Are Today’s Parents Too Crazy With Worry?

by Donne Davis on September 3, 2009

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At a recent GaGa Sisterhood meeting one of our members used an interesting term, “risk averse,” to describe today’s young parents. Adair Lara, who was our guest speaker, agreed. She read a section from The Granny Diaries where she pokes fun at her overly cautious daughter, who slathers sunscreen on her infant daughter  just to walk down to the mailbox. Lara reminds grandmas to never “tut-tut a safety concern, even if it’s to suggest that a tyke riding a trike in a carpeted room skip the helmet just this once.”

While researching this issue of today’s parents’ heightened sense of fear, I discovered a blog by Lenore Skenazy called Free-Range Kids. Skenazy is a syndicated columnist, author of Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry, and a self-described “middle-aged mom out to get the facts.”

Her story of the evolution of her book and website is a fascinating read and causes me to go back and forth on the issue of child safety. We all survived riding around without car seats. I even let my two kids ride in the “way back” of our Pinto wagon every time we made the trip from LA to SF up Interstate 5.

Given the current media spectacle over the return of kidnapped victim Jaycee Dugard, it’s hard to know whether we’re creating a world that makes us afraid to walk out our doors without mace, a police whistle, and our cell phone. Sadly, we can’t return to the good old days when we could walk a mile to school by ourselves, spend an afternoon at the neighborhood playground with our friends unsupervised, or ride the bus everywhere by ourselves.

But, we don’t want our grandchildren “to think that stepping out their front door is the equivalent of stepping into a viper-filled pit,” as Skenazy writes. “What’s vital to the health of our children is their learning to make their own playdates, organize a game of four-square, and talk to people instead of being terrified of them.”

Her mission is simple:

At Free Range, we believe in safe kids. We believe in helmets, car seats and safety belts. We do NOT believe that every time school age children go outside, they need a security detail. Most of us grew up Free Range and lived to tell the tale. Our kids deserve no less. This site is dedicated to sane parenting.

Of course we must teach our grandkids to run from anyone trying to lure them away, should that rare thing happen. But we also need to teach them to be social human beings who are friendly and outgoing. That’s how they learn stuff, and make friends.

I agree with Skenazy when she writes that, “there is no lesson to be learned from Jaycee’s ordeal except that sometimes, terrible things happen to innocent people, randomly. In our blame-, lawsuit- and silly advice-obsessed country, it’s a lesson we find hard to accept.”

{ 3 comments }

Tate Langworthy September 17, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Hilarious! I often wonder which comes first: the child that does not understand personal safety and takes TOO many risks (think out-of-control tornado) or the parent that shadows every movement the child makes. I cannot say my kids “free-range” as we live in the city. They free-range it in fenced parks. :)

Susan Adcox September 7, 2009 at 6:23 am

The line from The Granny Diaries that I love and use all the time is: “We kids were set out in the yard in the morning and brought in at night, like cats. A kid who was in the house was a kid running up the light bill.”

I have a bit of a discussion going in my forum about this very topic, which is extremely interesting to me. I am definitely going to look up Skenazy and check out what she has to say. I think I’m going to agree with her. I also am a fanatic about helmets, car seats and safety belts, but I think children should be on their own some of the time!

Tracy Lucas September 4, 2009 at 12:19 am

I think I’m a safe balance of somewhere in the middle…

I’ve had too many near accidents and freakish people in my life to not observe the details the majority of the time… but I do try to appear nonchalant, and my kids don’t know a quarter of the things I fear for them. I let them try just about everything; I just feel my blood run cold as they do. :)

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