It’s a constant battle for most parents. How do we make sure our children are safe and happy, yet gradually let them go out and explore the world? How do we protect them, yet let them grow, explore and develop a sense of self and independence?
What’s funny is we all come to a place where we feel we do our best, and we measure everyone else against that metric. We tend to gravitate towards people who have the same level of parental concern/paranoia as we do, and we tend to judge those who give their children more freedom than we’re comfortable with as “letting their children run wild.” I’m guilty of this judgment, and I’m also sure there are plenty of folks who think I let my kids have more rope than they feel comfortable with. I’d like to think I’m moderate, but time will tell.
Over the past few days, this dance with parental supervision has come into sharp relief. A cousin’s young son is lying in the hospital on a respirator, following a near drowning. No one knows how long he was under water, or whether he will bear permanent scars from this incident or even lose his life. Brief research on what happens to kids who have had this happen to them leads me to emphasize prevention, prevention, prevention- because the news is generally, shall we say, not good for long term prospects unless the child is awake and with it when they get to the hospital.
And it’s hard to think things like “Why wasn’t someone watching him more closely?” But like all aspects of parenting, Monday Morning quarterbacking is of little use. The only good I can think to possibly come from this is to have everyone reading these words hug their kids a little tighter, learn a little bit more about drowning prevention, and never leave a child near water (including the tub) without some adult supervision. Not just in the house, but watching them all the time. It really only takes a moment to shatter the lives of a family.
I feel powerless to help this gorgeous toddler, with his wavy white-blond hair and chubby cheeks, whose life was barely underway. But I hope I can help some others by saying that drowning can happen in moments, and the effects are devastating, and the only “cure” is to be vigilant and avoid the problem in the first place.
In the meantime, my oldest will start driving in the next year, and I know I will again struggle with the dance of independence versus worry. How do I let him grow and explore without having a cardiac arrest whenever he’s in the car, driving on his own, without supervision and without my being able to catch him if he falls or control his safety the same way I could when he was little?
The metrics of worry and protection and parenting change over the years, and we have to dance the line between constant vigilance for their own good and letting them grow up as well. I’m not sure the worry ever goes away. But please- do not take your kids’ safety for granted. It’s not a given, and things can change in a very short period of time, forever.
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Photo graciously provided by Xerones, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved