When I was a child, I was very accident prone. I would “trip over air” as my mother put it. Because of my numerous trips to the emergency room child services kept a close eye on my home; the concern was appreciated, but unnecessary. Now that I am an adult I am a parent myself, and I am extra careful with my children – perhaps too careful.
I realize that times have changed and that child protection has improved since I was a kid – it is now a crime to fail to report suspected child abuse – and I am scared to death of losing my children because they fell out of their tree-house or hurt themselves skateboarding. Because of this, I have not allowed my children to have a tree-house or to play in their friends trees; nor have I allowed them to skateboard or roller-blade or enjoy any of the childhood pastimes that I enjoyed when I was their age.
My wife and I argue regularly about how much caution is too much caution to take; she says that we should let our children be children, that a certain amount of risk is healthy and will help them to grow into well-adjusted adults ready to take on the world. I want to agree with my wife, but I live in fear of that knock on the door from child services and the thought of my children being removed from our home until after we clear investigation. Yesterday, I lost my temper when I learned that my wife allowed our four year old to play on the monkey bars at the playground. What if she had fallen? Am I correct in thinking that my wife takes too many chances with our children’s physical safety? Or is she right in thinking that I am being overprotective? Sometimes I wonder.
Dear Protective Papa:
Although I am not a parent, I can understand you plight. No parent wants to see their child hurt, but I have to agree with your wife on this one; it appears that you may be stunting your children’s development with your overprotective ways. A child will never learn how to pick him or herself up off the ground (literally or figuratively) if they are never allowed to fall.
Personally, I think you are giving your children far too little credit. Unless they completely lack any kind of physical strength and coordination they should be able to climb a ladder into a tree-house or scamper across the monkey bars at the playground. Both of these constructs are generally built less than ten feet off the ground, so on the chance that a child should fall the drop will not be all that great (remember than you must subtract your child’s dangling height from the length of the drop).
The next time your children seek to indulge in a childhood pastime that you fear will cause injury, ask yourself: “Did I do this as a kid? Did I suffer a life-threatening injury from it? Did I survive to adulthood without incurring permanent damage?” So long as you answer yes/no/yes in that order, I do not see why your children should be denied the same opportunity – so long as they are wearing the proper protective gear (i.e. pads and a helmet for skateboarding) and the activity does not involve the careless risks of youth – there will be time enough for that kind of stuff when they are teenagers. In the meantime, give your children the gift of a childhood worth remembering.
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