Childrearing

The Overprotected Kid: I’m Raising One And I’m Not Happy About It

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shutterstock_181812098__1395340756_142.196.167.223I remember the playgrounds of my childhood; wooden totem poles, giant cement structures for climbing and not a cushioned ground in sight. I also remember the freedom of being able to run around the neighborhood getting into any nook my little heart desired. My child is only three, but already I can tell he lacks the abandon and fearlessness that I had as a child. And it’s totally my fault.

The first time I realized my child could bleed, he was a year-and-a-half old. He was doing a little happy dance after I put him in his pajamas. He twirled a little too fast, slipped and slammed his face right into the corner of a nesting table. The blood came fast as did the swelling. My husband has a knack for panicking, so he convinced me he needed stitches. We went to the ER.

Apparently, kids’ little chubby faces swell and bruise easily and the spot right next to the eye is notorious for heavy bleeding. These were all things we did not know. My child didn’t need stitches – he barely needed a band-aid. The bleeding stopped and the swelling eventually went down. He had a shiner for a few days, but besides that the only other thing we were left with was a hefty bill from the ER. His insurance had somehow lapsed and he wasn’t covered.

I don’t know if it was the realization that my child could easily get hurt or the paranoia that came when I realized he would be without insurance for a little bit longer while the glitch was settled – but something changed in me after that. All of a sudden, I was really jumpy and nervous while watching him play. Directives like “be careful” and “slowly!” started coming out of my mouth with greater frequency. I hovered closely around him at the park where he played.

I think about all of this today because of an article in The Atlantic about something writer Hanna Rosin refers to as “the overprotected kid.” Mine is one of them – and I hate it.

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The article speaks to the way in which the culture of the playground has completely changed by contrasting it with a playground called “The Land” in North Wales:

The Land is a playground that takes up nearly an acre at the far end of a quiet housing development in North Wales. It’s only two years old but has no marks of newness and could just as well have been here for decades. The ground is muddy in spots and, at one end, slopes down steeply to a creek where a big, faded plastic boat that most people would have thrown away is wedged into the bank. The center of the playground is dominated by a high pile of tires that is growing ever smaller as a redheaded girl and her friend roll them down the hill and into the creek.

The Land is an “adventure playground.” These playgrounds began sprouting up in the 1940’s as a result of the efforts of children’s advocate and architectΒ Lady Marjory Allen of Hurtwood. Allen “wanted to encourage a ‘free and permissive atmosphere’ with as little adult supervision as possible. The idea was that kids should face what to them seem like ‘really dangerous risks’ and then conquer them alone.” Allen believed this built self-confidence and courage.

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107 Comments

  1. Alicia Kiner

    March 20, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    I’m more worried about other people’s kids and other people than my kids falling down and getting hurt when we go to playgrounds. And that’s sad too, but it’s true. My kids have a favorite park, and it’s a favorite of mine too, mostly because it’s safe for me and fun for them. But there are always the kids there that are really too big (14+) to be playing there, doing things like walking up the top of the tube slides or across the tops of the monkey bars, that really worry me. Yes, what they’re doing is perfectly age appropriately dangerous, but there are kids from age 1 to 10 there who shouldn’t be attempting these things, and will want to try.

    • Paul White

      March 20, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      10 is fine to be on a playground. Hell, we used to go out all the time when my brother and I were about 5 and 7 respectively.

    • arrow2010

      March 20, 2014 at 4:00 pm

      Guess what kids were walking on top of the monkey bars 30 years ago. What’s the big deal?

    • Alicia Kiner

      March 20, 2014 at 4:43 pm

      I know kids were doing these things…. I was one of them. But I wasn’t doing it at 1 or even 5. That’s my point. I’m afraid of what the older kids are teaching my kids. Not that that particularly is something that kids shouldn’t do eventually, but just that older kids teach younger kids to do stuff. shrug.

    • Katherine Handcock

      March 20, 2014 at 4:52 pm

      I think what @arrow2010:disqus is pointing out is that at age 1 or 5, you were still seeing kids try these things. Chances are good that you even tried it, and you weren’t big/strong enough to manage. Kids always experiment with what the older kids are doing; big kids are the most fascinating creatures out there!

      Based on watching my son, I’ve observed that his attitude to what the big kids are doing is, “Whoa, I can’t wait until I’m big enough to try that” not, “I could do that now.” On the occasion that he decides to try something he’s really not ready for, that’s when I’ll pipe up and say, “That’s not a good idea, kiddo.” But I don’t think seeing the big kids playing makes him any more likely to try crazy stuff — he comes up with plenty of doozies on his own πŸ™‚

    • Paul White

      March 20, 2014 at 5:41 pm

      Man, my attitude was (and to an extent still is) “I can do that too!

      I got bruised a lot.

    • Katherine Handcock

      March 20, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Ha! Maybe it depends on the age difference between the kid watching and the kid doing — Ben is 5, and once kids get bigger/older than about 9 or 10, he seems to feel like they’re enough bigger that he shouldn’t imitate. I figured that his generally crazy nature would make him more inclined to mimic the big kids! Personality is always a factor πŸ˜‰

    • Stephanie

      March 20, 2014 at 11:20 pm

      I love it when the 14 year olds are at the playground. If they’re playing at the park with little kids being supervised, they’re not getting into trouble. They’re busy being kids. In my experience, they have been the best babysitters. The odds are your kids are doing things not age appropriate for everyone either.

    • notorious

      March 21, 2014 at 1:23 pm

      This is my attitude on Halloween too. People always complain about older kids trick-or-treating. I don’t care. They aren’t getting pregnant or smoking crack, give them a break.

  2. Rachel Sea

    March 20, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Kids have to go out and hurt themselves some so they know what they are capable of. If 7 year olds in the Amazon can go out with a machete and bring home dinner, I think American kids can be allowed to decide whether to slide headfirst down the slide.

    • Paul White

      March 20, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      My toddler was on the slide last week and wound up turning around during the slide and I didn’t manage to catch him πŸ™ I felt awful about it; he got wood chips jammed all in his face.

      Still, he survived. And he likes slides, so he’ll still get to use them.

    • arrow2010

      March 20, 2014 at 4:01 pm

      Better to make him a bubble boy.

    • Katherine Handcock

      March 20, 2014 at 5:49 pm

      This is a very good point. I’d rather my son or daughter fall off a piece of playground equipment at 5 and learn what overbalancing feels like (and that falling hurts!) than have them discover that off, say, a ski lift at 12.

    • K.

      March 20, 2014 at 6:07 pm

      Yup.

      My sister is a psychologist and she talks about the fact that children who don’t experience enough risk as children grow into being teenagers who are out of control with risk because they don’t have an adequate understanding of their capabilities (as you point out) and of the consequences.

    • Williwaw

      March 20, 2014 at 6:51 pm

      I knew a woman who had a special soft helmet for her 8 month old – not the kind that corrects an unusually-shaped head, but one specifically meant to prevent the kid from bumping his little head on things as he crawled around. How are kids supposed to learn judgment when parents try to protect them from the tiniest bit of pain? (I ask this as a rhetorical, non-judgy, question, since I know I am on the overprotective side…but even I recognize that a kid has to learn for themself that bumping your head hurts.)

    • Rachel Sea

      March 20, 2014 at 7:01 pm

      Bad Life Lessons #347: learning that bashing your head into things doesn’t hurt, right before the jumping-off-things, running-without-looking age.

    • Williwaw

      March 20, 2014 at 7:04 pm

      And that’s what I tell myself as my son tries to scale the bookcase or jump from the chair to the coffee table…that it will make him more agile and less likely to get hurt a few years down the road when I’m not watching (he’s only 2 now)…

  3. MerlePerle

    March 20, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    I’m surprised my daughter didn’t think her name was ‘careful’ when she was a toddler. It was basically all I ever said to her. Now she’s very cautious when it comes to heights, her bike, crossing the streets, which is great because I don’t need to worry. But I also wish she were more adventurous sometimes!

  4. Jill

    March 20, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    I think it’s more about the kid than the situation. My mother was VERY over-protective. Couldn’t go anywhere by myself. Constantly checking to see where I was. To the point other kids mad jokes about it. it was that obvious. And I have a very free spirit. Moved to London right out of school without knowing anyone. Came back home (a small town in south jersey) after my visa was up and after a few months packed my bags and moved to NYC. All with barely any money and no contacts. Protecting your kids just keeps them safe. They will be whoever they are!

  5. TngldBlue

    March 20, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    I feel you Maria. I worry and fret way too much. I was a wild child who would take any dare & always had legs covered in bandaids-heck the time I shattered my elbow I was all when can jump this joint & show everyone my awesome cast? I want that for my kid. I’ve often wondered if it’s because I’m an older mom and have lost some of that carefree spirit I had when in my 20’s & 30’s…I don’t know!

  6. Robotic Socks

    March 20, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    I never learned to climb a chain linked fence. πŸ™

  7. jendra_berri

    March 20, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Playgrounds are shit these days. Where are the long fireman’s poles to slide down? The long, high chains to climb up? The high rings to traverse? The suspended tires to crawl through? Every single damn playground I see is boring as ass. It’s a wonder kids want to play in them at all.
    I’ve been making an effort to let my son move freely in the living room. He can still hurt himself in there, but it’s childproofed, so he can’t hurt himself seriously. I’ve been able to sit back and watch him go, and can now determine if he really hurt himself or is just looking for attention.
    I totally think there’s a culture of coddling children and every part of me believes it’ll lead to bad outcomes. I’m not a hoverer and I’m surrounded by parents that are. So I look like a careless ass when I’m at an Early Years Centre, for example, and my son takes a few small spills and I tell him he’s fine. It’s hard to stay strong and keep my convictions when other parents are fawning over my son’s tiny booboos and I’m not, and instead am encouraging him to get back up and play.
    Maybe I’m just a hard ass. But this is how my mom raised me, so I’m just doing what feels natural. It just happens to be in conflict with modern norms.

    • Lilly

      March 20, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      I find this too — there are a couple near me that have plaques indicating what ages they are geared towards and it is really pretty funny, one is 5-9 but only toddlers are generally on it and one is 8-12 and that one usually has 5-9 year-olds on it.
      The counter is that there are a few adventure playgrounds and they are always packed with kids of all ages having a blast.

    • Lilly

      March 20, 2014 at 4:01 pm

      @jendra_berri:disqus — you mention early years centre — if you are Toronto try the Dufferin Groove adventure playground — nowhere near the level of the one on Wales mentioned in the Atlantic article but the whole playground has a more retro feel and it is pretty fun to play in.

    • allisonjayne

      March 20, 2014 at 4:36 pm

      Seconding this! Love Dufferin Grove.

