Since the moment my wife and I took our kids home from the hospital and I strapped them in the car more securely than a NASCAR driver, I have worked very hard to keep my daughters out of harm’s way. I have been my children’s personal Secret Service agent since they have been alive (except I don’t own a gun but I’m very good with band aids and pain relieving kisses).
I’ve spent hours picking up anything in my house that could fit in to their mouths. I’ve barricaded the stairs like the Berlin Wall minus the barbed wire and armed guards (which I would have used had I have found them at the Home Depot). I “child proofed” my house with those hard plastic condoms you put over doorknobs to prevent your kids from getting them open can only to find out that 1. I can’t open them and 2. Given enough time and determination, my kids could. I’ve taken a few hundred Rad’s standing next to my kids during X-Rays and CAT scans just to hold their hands and ease their fear. I never bought or used one, but I understood why parents would leash their kids like Pomeranians while walking through a mall. I am constantly telling them to slow down on their bikes, to stop running, not to play on the steps, don’t touch the hot curling iron, don’t jump off the bed, stop standing in the tub, and not to get to close to the bathroom after I’ve finished. And I am very aware of making sure we all look both ways before we cross a street or crowded parking lot.
Yet, I don’t want my kids to grow up to be afraid of everything. I want them to be adventurous. Daring. Unafraid of scrapping their knee. So I am the first one to encourage their sessions of jumping from the coffee table to the sofa. I am constantly reassuring my wife that they are fine as they crawl around the swing set like spiders. I showed them how to “skate” on the linoleum and hardwood in their socks and set up a ‘Ninja Warrior’ obstacle course in our basement for them to run through.
Part of me thinks that if I am next to them as they hurdle the dog to get to the sofa or watch as they show me how many steps they can leap down, then its ok. My constant contradiction, from Evel Knievel to Homeland Security agent, is driven by my control over the situation. If I’m close to them (or taking pictures as they do it) then I know I can ease the pain of a black and blue mark. I can clean up their scrapped knee and kiss it better. I can hold their hands as we cross the street.
What scares me most, are the times that I haven’t been able to be there and the times I won’t be able to be there that are yet to come (I wonder if I can pre-order a Xanax prescription now for when they get their driver’s licenses?). Because I can fix boo-boo’s. I can hold their hands as we both get zapped with X-Rays. I can help them up when they fall “ice-skating” in the dining room. But I won’t always be there when temptation and peer pressure try to hold their hands. I may not be there to protect them if a maniac opens fire in a crowded grocery store or move them out-of-the-way of a drunk driver.
So what do I do?
Let them be adventurous but worry. Let them have “ice-time” in the dining room but keep them from dangerous situations. Let them fall down but be there to help the hurt go away. Allow them to apply all their mother and I have taught them but realize they probably won’t all the time. Realize at some point I have to let them go out on their own but make them realize my job keeping them safe won’t stop when they hit a certain age. Accept the fact I won’t/can’t be there all time but never let there come a time that when we’re in a parking lot, I don’t remind them to look both ways.