lack of a better term) of helicopter parenting.

Helicopter parenting, so common today, is my deepest fear for the children of the midget's generation. They are protected from everything, even the dangers of accepting their own failures...there are no longer winners and losers in games or competitions for the sake of saving the feelings of these precious little darlings, and I get it, I do. I know I hated it when the midget was sad because she didn't win at a game, or another kid didn't like her, but that's life. You aren't going to always be the winner, and not everyone is always going to like you, and that's easier to handle it when you learn how to deal with it an early age. It's very difficult to reach the age of 18 or 21 or whenever Mommy finally cuts the apron strings, if you don't know how to deal with all of those things. If you've always been protected, you don't learn how to protect yourself.

I am not saying put your kid alone in room with glass shards to keep them from leaving and fill their bottle with codeine cough syrup rather than springing for a babysitter. (That's what duct tape is for). Nor should you ignore the common sense stuff...vaccinate, use seat belts and car seats, and for the love of god, don't put their names on their backpacks and sweatshirts to make it that much easier for strangers to gain their trust. But, at the same time...let them get kisses from aunties, even if they catch a cold, let them skin their knees and feel the sorrows of coming in last. This world is not always safe and soft and protecting, and we aren't always going to be there to catch them, so they need to learn how to protect themselves.

Because, after the end you are not raising a child. You are raising a person who will one day be a responsible adult, one that must stand on her own two feet, without the training wheels, without the bubble wrap, and without Mommy's sheltering embrace.

1 comment:

Archaeogoddess said...

I say "don't put a name on a shirt or backpack because you make your kid look like a FREAK." In reality, more children are likely to be abducted by or molested by people they know. People their parents trust. Bringing your child into the bathroom and locking the door while you shower, not because you are worried your child will hurt themselves but because of possible abduction? Dude, what has society done to that poor mother? What has that pediatrician done? Seriously, CODE NAMES? Not only is that paranoid, it's really fucked up.

Out of 60,000,000 children in the US (source: only 115 were stereotypical abductions in 1999. (source: ) Appropriate caution is due - even though lightning strikes are rare, we don't go walking around with metal poles taped to our backs in thunderstorms - but locking your child in rooms with you is only going to get you a hell of a big teenage rebellion which puts your child in REAL danger.