    • Natasha B

      March 20, 2014 at 3:52 pm

      I totally understand this. They just ‘remodeled’ the playground a block from our house, and it doesn’t. Even. Have. SWINGS. wth?!
      Growing up, our parents used to take us to this fantastic one that was all wood, you could run all over and climb super high and hide so many places, and it was amazing. Sigh.

    • jendra_berri

      March 20, 2014 at 4:21 pm

      I had one of those 1 minute away from my house. Sigh x 2

    • Katherine Handcock

      March 20, 2014 at 4:39 pm

      There is a playground very much like the one you describe at the elementary school that my son will go to in the fall…I’m pretty sure once he realizes that he will be going there EVERY DAY I will never get a complaint about going to school again!

      We knew some folks setting up a playground structure at a local park a few years ago, and they found that the insurance rates they would have had to pay if they had installed swings were so high that it just didn’t make sense.

    • SarahJesness

      March 20, 2014 at 6:20 pm

      A playground without swings? THAT’S LIKE HAVING A CAR THAT CAN’T DRIVE

    • Williwaw

      March 20, 2014 at 6:53 pm

      Playgrounds don’t seem to have merry-go-rounds, either. No more playing Got-It, Dropped-It.

    • Natasha B

      March 20, 2014 at 7:17 pm

      I’ve noticed that too. SUCKING THE FUN OUT OF CHILDHOOD

    • G.S.

      March 21, 2014 at 2:12 am

      At the fairgrounds an hour or so from my place up North, there is a merry-go-round. Me and my friends wanted to play on that more than we wanted go on any of the actual fair rides when we saw it (we were in our late teens when this happened).

    • SarahJesness

      March 22, 2014 at 12:50 am

      Yeah, I’ve definitely noticed the lack of merry-go-rounds. Not that I pay close attention to playgrounds, since I don’t have kids, but I’ve walked my dog at a lot of parks and merry-go-rounds have gotten pretty rare even since I was a kid. (and I’m only 20! What the hell happened?!) Thinking about it, the same goes for climbing structures. Big climbing structures, even just monkey bars, aren’t as common as they used to be.

    • Natasha B

      March 20, 2014 at 7:19 pm

      I’m still hostile about it. We’ll be driving to the one farther away that has swings.

    • arrow2010

      March 20, 2014 at 4:02 pm

      You can thank the Lawyer’s Guild and the Democratic Party. Thanks libs!

    • G.S.

      March 21, 2014 at 2:41 am

      I don’t think it’s the Democratic Party’s fault, per se (I’m Canadian and we have this same bubblewrapping bullshit over here), but I will agree that a lot of the problem is that it seems that more parents are more willing to sue for injuries at a playground than before (America does seem to be the place to go for frivolous lawsuits nowadays), thus causing insurance rates to go up to the point where a good, fun playground is unaffordable, or cities/schools take them down preemptively. One of the playgrounds I used to play in used to have “Play at Own Risk” signs put up all along the fence (and it was a crazy small area), but it still got the teetertotters and possibly swings taken down. Maybe the rest of it is gone now, too. I haven’t really been there in a while.

      And they wonder why kids are so overweight nowadays. They only took away things that would encourage a kid to actually play on them for an hour a day. (And organized sports are too damned expensive for a lot of people, and only really have practices once or twice a week. Not to mention that it’s still all completely adult controlled.)

    • pixie

      March 20, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      Growing up, if I fell down, or off my bike, or whatever, my parents would usually tell me to suck it up if it was nothing too bad, like a cut, scrape, or bruise (of course if it was anything bad, they’d take me to the doctor or hospital!)

    • the_ether

      March 21, 2014 at 5:13 am

      Wash the gravel out of your knee and get back on your bike! We lived 30 minutes drive from the nearest hospital, so we only went for medical assistance if it required stitches or a cast.

    • pixie

      March 21, 2014 at 8:16 am

      Yep, that’s pretty much how my childhood was. Clean it, slap on a bandaid, and you’re good to go! We only lived about a 5 minute drive and because of the Canadian health system didn’t have to pay out of pocket for anything in the hospital, too. My parents were just pretty good at judging when something was serious and when it wasn’t.

      Actually, the only time I can remember going to the hospital for my own injury-related cause was when I was about 4 and needed stitches from having gotten a hockey puck slap shot to my forehead (an accident done by a 5 year old). The one part about that that sticks out for me is I was mad that the hospital, who gave me a choice of blue, black, or purple stitches, didn’t have orange stitches. Since in my 4 year old mind, the colour of my stitches was the most important thing at that point, not that I had a gaping wound on my eyebrow.

    • the_ether

      March 21, 2014 at 9:52 am

      Yep, Aussie health system here πŸ™‚ when j was about 10 and cut my calf on an errant piece of jagged metal that was somehow sticking off my bike, I was most upset that I wasn’t going to be able to watch them put the stitches in.

  8. Jill

    March 20, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Our parents kept tabs on us but we still got hurt all the time. (What kid thinks about the fact that their hands are greasy after dinner before jumping from playset to monkey bars?) I am pretty calm when stuff goes down but I still always feel like I need a professional around to tell me how bad stuff is. My mom was a nurse and my husband is an EMT so I’m sure I’ll defer to him when our kids inevitably break themselves.

  9. elle

    March 20, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    I am the exact opposite and sometimes I worry I’m too laissez faire about his safety. Oh, you wanna jump down the jump that’s taller then you? Ok. You wanna try and climb that huge slide? Ok. You climbed off the back of the couch and landed on the slate? You’re fine, I’m sure of it. Idk, I think it’s just because of how I was raised: very outdoorsy thrill seeking father. I just haven’t found that middle ground between too hands off and stifling his adventurous side yet.

