Is it possible to mourn a tragedy, fight for gun control and mental health access, and manage our own fears and terror without concluding the world is a dangerous place and passing that fear on to our kids? Yes. And as parents, we have no choice. We have to find that balance. Otherwise, we are the ones creating that terrible, dangerous world. Our kids are looking to us to understand what is dangerous and what isn’t, and to teach them to determine when to take risks and when to be cautious. If we teach them that the world is full of evil people seeking to harm them, we are not only giving them false information, we are robbing them of a full life.
A horrific, unfathomable tragedy occurred in Newtown, Connecticut this month. For me, when those children go through my mind, they all have the faces of my precious twins. My maternal instinct tells me to lock the doors, close the shades, batten down the hatches, and teach my children to be afraid. That is the world we live in, right? Don’t talk to strangers, stay inside, don’t touch that, you can’t go in there, you never know, use hand sanitizer, abstinence only, better safe than sorry.
I can’t say how frequently I hear parents musing longingly about how they used to play outside all day from morning until night, left to their own devices to manage relationships with other kids, explore, solve problems, and make their own fun without parental supervision. When I hear these things I’m always puzzled. If these parents know how good this was for them, why don’t they let their children do the same? But before I can even respond, I hear the inevitable, “But this is a different world… you just can’t do that anymore.” Where did we get this idea, and who is benefitting from it? Certainly not our kids.