A Fearful Society- Rearing Children in a Scary World

It is the morning after and my body aches, but mostly in a good way. A few nicks and scrapes and the odd bruise are my stalwart companions following three hours of basketball and a short conversation with the boys.

We reviewed the usual topics of work, women and children. The usual complaints were voiced and harrumphs were issued over one and all. It was good night but one that made me a little sad and here is why.

We live in a fearful society. The monsters of our childhood have come out from under our beds and closets and now patrol our neighborhoods. The murderers, rapists and pedophiles are everywhere, or so we seem to fear. The childhood that I had is not the one that my children are experiencing.

I walked to school and to the store to pick up a pack of gum or some candy. During the summer we rode our bikes and ran around unsupervised all day long. The routine didn’t vary much during the school year. Class ended, homework completed and we were out on the street.

But that is not what happens anymore. Fear rules the day. We drive our children to school and arrange playdates. The kids are monitored in ways that our parents didn’t. Perhaps if cellphones existed when we were young they would have used them or maybe not.

In the schools our children are often taught that the only way to resolve conflict is through words and that fighting can never be tolerated. Yet the reality is that sometimes words are not enough. Sometimes there comes a moment where your child has to set aside their vocabulary of restraint and take off the gloves. It is not the preferred choice or what we want, but sometimes that is just how it has to be.

Out in public visits to the restrooms are monitored because it only takes a moment for the monster to act. Sometimes when I am in the men’s room mothers open the door and engage in a running dialogue with their sons. Occasionally they come in, terrified of what might happen if they don’t.

Halloween approaches. We’ll take the kids trick or treating and then force them to wait to eat their candy. Not because it is after bedtime but because we fear what might be in there.

I stand back and watch my kids do their thing. I ask questions about their day and eagerly await their answers. How do I teach them to be independent. How do I help them become streetwise when we drive them everywhere.

Fear shouldn’t run our lives. It shouldn’t prevent our children from living the lives they deserve, yet sometimes I feel like it does.

Balance is what I am seeking. A middle of the road approach that combines the practical with the sensible. I am not sure if I have found it yet, but if I do you’ll be among the first to know.

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