why i let my children out of my sight

Friday, September 27, 2013

This is not the type of post I usually write.

Nor was hers a post I normally read.  MamaCusser, full of the venom and neck rolling I avoid (and if you read through the comments, you'll see why).  What is ruining our kids? she asked.  YOU, she responded.  You, with your fear mongering parenting, who won't let your big kids out of your sight and won't let your kindergartener feed himself.  You are ruining your own kids.

It's not the type of post I usually read, but I thought about it all day.

And the next day, and the next.  While I don't subscribe to her method of communication, I agree with the larger point.  Fear destroys people.

Fear of shame keeps us from asking the question.  Fear of discomfort keeps us from trying something hard.  Fear of the unknown keeps us from ever pulling out of the driveway.

As a parent, fear for our children's well-being is overwhelming, protective, and innate.  But when it controls us, it harms our kids.

Several high profile murders have happened around Denver.  The Columbine shootings, the Batman killings, and Jon Benet Ramsey's murder have all occurred in the wider metro area.  Last fall, a young girl was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and brutally murdered on a safe suburban street.  Colorado seems to be a lightning rod for evil against children.  Given its history, it would be easy - intuitive, even - to put my children on lockdown.

But I refuse to be ruled by fear.

Do you remember the thrill of riding your bike as a kid?  For just a few minutes, no one told you what to do or where to go.  It's a tiny sip of freedom, and as a kid I reveled in it.  I want my children to experience that thrill.  I want them playing outside, with kids of different ages and backgrounds.  I want them to deal with a little drama, learn to handle a bully by refusing to play with mean kids, learn to look out for each other when adults aren't breathing down their necks.

I won't let the things that go bump in the night - as real as they are - destroy my kids' freedom.  I want my children to learn to reject fear.

Of course certain conditions make freedom possible.  Our old street was too busy for children to safely ride, and had almost no one with whom they could play.  In our current area, school-age kids congregate in front yards all over the neighborhood.  I also have clear rules about playing outside.  Don't go inside anyone's house, at all, ever (because most perpetrators are acquaintances, and I can't require a background check from every neighbor's cousin).  Stick together.  Stay within set boundaries.  I also have a list of neighbors' numbers, and I can always text a neighbor whose yard stretches past my purview.

But ultimately, smaller streets and text messages do not put my mind at ease.  I don't trust the neighborhood with my children.  I trust God with them.  That's a hard statement to make, because I know God loved Jon Benet too.  Still, it's what I've got.  It's all I've got.  The only way to combat fear is to trust.  Trust that God loves my kids more than I do.  Just as He offers us freedom because of His love, I must do the same for my children.

Despite her snarkiness, MotherCusser was right.  Fear destroys people.  But trust restores them.

Well.  Maybe this is the kind of post I usually write after all.


  1. This is also how I parent. My kids ride their bikes up and down our road. I can see the entire road from my living room window if I need to reassure myself. They have three friends with whom they are allowed to go inside houses. I know the families. I have the ability to send Candy a text and have her send my kids home and vice versa. I stay stressed about so much in life. I can't add helicopter parenting. I just can't.

  2. I need to learn all about this. I was brought up under wonderfully 'fear free' parenting. I am liberated because of it, but, I find it so very hard to do for my own children.

  3. Once as we drove by the 7-11 a block from our house I said to my husband, "Won't it be fun when the kids are old enough to ride their bikes or walk over to the gas station for a treat all by themselves? Remember how much fun that was for us as kids?" He was appalled I would even suggest such a thing! I hope and pray I can stick to my guns, and my faith, in trusting my children to God whether or not I trust every member of the community. I don't want to keep my little birds in a cage all their life.

    1. Liz it's so hard to let them do it! But I don't want to raise fearful children, so I continue to fight against my own fear. Thanks for reading!

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    1. Vocabulary Development and Instruction: A Prerequisite for School Learning
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    Cunningham AE, Stanovich KE.

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