The photo you see above is Ben on our indoor swing. My parents gave it to the kids as a Christmas present two years ago, and they love it. It works in all weather, and recently Ben has learned how to jump out of it… He was not quite 5 years old when we got it, and at one point while he was swinging I looked over and said, “Ben, it makes me nervous when you swing that high.” To which he responded, “Then don’t watch me!” And of course he was right, and since then we have all enjoyed the swing more, with only the occasional crashing sound drawing a, “What was that?” from me and the quick answer, “Nothing. I’m fine,” from Ben.
Safety is probably the issue that consumes parents the most. Maybe even more than education, TV or food. I think this is either because people remember all the crazy things they did as kids, or else have forgotten all the crazy things they did as kids.
Here’s an example from my own childhood. My friend Mendy and I were both in gymnastics. My parents’ house has a cement brick extension on one end that serves no earthly purpose other than to make the house look longer. It’s about 6 feet high. One summer, we decided it would be really fun to climb up on top of it and do dive rolls from it onto the ground. (!) When I think back about that now – 6 feet is REALLY high when you jump head first, arms extended. We collected some pillows in place of mats, and were at it for probably half an hour before we called my Mom out to show her our new trick. I have a feeling she was not as calm as she looked when we showed her, but to her infinite credit she did not yell at us and tell us how dangerous it was or order us to stop. It was not as though we hadn’t ever done dive rolls. We were in gymnastics, and falling was nothing new, so the risk factor was not all that high. But still….
Nowadays, children tend to be kept in a child-proofed, germ free world until they are 18, at which point they go nuts, buy a car, promptly crash it and then disappear to college where they can live dangerously in peace for the first time in their lives. The problem is that because these kids were so over-protected growing up, they have no ability to discern real danger and wind up really hurting themselves or being afraid of everything and perpetuating this hysteria on their own kids when they have them. The use of common sense is so far from common these days, we might need to rename it.
Safety. It’s like the wings blog. Kids need to learn, bit by bit, how to deal with things that, if handled incorrectly, can hurt them. They can’t learn this all at once over night once they are 18. It needs to be a gradual process, and parents need to let go a little. You can’t control the world, but you can prepare your kids for it with a little freedom, some trust, and yes, common sense.
Here’s a link to a TED talk given in 2007 by Gever Tulley called 5 Dangerous Things. It’s really great, and all about the right approach to safety.