• Fri, Jan 25 2013

SAHM No More: I Refuse To Worry About My Kids’ Safety

school shootingsSAHM No More explores the the ups-and-downs of navigating a new world of parenting, transitioning from married stay-at-home motherhood to a full-time working, divorced motherhood. And there are a lot of adjustments being made—a lot of adjustments and not a lot of sleep.

This is the first year that my son walks to and from school by himself and spends several hours alone at a time before I get back from work. Before we started this new schedule, I was pretty sure that I would be frantically worried if he failed to answer one of my text messages promptly or was late getting to a friend’s house. I mean, we live in New York City, anything can happen, right? But instead, I’ve found that not only do I not have any anxiety over it, I don’t worry at all.

Just the other day, my son’s piano teacher called me because my son hadn’t turned up for his lesson. I tried texting and calling him to no avail. However, instead of that terrible skin-crawling feeling that something might be wrong, I put my phone down and told myself to wait a few more minutes. Sure enough, I soon heard from the piano teacher that my son had just shown up. He had stayed late with a teacher at school and his phone had run out of battery. Nothing had happened.

The thing is, I didn’t even feel relieved because I hadn’t actually felt worried to begin with. Part of this is because I trust my son. Part of this is because I trust our community. Part of this is because I am not the most neurotic person in general. And part of this, I think, is almost a reaction to all of the things that I’m being told to worry about on a daily basis.

It is almost impossible to ignore the onslaught of horrifying stories that exploit any parent’s worst nightmare—that their child will be harmed. The unfathomable tragedy at Sandy Hook (among other school shootings has led to a national conversation that has turned hysterical at times, with some lunatics (yes, I firmly believe these people are lunatics) who suggest arming teachers to protect our classrooms.

But it’s not just gun violence that parents are supposed to be afraid of. We’re supposed to be afraid of autism and not give our children vaccines. We’re supposed to be afraid of nannies and never let anyone watch our children who isn’t a blood relative. We’re supposed to be afraid raising anything less than a super-genius and not feed our babies formula because it might lower their IQs by a point or two. We’re supposed to be afraid of everything and, I’ve got to admit, this has made me realize how useless fear is, and as a result, I’m afraid of almost nothing.

When I was nine years old I walked to school by myself. Before you think that those were different times, I must agree that they were different times. But those times were NYC in the 1980s. Times now are much, much safer. I had to beg my parents to let me do this and they relented because of how short the distance was and because they knew I would meet up with another friend along the way. I never felt in any danger. I never felt anything except a newfound sense of independence. This is for sure what I want to instill in my kids, this sense of independence. But I don’t mean independence from me, I mean independence from fear.

I hate to think that my children would grow up feeling like there are people out there who are always looking to harm them. That there are bad men with guns hiding behind every corner. That doctors lie about what make us sick and what makes us well. That every choice we make could easily lead us down a path of irreparable disaster. And while I’m not naive enough to think that bad things can’t happen to them, I am positive that I don’t want to live my life or have my kids live theirs thinking that bad things are inevitable.

Tragedies like Sandy Hook shake me to the core and make me appreciate more fully the luck that most of us live with every day, but I know that I can’t live my life worrying about the chance of a catastrophe occurring. Instead, I can just move forward as a mother who teaches my children not to be afraid of the world, and follows that same rule myself.

You can reach this post's author, Kristin Iversen, on twitter.
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  • Amanda

    I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved this post and how I totally and completely agree! I simply refuse to be paralyzed by fear. I hope I can give my kids the opportunity to feel the sense of pride being independent offers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.white.3532507 Paul White

    Thank you!
    I’m so glad I grew up in an era (not that long ago) where it was ok for a 10 year old to go play by themselves for a bit without an adult RIGHT THERE.

    Even as a 2nd and 3rd grader, we were allowed to play in our street (between the cross streets) by ourselves. Everyone on the block grew up fine…

  • http://www.makingloveinthemicrowave.com/ Aja Jackson

    Love this post! I was just talking to some coworkers of mine about being a kid, also in the 80s, playing with friends outside and as I was reminiscing I thought to myself “where were the adults?” I can remember walking to the store, riding my bike through my neighborhood, and just playing around outside with no memory of an adult hovering. I don’t think that my mother was at all uncaring or unconcerned, I just don’t know that the intense fear of every possible thing was as great for her as it is for today’s parents, and I think it made life a lot easier for the parents and the kids involved.

  • Justme

    “We’re supposed to be afraid of nannies and never let anyone watch our children who isn’t a blood relative.” Sadly I would think statistics show we should be MUCH more afraid of our blood relatives than any family outsider when it comes to our children’s safety.

    But besides that small little point, when we raise our children in a way to shield them from OUR fears, we raise FEARFUL children. People who are full of fear don’t change the world. Yes, I am raising my daughter in a world where there is great sadness and terrifying events such as Sandy Hook. But I am also trying to raise her in a manner so that when I launch her out into the world, she isn’t so afraid of it that she can’t make a change for the better.

  • CrazyFor Kate

    YES. This. You can’t put a kid in a bubble. Bad things can happen no matter what you do. The trick is not to get carried away.

  • http://twitter.com/bethany_ramos Bethany Ramos

    Thank you so much!!! I struggle with constant fear about the worst happening, but the other half of me wants to be relaxed and normal to give my child a safe, balanced view of the world. Excellent article.

  • thisshortenough

    If parents are so paranoid about their children’s safety why not send clear boundaries about where they can go? I may have lived in a cul-de-sac but I had a rule. My mam made a rule that I couldn’t go past a certain light pole. Then as I got older I got to go to the top of the road. Then even older I got to go to the nearby shops and green. And the gradual increase in release was great because it meant I learned what I was allowed to do.