    • Katherine Handcock

      March 20, 2014 at 5:47 pm

      I let my kids do all of these things too, if it makes you feel any better πŸ™‚

  10. Momma425

    March 20, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    My mom discussed this with me reciently.
    Back in the 80’s and 90’s- she watched the news and read magazines. There were stories and statistics, but she was not swimming in them the way that we do today. Everything you can possibly imagine- there is a story somewhere on the internet about some kid dying while doing it. Being exposed to SO many horror stories, it is only natural to feel a bit hover-y.
    We live in a HOA, and literally have this little cute playground across the street from our house. And let me clarify- when I say scorss the street, I mean across the private cul-de-sac all of 5 feet away from the curb. My mom? She was aware that kids get hit by cars. She was aware that sometimes kids fall off of playground equipment and break their tailbones. She was aware of perverts/predators. But she wasn’t being constantly reminded and bombarded with terrible stories on a daily basis. She probably would have let me go by myself across to the little park, and watched from the front yard, while doing yard work outside, or from the window. Me? I still make my five year old hold hands, and stay right in the little gated area. I’m not trying to be a helecopter parent. But the world is just…different.

    • arrow2010

      March 20, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      Well that’s the thing. Back in the 80s there wasn’t the internet and parents weren’t getting a steady stream of horror stories. People just lived their lives normally. Now we’ve become a sick bubble-fied society!

    • noodlestein

      March 20, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      The world is differnt in how we percieve it, definitely. What I think is a shame is that the world is not actually a more dangerous place now than it was in say, the fifties. We just think it’s different because of the bombardment that you mentioned in your comment. We’re stifling these kids for nothing, which is sad. :

    • Rachel Sea

      March 20, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      The world is different, it’s safer. When we were kids crime was higher and we had lots of fun dangerous things to do. Your daughter is less likely to have something happen to her on that playground now than she would have in 1980.

    • Bethany Ramos

      March 20, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      So true.

    • Miriam

      March 21, 2014 at 2:24 am

      Of course, that may be because we’ve changed how we let kids run around unsupervised. Maybe fewer incidents are happening to kids because there are fewer opportunities?

      I don’t really get the bemoaning of unsafe playgrounds. I love contemporary playgrounds. They seem awesome and creative with lots of climbing ropes and walls and slides. My child also loves them. What’s wrong with fun also being relatively safe?

    • Rachel Sea

      March 21, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      No, it’s safer because violent crime is down across the board, so children are less likely to either be witnesses to or victims of violence.

  11. Natasha B

    March 20, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    I’m middle ground. We’re pretty laid back, and have always let the kids run and jump and play and climb to their hearts content, but that doesn’t mean my heart isn’t frequently all lodged in my throat, watching my 4yo hang precariously from the big kid monkey bars. My rule is, when my kids injure themselves, I wait for their reaction first. If they just kinda brush themselves off, I ignore it. If it’s a half way cry, it’s a kiss and off you go, you’re fine. But once in a while, they do the scream that makes chills go up your spine and it’s not ok. When our oldest was five, she was swinging from the top of the rope ladder to the top of the slide on our (wood, no cheesy plastic) swing set, slipped, missed, hit the ground, laid there while we kinda waited, then stood up and her arm was bent all wonky. So, she handled a broken arm pretty well.
    I do have to roll my eyes at some of my friends though…we’re at a cushy indoor playground and their toddler falls all of 6 inches to the rubber floor and it’s a 30 min drama fest.

    • pixie

      March 20, 2014 at 4:01 pm

      From helping teach martial arts to small children for over a decade, I’ve noticed that if there’s no big fuss made when a kid falls down or gets smacked in the face or whatever, usually they’ll brush it off. I’ve seen kids eat shit hard before and get up like nothing happened. It’s when as soon as the incident happens and someone rushes over (parent, instructor, whoever) the kid starts making a huge fuss, and sometimes over something little.

    • Natasha B

      March 20, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      I 100% agree with this. We work really hard not to overreact, and it generally works out just fine. Our ‘test child’, the oldest, was riding around on daddy’s handlebars, he hit the bottom of the driveway, she flipped off the front and landed on the pavement. Then she hopped up and was like ‘I’m good! I’m good!’ while blood was pouring out of her knees. She got so much ice cream lol.
      And then I see moms who panic when their snowflake trips and lands on the grass. Because grass stains are life threatening.

    • pixie

      March 20, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      Lol yep. I’ve seen two four year olds bash heads while bowing to each other and then laugh like it was the funniest thing ever. Every time they partnered up for a while after that they would bash heads on purpose. I swear their parents were permanently face palming at these kids lol.

      I’ve gone head over heals off of horses, crashed my bike, wiped out off a motorcycle, and probably should have broken every bone in my body several times over. Every time I get up and pretty much do the same thing as your daughter. And if I have any impressive wounds, I show them off for days afterwards!

    • Katherine Handcock

      March 20, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      I perfected the art of the dramatic “Oopsie!” to cover up gasps when my kiddos fell as infants. They shake off pretty well everything now. If they do come to me crying, you can be pretty sure that it REALLY hurt.

    • Williwaw

      March 20, 2014 at 6:57 pm

      Every time my kid takes a fall, I try to cover any adverse reaction I might have with a loud “Uh-oh!” because I don’t want him to feed off my anxiety reactions…so his first word other than “mama” or “dada” was “uh-oh!”

    • Angela

      March 20, 2014 at 4:52 pm

      I was told this before becoming a parent and it may be true for a lot of kids but it definitely has not been the case for mine. My oldest is a pretty high-strung kid and by damn if you’re not showing the proper amount of concern about him brushing his arm against the doorframe then he will do whatever it takes to make sure you’re aware that “GAH! THIS IS THE END OF THE WHOLE, ENTIRE WORLD FOREVER!!!” But if I jump in pre-emptively and make a small amount of fuss then he’ll generally shrug it off. It’s like he just wants to be reassured that I noticed and that I care. My youngest, however, is nothing like that. That kid will fall flat on his face and then just laugh it off. Where he’s concerned I do just tend to stand back and see how upset he is. I know that a lot of people have seen how I interact with my oldest and assume that he is reacting to me when the truth is that I’ve just learned to react to him.

    • pixie

      March 20, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      Oh, for sure, I have known kids like that, too. Just the majority of ones I have known tend to just brush themselves off (unless it’s very serious, obviously) after doing something that looks incredibly painful if you don’t rush over to them.

    • Williwaw

      March 20, 2014 at 6:59 pm

      I think toddlers are all drama queens, especially about stuff that doesn’t matter, or if they’re tired. Sometimes all it takes is a two second delay in me filling the sippy cup and my kid throws himself to the floor, wailing as if the world is ending. On the other hand, he has taken all kinds of big falls and just jumped right back up without batting an eyelash.

    • pixie

      March 20, 2014 at 7:43 pm

      They are for sure. The youngest ones I’ve ever taught (4 year olds) were just coming out of their drama-queen-ness, so they definitely had their moments (we officially recommended that kids shouldn’t start until 6, when attention spans have usually gotten pretty good, or at least good enough to focus for an hour, but we would occasionally take well-behaved 4 and 5 year olds). I swear I’ve seen the little guys take harder falls and bigger hits than the 8 and 9 year olds.

    • LiteBrite

      March 21, 2014 at 10:11 am

      My son is like your oldest. If he bumps his knee, or scrapes his arm, he won’t act like it’s the end of the world, but he’ll come to me whining that he hurt himself. As soon as I give him a little attention, he’s fine. It’s like you said: he just needs to tell me he got hurt and that I care.

    • Larkin

      March 21, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      Yup! I noticed this back when I used to assist with kids’ summer drama camps, too. I usually take the, “You’ll be OK,” approach and, generally, it works. If a kid still wails or screams after that, the odds are that they’re actually hurt and you need to check it out. Kids often hear “Are you OK?!?!?!” and think, “Oh, I should be hurt!” At least, that’s what it seems like whenever I see it happen.

    • MerlePerle

      March 20, 2014 at 4:03 pm

      We went to an indoor playground with another mom and her kid when the girls were both 3. the other mom insisted on standing next to the freaking ball pit when it was only 10 feet from our table and we could’ve seen them just fine from there. She was just waiting for her kid to break her neck in the ball pit!

    • Natasha B

      March 20, 2014 at 4:13 pm

      Ha! She sounds like my friends! Especially at 3, they should be able to physically handle themselves pretty well. My niece is almost 4 and just learning to go up and down stairs by herself, because her mother was so paranoid, so she got carried up and down any stairs. My 20month old handles stairs better. Sorry, I’m not carrying my kid around for the rest of their life….

    • Larkin

      March 21, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      …she carried her up and down the stairs until she was FOUR??? Wow.

    • Andrea

      March 20, 2014 at 5:13 pm

      This is why I hated taking my kids to the park with other moms. They way I thought it would go was the kids would go off an play and we would sit down, relax, chat, and watch from the distance.
      But oh noes, we had to be right up their asses and even play with them too. Ugh.

    • jendra_berri

      March 20, 2014 at 9:28 pm

      It’s such bullshit. I took my 5-year-old niece to the playground and she was all over the monkey bars, having a ball. There was a dad right there in the playground helping his daughters play, who were just above and below my niece’s age.
      She was fearlessly all over the place. They were… not. I tried to encourage her to round up some kids for a game of tag, but honestly it didn’t seem like something that could happen. Kids were playing with their parents, not each other. It was stupid.
      The only other people on the sidelines were a pair of elderly grandparents.

    • Andrea

      March 20, 2014 at 9:33 pm

      Haha, it reminds me of when my dad used to take us to the park. He’d bring the paper and sit in the car!!!!

      I stopped doing “dates” with other moms at the park. They wanna play with their kids, they don’t need me around. I expected adult company, not another playmate for my kids.

    • LiteBrite

      March 21, 2014 at 10:09 am

      A friend of mine has an SIL who overreacted whenever her kids fell, etc. Now she has twins who are nearly 8 and it’s, as you said, a 30-min drama fest every time one bumps their leg.

      I try to be middle ground too. Are you bleeding? No? You’re fine. Shake it off. But it’s hard sometimes balancing the desire to encourage your kids to take risks and try new things with the fear of them getting seriously hurt.

    • Natasha B

      March 21, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      It is hard to balance that fear. In all honesty, when they take a tumble, I let them run off and play, but I’m watching like a hawk for the next few hours to make sure all their limbs are functioning properly lol.

  12. arrow2010

    March 20, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    This is sad. I remember the playgrounds of my childhood(1980s) and they were all wooden with metal and bark for landing on. Yeah kids got hurt, but so what? I climbed a metal fence when I was 8-9 and scratched myself real bad(blood everywhere). But that’s what little boys DO! Where is the danger?

    • Lackadaisical

      March 20, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      The playground in my childhood had concrete under it rather than bark or earth. When I slipped on the monkey bars I broke my nose and it really hurt a lot. Some health and safety is a good thing. I am all for scary structured to climb but I would rather they had the safe bark of your childhood then the concrete of mine. My own kids have similar climbing frames and tall slides that we had and many people claim no longer exist but they have bark or spongier surface underneath, which I think is a great compromise. Where I live it is also normal for kids to go out to play in the street or local park on their own the way our generation did and people tell me never happens anymore.

  13. Katherine Handcock

    March 20, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    People are often shocked by the things I will let my kids try at playgrounds etc., but the thing is, it’s nothing I don’t remember doing as a kid. That’s become my benchmark — did I do this thing? Okay, then they can try this thing. Sometimes I consider it a miracle we haven’t been to the ER with either of the kids — her more than her brother; I thought he was crazy until she came along! She was insisting on using big-kid
    swings at 18 months — she was WAY too big for the baby seats, after all
    πŸ˜‰

    My husband has a much harder time with letting go and letting them try. The best strategy that he’s found working is asking himself, “What will probably happen if he/she falls?” So, what will probably happen if he/she falls of the swings? Maybe having the wind knocked out of them, or scraping an elbow/knee. If he starts thinking, “Yeah, but he COULD have a freak fall and break his neck…” then he reminds himself that a meteor also COULD land on his head while he’s watching TV at home. It’s worked for him so far πŸ˜‰

    • C.J.

      March 20, 2014 at 10:44 pm

      My husband used to follow our girls around when they were babies/toddlers. It used to drive me crazy. I asked him why he insisted on following them around. He said in case they fall. I told him that’s why God made kids short, it’s not that far of a fall. Kids are going to hurt themselves once in a while. Thankfully he relaxed because I’m not keeping them in cushioned rooms so they don’t get hurt.

    • Larkin

      March 21, 2014 at 3:04 pm

      That seems like a good gauge to me. I have a friend who always asks herself, “Why do I want to say no to this?” And, if the answer isn’t, “Because she would probably die,” then she changes her mind and says yes.

  14. Mystik Spiral

    March 20, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    I have a couple anecdotes for you…

    When my oldest nephew was around 2 I took him to the playground and decided to go down the twirly slide with him in my lap. halfway down he put his leg to the side of my leg, and his shoe caught the side of the slide and twisted his knee in a way that knees aren’t meant to be twisted. We got to the bottom and his knee looked all wacky, he wasn’t complaining but I was freaking the fuck out. He walked it off, knee bend went back to normal, everyone was fine. There’s a reason we say kids’ bones are made of rubber.

    When one of my nieces was around 4 I took her to the playground. She had a scab on her knee from a prior skinning, and while she was running on the padded playground crap she fell on her knee and stripped the scab RIGHT off. It bled like a motherfucker, she was hysterical, I didn’t have bandaids or even napkins with me so I had to throw her in her carseat and get her home ASAP as she was bleeding everywhere. Wood chips, or hell, even GRAVEL wouldn’t have caused that much damage.

    So no matter how safe you try to make playtime, it’s always something. Kids are going to get hurt. I actually pity the kids who NEVER get hurt… their adulthoods are gonna suck.

    • Lian

      March 20, 2014 at 6:00 pm

      I’m glad your nephew was fine, but I do need to comment: going down a slide with a child in your lap is MORE dangerous for the child! If the child’s shoe gets stuck when they’re in your lap, you’ll keep sliding and they can break their leg. If they’re sliding by themselves in that situation they just… stop moving.

      Link: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/23/a-surprising-risk-for-toddlers-at-playground-slides/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

    • Mystik Spiral

      March 20, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      Oh I’m not gonna argue with you, and that’s exactly what I thought had happened. I was just making the comment because in the article it stated sliding with a child in your lap is becoming more the norm for protective parents. If you want to protect your kid, let them go down the slide by themselves!!!

  15. CrazyFor Kate

    March 20, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Oh my god, you guys should move to Russia. Free-range parenting is not only the norm, but often necessary. You’re much more likely to see children (even small ones) wandering Moscow on their own, and even when accompanied by their parents, they’re usually allowed a much greater range – like, when they’re walking, you might not even realize the child and parent are together. I’ve known eight-year-olds who take the Metro on their own to get to my school. And frankly, Moscow can be much more dangerous than your average city in Canada or the US.

    Not to mention that leaving kids home alone is considered perfectly acceptable, especially if the grandparents live far away – my coworker leaves her six-year-old twins at home while she works and thinks nothing of it, expecting them to do minor chores, finish their homework and not do anything stupid. Her family can’t survive without her income, but even with it still can’t afford childcare. As strange as this seems to me, sometimes I look at North America and scratch my head at the overprotectiveness. There’s got to be a middle ground.

    • Williwaw

      March 20, 2014 at 7:05 pm

      I had a friend who, when she was 8, was routinely left alone with her newborn sister (this was back in the 70s – you’d probably get arrested for that now).

    • mary

      March 21, 2014 at 1:08 pm

      When I was 11, I was frequently left alone all day with my newborn brother and 7 year old sister. Nobody ever thought it was odd or unacceptable.

  16. AsiaN_

    March 20, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    This reminded me of “the incident” when I was 5. I was riding bikes with my brother when I hit a rock and fell off. As a kid, I was as high strung as a kid could get. Every cut and bruise was seriously the end of the world for me. So I fall off the bike and I’m screaming bloody murder. My mom, knowing me assumes it’s just a scrape. And the fall was so innocent. I show her the bottom of my knee where it hurts and nothing. About 20 mins later she realized I haven’t straightened my leg. So she takes off my sweatpants and realizes my thigh is swollen and there’s a lump on it. Yea…turns out I tore my patellar ligament and my knee cap was now resting on my thigh. I got McDonalds for dinner for like a week straight after that.

  17. itpainsme2say

    March 20, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    When I was kid there was this balance beam that led to a fireman pole and it was the big attraction. We would stand in a line on the beam then slid down the pole. One day while waiting in line I was helping my cousin balance so I was holding on to him then all the sudden the guy behind us shoved us off. My cousin fell faster and landed before me with his arm out then I came tumbling after you can guess what happened. Anyway non of the teachers believed me when I said it was the fault of the kid behind us and they banned me and everyone else from the beam. For the next three years I was made fun off for breaking a kids arm and ruining the beam. That beam was three feat tall and we were in Kindergarden so part of me is thankful that they soon tore the set down and that don’t make them like that anymore. I do agree about the slides though

    • Williwaw

      March 20, 2014 at 7:07 pm

      I think most elementary schools don’t let kids play Red Rover anymore. Just in case recess wasn’t boring enough with all that boring padded playground equipment.

    • itpainsme2say

      March 20, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      What does red rover have to do with my story?

    • Williwaw

      March 20, 2014 at 7:26 pm

      Not really anything…it’s just that I loved playing it as a kid and was really mad when I heard some schools had banned it, and your story about not being able to play on the beam anymore kind of reminded me of that. Also, it sucks that other kids were mad at you after that incident.

    • itpainsme2say

      March 20, 2014 at 7:38 pm

      Oh ok thanks for clearing that up and Red Rover was awesome. Reading it again I get what you’re saying. It was mostly the teachers that were dicks but most teachers were to me anyway.

  18. Alanna Jorgensen

    March 20, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    My only issue with the park near where I live is that there is literally no line of site to your child because it is built like a castle. High up off the ground do with tons of stairs and turrets and bridges and low walls. It is awesome and always super busy. I don’t mind letting her go play alone, but I have to kind of wander around the base so I know she hasn’t been carried off or wandered into the parking lot, since it’s so tall and sprawled out. She’s a very cautious child just like I was, so I try to encourage her to take some more risks because I know once she tries she’ll like it, again just like me.

  19. Celeste F

    March 20, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Recently in my city, a little girl was playing outside with a slightly older child without adult supervision. She took a risk and tried to jump on the back of an ice cream truck. Her family had to have a fundraiser to help pay for her funeral costs. There are injuries and then there are catastrophic injuries. I hate those little memes floating around the Internet boasting of the good ol days when there were no helmets or car seats. Thinking back on my childhood, there were at least two incidences were I came very close to brain/spinal cord damage. One of those instances happened on one of those old wooden playgrounds. I’m not the overprotective type but at the same time I cannot support the idea that there is something wrong with wanting a safe environment for children.

    • Paul White

      March 20, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      I promise, there were a lot more than one or two times you were close to getting seriously hurt.

      Life’s got risk. You avoid absolutely stupid ones–don’t let your kids pet a tiger ya know?–but the world isn’t soft and squishy and trying to make it so just means your kids aren’t able to manage the real world. There’s a difference between “well, we don’t want to store nuclear waste under the kindergarten classroom” and “We have to remove anything that might break a bone or result in a death”. I mean, you can die falling off monkey bars if you get freakily unlucky…

    • K.

      March 20, 2014 at 6:10 pm

      Sure, but let’s start with the fact that there is a vast difference between hovering around your kids at a playground and allowing them to play unsupervised near a street.

    • Williwaw

      March 20, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      This is a tough thing to deal with, because everyone knows of some kid who fell three feet from the monkeybars, went headfirst down the slide, or whatever, and broke her neck/died, and these tragedies loom large in everyone’s mind. Yes, there will always be freak accidents, and that’s really scary. However, there’s a big difference between protecting your child from the statistically dangerous big threats (car accidents, drowning, etc.) and keeping them wrapped in a bubble. I think the knowledge of child head injuries and spine injuries has advanced since I was a kid, and that’s a good thing – my dad is a doctor, so I have heard plenty of stories about what the worst child safety offenders are (no seatbelts/car seats, diving into shallow water, drowning, getting hit by a car, biking without a helmet, trampolines, 4-wheelers). I might joke about life 40 years ago but I will certainly put a helmet on my kid when he starts biking in a few years. However, it is impossible to create a 100% safe environment for kids, and I think we as a society have gotten paranoid and neurotic (both about our own kids getting hurt, or about someone else’s kids getting hurt and us getting sued over it). I think many of us do stop our kids from having fun and being kids beause of this attitude.

