Tag Archives: fear

Constant Vigilance

row of lit tealights fading into backgroundIt’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.

Constant vigilance.

by Whitney Hoffman

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Photo graciously provided by Xerones, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

Condoning Avoidance

kids hands with friendship braceletsNow that the summer is over and the kids are back in school, I thought I’d take this time to reflect on our latest experience with Summer Camp. The daycare located on site where I work offers summer camp for children entering kindergarten through those entering fifth grade. My son is a veteran now, since this was his third time in the summer camp program. This year was my daughter’s (who just started kindergarten) first time. Up until this summer, she was technically still in the preschool that is offered for the younger kids.

For my daughter, everything new about the way things were done in summer camp caused her to be nervous. She adapted to riding the bus on field trips after I chaperoned a couple of the first ones and she decided that riding the bus wasn’t such a big deal after all. She adapted to field trips in general, even ones I couldn’t go on, both because her big brother was always with her and because she had a great time. She got to know new kids in her class and adapted to making new friends.

The two things she didn’t come around to liking were swimming lessons and what the summer camp called “sports day”, or something very close to a physical education intro to organized sports sort of class. She very strongly disliked both of them with all of the emotion that her little body could generate.

Both my son and daughter disliked sports day enough that getting us out of the house on Wednesday mornings (the day that was sports day) was more than a chore. They’d think of every way possible to delay leaving the house so that we’d arrive late enough that they didn’t have time enough to participate. From waking up crying or just crabby in general, to dragging their feet getting dressed or eating breakfast, we never left on time. After a while, I just decided to stop trying to make them go, and scheduled shopping trips or doctor’s appointments for Wednesday mornings rather than spend all my time nagging them to go. They run around all day, and neither of them are in any way out of shape. I figured it was alright to negotiate this one away.

The last one, swim class, was tougher. I want both my kids to learn how to swim for their own safety. I never formally learned myself, and can sort of get by enough to splash my way through a swimming emergency if need be. For my daughter, she was literally terrified about going. She’d cry in my arms when I dropped her off at school, something she hasn’t done since she was three. She would wake up on swim lesson days sobbing so hard I could barely understand what she was saying and I often thought she was going to make herself sick.

I tried to ask her what was making her so scared of swim lessons. She couldn’t really tell me other than she just really didn’t want to go. I tried explaining that the swim instructors would be there, and her teachers would be there, and that nothing bad was going to happen. Nothing seemed to help her. She would go to the class, but she’d opt to sit next to her teachers on the bench, while her classmates would go in the water and splash around. At this age, none of them are really swimmers, and lessons mostly consist of getting their face wet and floating. Eventually, I let her stay behind at the summer camp and hang out with her brother on swim lesson days (they sent girls as a group on one day and boys as a group on another), rather than go with her class to the pool.

I know that others would probably have pushed her to conquer her fears, or somehow made her just suck it up and go, but that wasn’t what my gut was telling me. She was so out of sorts and so communicative about how distressing she found the lessons, that I felt it was alright to let her skip this year. There will be swimming lessons again next year. She will have another chance at trying. I felt it was better to listen to her feelings and find a way to work with them and validate them, rather than just forcing her to do something that’s “good for her.”

For me, listening to my children and helping them to conquer there fears at their own rate has always been more important to me than forcing them to get there on my terms and in my timetable. They’ve managed to accomplish things they first were afraid to, and they have done it when they felt safe enough and ready to do them. Perhaps it’s going to take longer this way, but in the end, I hope that I’ve helped them to feel confident that they can step back and take a breather from life when they need to every now and then, as long as they give it another try when they are ready.

by Rocket Science Mom

Photo graciously provided by amanda.venner , through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

Fear for Family's Safety

shadow figure fleeing shadow of handIn my area we have a place called the Arizona Science Center. They have rooms with themes and exhibits similar to a museum, but unlike a museum you can touch or play with some of the displays. Right now they have an traveling exhibit on Fears. Did you know there is a fear of the knees? I guess there is a fear for pretty much everything.

Before my recent fainting episode we were checking out the fear exhibit and they have a mural of various fears we encounter as we age. My daughters have a fear of crowds, which is common for little kids. They may or may not out grow this fear. I was kind of surprised to see the fear of illness, but after I thought about it for a moment I guess it is common for us to fear catching a cold, the flu or a major illness. Then I spotted the fear for your family’s safety. Boy, I can relate to that one.

On Monday my husband was home so I made the decision not to attend my daughters’ gymnastics class since he could take them. This was the first gymnastics class I have missed. Part of me felt guilty for not going and the other part thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the couch by myself watching whatever caught my fancy.

Yet this little voice inside my head would not let me fully relax. Since I didn’t go to the class with my daughters I did not know if they were safe — during the entire 5 miles round trip. Yes, they were with their father, but accidents can happen at any time to any one (including me). A few months ago my girls spent the day with their grandparents and I had the same anxieties then too. My husband and I were supposed to be enjoying a day out together and while it was fun I couldn’t help but worry/hope they were going to make it safely back to Grandpa and Grandma’s house; which they did.

