Monday, October 6, 2008

be afraid...

You have probably already heard the story.  It made headlines around the world and was on the morning shows, etc.  I am not a watcher of news programs, so I didn't know anything about it until I was perusing a Reader's Digest at the salon the other day.  A woman let her nine-year-old son ride the New York subway -- ALONE.  You can read the story from the mom's perspective here.
Her site is very interesting.  And I agree with her in many ways.  She speaks to something in me... something that wants my kids to experience that kind of freedom.

It goes against everything I've been taught, though.  My dad worked for a time with the criminally insane.  He's worked with abusers and murderers and abductors.  So, he wanted us to be safe.  Yet, even so, I remember walking or riding my bike to the store down the street.  My friend and I would walk to the nursing home near her house.  My biggest thrills came when I was able to venture out beyond the normal boundaries.  It is empowering and courage building for a kid to be able to go out alone and live to tell about it.

We want our kids to be safe, though.  But our parents and grandparents did, too.  And is keeping them safe supposed to be our entire purpose?  What about teaching them how to fend for themselves a bit.  What about molding them into people who are self-sufficient enough to survive life?  I wonder if some of this mentality is why there are so many young adults still living at home?  

The truth is, it's always been a dangerous world.  When there weren't child molesters around every corner, there was polio.  Kids have always been susceptible to getting hit by cars, falling out of trees or off their ponies.  On the one hand we complain (ok, I complain) that my kids are couch potatoes, but then, that's the safest place for them to be, right?  
What am I teaching them by that?  This world is horrifying? Terrible?  That's not a very nice thing to do.  And you know what?  I don't know that it's really all that bad.  I think we just hear about every single incident that happens and it makes it seem like a lot worse.  Terrible things happen.  We all could tell of at least one case right off the top of our heads.  But isn't it better to really live and take a few risks than to spend your entire life avoiding danger of any kind and also missing out on life?

I am so completely talking to myself with this post.  This woman's article introduced a new concept to me.  And I don't even know if she's a Christian.  Shouldn't those of us with faith in a Huge, Loving God be the ones out there fighting off this culture of fear that has descended on us?  

And where is the line between fear and prudence?  It seems people fall far on one side or the other -- being over protective or being negligent.  Where is the balance?

I know not everyone struggles with these things.  But as I mentioned, a lot of the people who don't overprotect their kids also don't really care about seat belts and helmets and keeping guns locked up.

This is a frustrating topic for me.  I want to talk about the fact that even bull riders seem to have fallen into this mindset, but that's for another post.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this.  What do you let your kids do?  What do you definitely prohibit them from doing?  I mean in terms of safety here.  Is this even an issue for you?  What do you think of the woman letting her kid ride the subway?


  1. We live in a dualistic society. We preach protecting our children and improved safety, while allowing our children to have anything they want (be it toys, sneakers, clothing, unencumbered Internet access). I am not so much talking about the un-Churched, I am talking to the self-proclaimed Evangelical Christian parents. The Church in the USA (and other developed countries) have fallen into a deep, deep slumber and thus allowing its children to run amok because the parents are worse than the kids when it come to materialism, over-emphasis in the non-essentials. The American Church is in need of an awakening and to repent from being too in love with worldly things and not caring for their kids!

    Before you respond negatively toward me and to this comment, remember: "Oh, I am not referring to YOU. You are prefect."

    Lord have mercy on us sinners!

  2. Ha ha ha! I'm so glad you noticed!

    We all struggle with materialism, I think. And my kids have way more junk than they should. And so along with teaching them to be afraid, we also teach them that stuff comes easy. Instant gratification can be had. We've been working on this, though...

  3. I know I am overprotective with my kids (I know they are still small). I'm sure there is some kind of balance between protecting our children and allowing them to be free, but I'm still figuring that one out. Right now, I'm just praying a lot.

  4. What an interesting take. This is something that I have seriously been struggling with. My kids are always outside..kay you remember how they are. I actually have to make a rule that no neighborhood kids on Sunday..I need a break!! Still...they are wanting to go all over and it makes me uneasy. I think the thing with T has gotten me a little more high strung as well. I really agree with all her points. I don't know if I could let my kid take the subway. Still..I do remember the thrill when my Mom and Dad gave me more freedom..and the feeling when they closed in too. A lot to think on. Thank you...I needed to read and hear this! :)

  5. I think nine is too young. Perhaps it was out of necessity. I would probably allow it at 12.

    We don't live in the big city like that so I don't know what I would do.I guess it depends on the kid. I think just about everyone would agree that nine is rather young for that.

  6. I ride the NY subways everyday. I actually see young kids going to school
    (alone, or with a same-aged friend) every day.
    I was an overprotective mom, and still am, although my daughter is already 22.
    I, personally, do not feel safe on the subways.
    I am all for a child having a safe adventure, really I am, but in my opinion, riding the subway by yourself is not a safe adventure.

  7. I agree with Sue. I don't think the subway is the place to allow children freedom and a new experience. As parents we have to use wisdom. One of our main jobs is to protect the children. One of a mom's main jobs is to teach a child to be afraid.

    Children can have freedom in a 1000 different ways without putting them into unnecessary danger. To put a child into a situation that may let him experience freedom and thinking for himself but take a chance he may lose his live or experience something else horrible does not seem to be a wise thing.

  8. I have to disagree with qotw's semantics when she said "One of a mom's main jobs is to teach a child to be afraid."

    I would say WISE, not afraid. We need to teach our kids that there are adults who can be trusted and respected. We need to teach our kids to take risks (within age appropriate boundaries.) We need to of course, teach our children the facts of stranger danger.

    But installing within our children fear is wrong. We will end up raising children who are not only hooked on instant gratification, but children who don't know how to grow courage.

    I have a 9 year old boy and I would not let him ride a subway. But I don't know all her circumstances and I have never been on a subway, so maybe if I was her I would.

  9. I read something about saying Pay Attention instead of saying Be Careful. My girls would have never crossed a street if it were up to my husband. A friend wouldn't let her daughter ride her bike for a long time after a neighbor boy was hit and killed by a car. However, she would put her in the car and go. Why was she safer in a car than on a bike? That was before seat belts, too.

  10. I think it is a mom's job to teach children fear of cars, poison, barking dogs, climbing when it's dangerous, going with strangers, spiders, guns, knives, hot water, stoves, and many other things. That doesn't mean I think children should be taught to be afraid of EVERYTHING.

    I have raised two children who have many wonderful qualities. They are not very fearful, so apparently I found the right balance. Every mom has to find her right balance.

  11. My youngest (12) was wanting some adventure like what she reads in her little pre-teen bopper books. So I went to Wendy's with her and waited in the car while she went in by herself to order our food. It took forever and I kept looking and even went to the window to check on her. She did it, and guess what? It was almost too much and I said " you wanted some adventure" she said "oh" It was enough for her.


I love to hear your thoughts!