      At some point, you have to accept that there is NOTHING you can do that will guarantee your child’s safety. Your child could trip and break their neck on a carpeted floor. It has happened. The best you can do is protect kids from the most probable accidents (e.g. by putting them in car seats, making them wear helmets while biking, not leaving toddlers alone around water or a busy street, etc.) and hope for the best. If you try to engineer an environment where the child will be 100% safe from harm you will (a) fail, and (b) probably make your own anxieties worse, and (c) possibly raise a child who is neurotic and fearful, or resentful of their clingy parent. I am a worrier, and I have an active imagination that has no trouble coming up with nightmare scenarios every 2.3 seconds (will he trip and smash his face on that cement ledge? what if he climbs over that gate and runs into the street? what if he falls headfirst ff the bed?), but I try to separate the reasonable worries from the ridiculous, because I want my kid to be confident and have fun, and also to be able to judge for himself what is safe and what is not – which he won’t be able to do if he doesn’t take a few falls on his own.

  20. Bethany Ramos

    March 20, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    I am a huuuuge Lenore Skenazy fan, but I haven’t mastered free range parenting just yet. I always try to keep it in the back of my mind to keep me from overreacting.

  21. shorty_RN

    March 20, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    The Land sounds awesome. I want an “adventure playground” in my city. Not for my son, for me…

  22. SarahJesness

    March 20, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    I read this online article about the world’s coolest/craziest playgrounds, and almost none of them were in the US. Commenters pointed out that Americans might be too litigious/paranoid to get any of those badass playgrounds. A lot of new playgrounds I’ve seen ARE kind of lame, it’s like, I’ve gone to dog parks more stimulating!

  23. IS78

    March 20, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    I don’t know what kind of playgrounds you guys are dealing with but I’ve seen some pretty tall slides in my area. When my first started playing at playgrounds, I was horrified by all the different prospective ways he could get hurt. I’m like you Maria, in that I’ve been chasing after him since day one “be careful”ing him. That hasnt really stopped him though. He likes to jump off of things. So I think it has alot to do with personality. Your son is probably just a cautious person, which in my opinion is an exceptionally good thing to be.

  24. K.

    March 20, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    I have a friend who is so overprotective, it is starting to drive US crazy. She’s left parties for the emergency room; she’s convinced that someone holding her baby (just holding him, like a normal person would hold a baby) is going to break bones or asphyxiate him; she’s freaked out about furniture–like, upholstered ottomans–because her toddler might hit his head on something. She IS the mother who is hovering around the playground.

    And yet, it’s not something I feel I can comment on because I’d be criticizing her parenting.

    Sigh.

  25. KarenMS

    March 20, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    So my stepdad took my 10 year old twin brothers to the park to ride bikes last summer and one of them fell off. Stepdad checked on him, spit polished the scrape, determined he was fine and rode ahead to catch up with the other twin. He looks back and realizes a man is talking to twin 1, he rides back and tells him he’s fine. Man proceeds to call him an asshole and neglectful for making him get back on his bike. My stepdad is the calmest, most good natured person ever so he says something to the effect of “thanks for your concern” and they go on their way. A little while later, twin 2 was lagging behind and was discovered to be talking to this man, who had asked him for his name and address. He told him he had to, that it was the law, so my poor brother told him. A cop showed up later at my parents house.

    This man called the cops because a 10 year old fell off his bike. Things are insane these days. (The cop quickly realized how bogus the call was and left.)

    • Natasha B

      March 21, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      That is insane! I would almost feel concerned as to why the man was so pushy with wanting personal information.

    • Larkin

      March 21, 2014 at 3:02 pm

      Not to mention how creepy it is that this guy was basically following them around at the park, separating a child from his family, and then demanding that he give him personal identifying details. Yikes.

  26. Zoe

    March 21, 2014 at 3:18 am

    My five year old has had three black eyes so far in her life. That’s one more than me and I’m 39. Impressive. I think she has finally learned not to swan dive off the coffee table or staircase. Only time will tell.

  27. Jezebeelzebub

    March 21, 2014 at 8:23 am

    I really struggle with the overprotective thing, too. It was a fight with myself every day to not wrap the baby in bubble wrap (secured with duct tape and not around her face- she would have had a helmet for her melon- like one of those football helmets with the face guard but possibly made of kevlar) because I love her and I didn’t want her to break. She is my only child, she looked impossibly fragile and tiny. Everything was a threat to her safety. As she got older, I felt better.. but now she’s almost 11 and I feel like I’m back where I started! Now I have to worry about REALLY dangerous shit, like cars and boys and being in cars with boys, and little asshole frenemies and bullying and that weird new math and grades and running around with her little besties doing god-knows-what and texting and social media and OH MY GOD. I’m jumping the gun, I know.. but I really want to get a leg up on that ulcer I’m working on. You guys, being a parent can be SUPER HARD. I don’t want to hobble her and make her afraid of everything, but I AM AFRAID OF EVERYTHING. And that’s stupid, I’m better than this! (I am not better than this. I am a friggin mess. I have started her Therapy Fund.) Thank god I have really great friends who reel me in when I flip out. My 2 best friends (one with two kids, all younger than mine) and one with no kids keep me grounded. They both vetoed the bubble wrap-and-helmet ensemble I was working on when our baby started crawling.

    Seriously, I am so glad this site exists. I usually feel crazy as HELL- it is so nice to know I’m not the only one.

    • memem

      March 21, 2014 at 1:00 pm

      Your daughter is 10, and you’re worried about cars and boys? I think you need to steer the helicopter closer to her if that is an actual threat.

    • Jezebeelzebub

      March 22, 2014 at 10:19 am

      You ain’t wrong… I mentioned that I knew I was jumping the gun on that one. I like to be thorough, though… I started worrying about that when I found out I was pregnant. I started worrying about my *grandchildren* when I found out I was pregnant. If I’m gonna worry, I figure go big or go home.

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