There is some sense of security when I am with my kids. I don’t worry about whether or not they are safe because if anything does happen I know that I am there. Is this normal? What fears do you have regarding your family and their safety?

by Kelly Damron

Photo graciously provided by stuant63, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

911 Emergency

side of emergency vehicle stating call 911 in emergencyThe first time I fainted was during band practice when I was a freshman in high school. We were outside and it was hot. I vividly recall saying to the gal next to me (her name was Daphne), “I don’t feel very good.” She responded back, “I don’t feel good either.” The next thing I remember is waking up and finding myself on the ground. It was a little embarrassing fainting in front of my classmates, but there was nothing I could do about it so I quickly moved on.

Just 1 week ago, I fainted again. The circumstances this time were drastically different; my children were in my car as my vision was going and I knew I was just about to faint. Somehow I was able to keep myself awake long enough to pull over and find a parking spot. I threw open the car doors and urged my daughters to hurry up and get inside the McDonald’s restaurant. Then I woke up on the ground to the sound of my daughters crying in the car as they stared down at me. They didn’t know what to do. I had never taught them how to use 911. I had never prepared them for action in case of an emergency.

After I woke up and got up off the ground,  I was determined to get into the restaurant. The thought of calling 911 seemed very dramatic to me so I didn’t make the call. I thought I could get into the restaurant and gather myself with the help of cool air, cold water and food. I was wrong. I fainted again about 20 yards from the door. When two amazingly thoughtful women helped me into the restaurant one of them called 911. It was a call I should have made about 5 minutes earlier.

When we got home I taught my daughters how to use my cell phone to call 911. Pack Rat was very attentive and practiced without actually pushing the send button. Copy Cat didn’t want to have anything to do with learning about 911, she didn’t want to hear anymore about what had happened or what could happen. Then I quizzed them on our info: what is our address, what is Daddy’s phone number, how do you call 911 in an emergency, etc.

On the news I’ve seen stories where a 4 year old knew how to call 911 and ask for help. I have been planning to teach my girls 911 and how to handle an emergency, but I kept putting it off. Until now. At school they had a visit from a group of firefighters. They handed out tips for the kids, one of which was to create an emergency plan in case of a fire. We have not done this before. We will be doing this now.

It is easy to become complacent and think that nothing bad will happen, that was me until last Thursday. However, my recent experience has shed an appreciative light on preparedness. How about you? How prepared are you and your children for a real 911 emergency?

by Kelly Damron

Photo graciously provided by BenSpark, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

Going, Going, Going….

a bicyclist heading down a mountainMy eldest son is leaving.

In a way, this started when he was one-and-a-half (sniff, I remember it like it was yesterday!) and I watched him toddle out of my orbit. “Ha, he’ll be back” I told myself, having read in a book that toddlers NEVER stray too far from the laps of their Mummies. Five minutes later, I was chasing after a disappearing dot. Naturally, when he noticed me coming after him, he ran faster. I could catch him, though! Later, happy that I would join him in his running-away game and exhausted by his brief independence, he slept on my lap.

Toddlers do that. They know, in their wisdom, that one day they will really leave us. So they give us a taste of the empty lap, and wean us gradually.

It is so gradual that I barely noticed it, but now I could not catch my son if I tried. I can only enjoy his company when I have it, and wonder what he’s up to the rest of the time. We’re both early birds, and potter about in the morning while the rest of the family is asleep. He makes breakfast sometimes, enough for everyone, leaving bacon and scrambled eggs in the pan for his brothers. He leaves for school with a wave, remembers his rugby kit, forgets his phone. I text him and hear a *beep* from his bedside table.

It strikes me that I am no longer raising my son: it is too late, now, for me to decide that I should read a certain ‘good’ book to him or teach him to catch a ball. He knows what he wants to read and do, and just quietly goes and does it. He will pop out and buy a chocolate bar, a game, a model, some balsa wood… What is there to stop him buying cigarettes? Alcohol? It would be easy, lots of kids do it.

He goes on his bike, and is allowed to stay out till evening. I have to avoid thinking of road accidents and weirdos. When he comes in, sweaty and starving, I pretend that I wasn’t worried and ask open-ended questions about school, the skate park, his buddies. Luckily, he loves to talk.

Adolescence is a scary time for parents. We remember what it was like, and can only let our kids go with the hope that everything we’ve said and done for the past thirteen years have been The Right Things. We can be grateful for our families, our friends, our neighbourhood, our teachers, who have helped to raise our kids. We can nag, a little, but the seeds of the adolescent personality were sowed years earlier. The baby I massaged now gives a great shoulder-rub. The small boy who learned poetry by heart because it was funny now has a stash of witty comebacks. The kid who was encouraged to keep strange pets (insects, spiders, caterpillars) now has a passion for science. The messy young chef who spilled raw eggs disastrously between the stove and counter-top now makes a wicked omelette.

I am so proud of him. When he does a kind deed, or excels in something, or just sits there… My heart swells with pride. This handsome, smart, likeable young man is MY son!

I nag: Wash your hair, pick up those socks! I ask, encourage and listen. I cook mountains of Teen Food for Growing Boys, and watch it disappear. I stop what I’m doing and take advantage of every opportunity to raise my sons, because soon they will be all grown up and they won’t need me in that way. They will THINK, for a time, that they don’t need me at all… but we all know how that will pan out. We’ve all got mothers, after all. And I still need mine!

by Nan Sheppard

Photo graciously provided by andy_c, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved