Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Off The Writing Track

In response to Fear Itself:

My life growing up in rural Mississippi is something my children will never quite understand. My sister and I were always outside and never had fears of drive-by shootings, being kidnapped or anything of that sort.

I am currently raising my family in a very busy suburb in Phoenix. While I want more than anything to keep my children safe, I also believe that some things in life just have to be experienced.

My sons are teenagers now and I tell them to "go play outside" at least a few times a week. I expect them to walk to their friends' homes a few blocks away, to the park down our street or to go climb the mountain about a mile from our home. I also expect them to return safely. My daughter, however, is five and lives by different rules (just as my sons did when they were younger).

I try not to let the media influence my decisions as a parent, but the fact of the matter is that three child molesters live within ten miles of my home. That would be unheard of twenty five years ago in the small town I lived in, but it's about average for a big city. (Trust me, I checked the crime statistics when looking for a home.)

While I may have some media-induced, irrational fears, I still believe that children need to be children. If I rob them of all the life experiences that taught me, that gave me the grit to know what in life is worth fighting for, it would be a great disservice to them. So, as a mother of three, I will push my fears aside and send my children to "go play outside."

4 comments:

Natalie said...

I was outside all day as a kid as well, and it's awful that we have to think about these kinds of things now.

I often wonder if my mother worried like I now do, or if it's just that much worse.

Either way, I do get nervous thinking about my little babes and the "outside" they will have to play in.

Never Settle said...

That nervousness and worry never leaves, no matter how big your babes get. :o) (I know this because my mother tells me about her worries for me- even though I'm nearing 40.)

Renee Collins said...

Yes, I worry about this exact thing. It actually makes me quite sad that this is the case. I wish my kids could have what I had growing up.

My daughter is four, and I admit that I am too wimpy to let her out alone. I know I need to get the guts, but it's so hard.

Never Settle said...

Even if she's too young to go out alone, letting her play freely (supervised from a distance, not structured and uninterrupted) will still provide much needed life experience.

When my boys were little, I used to get involved in their conflicts because I thought I was supposed to teach them how to solve problems. I thought I was supposed to model appropriate behavior in difficult situations. So every time an issue arose, I stepped in. I thought I was teaching them. What I learned was that I had robbed them of the ability to handle problems themselves.

Now they're 13 and 15 (VERY soon to be 16) and we still struggle with their inability to resolve tough (and even minor) issues independently. They come to me every time they have a disagreement. For quite a few years now, I've been sending them off to 'work it out yourself.' (That phrase usually follows "You two are very smart and quite capable of handling this without my input.")

Parenting doesn't come with a handbook. We make the choices that we believe are best for our children based on what we know, what we've experienced, what other parents have shared. But, without fail, we learn later that our choices weren't always 'best.' What really matters, though, is that we keep growing and trying and that we love those little buggars no matter what.

Wednesday at church, the youth minister filled in for our pastor and part of his message was to have a little more mercy and grace as it applies to our children just as or heavenly father shows for us. They're only children, afterall. Programmed with free will and destined to make mistakes... LOTS OF THEM! Just as we are.

Don't worry that you can't send her outside alone, yet. You're doing what you think is best for her... and someday she'll understand and love you for that.