Jack didn’t really feel like writing something funny last weekend, and who can blame him? So we’ll take this week to touch on some more or less universal parenting truths, and then be back to our usual goofy selves next week.
Every parent has a moment when they’re struck by panic and horror– when they realize exactly how fragile their child’s life is, and how futile it is to try protect them from the world. It’s a terrible feeling, as though the ground were suddenly dropping from underneath your feet. It feels as though it’s easy to slip into paranoia, and become “helicopter parents,” trying to shelter your child from every bad thing on this planet. It’s hard to know when to let go– to find the balance between sheltering and smothering.
News media does nothing to help you find that balance. If you take ‘infotainment’ to be a representative sample, then every third person you meet must be a predator just waiting for you to let your guard down, for that split second.
When my daughter was 3 or so, she took a header out our back door, and slid headfirst down a couple of concrete stairs. Right in front of me. She’d walked down these stairs countless times before– but this time she got tangled up by her own feet. I’ve been in a few situations where my own life was at risk (mostly on freeways in Southern California), but never did I feel the kind of cold panic that gripped me as she lost her balance. She was fine, just some scrapes on her chin and lip– a miracle she didn’t bust her teeth out, really.
And that dread was nothing compared to what I felt when she would ask questions about greater horrors– about what happened to the Indians on this continent when Europeans started setting up shop, or about terrorism. How do you explain that to a young child, in a way that is useful to them and avoids making them feel helpless? Without lying to them? Well, we’ll get to that on Thursday.