Yesterday was a day that had me thinking about fear. As a kid, I definitely had more than a healthy amount of fear. Unfamiliar locations or people, an upsetting news story or a violent scene in a movie or TV show was enough to settle a filter of unease over my world. I dreaded the annual viewing of that damn Danger Zone movie (who doesn't remember the little girl sliding under the bus wheels to retrieve the valentine for her mom??) and "stranger danger" lessons left me suspicious and even more fearful.
Let me just say, I wouldn't wish that level of fear on my kids in a million years. Often I see their unshaken confidence that the world is a good and safe place and it's simply beautiful. However. They dart away from me in parking lots, giggling at my panicked expression and grabs for their arms. I'm pretty sure Pacey would walk off with anyone offering a hand and a kind smile. During a recent beach excursion, Brighton made a beeline for the water and headed out as far as she could get before I snagged her by the floatie and dragged her back in (no, she was not in danger of drowning due to her flotation device, but she is TWO YEARS OLD and therefore not at all ready to be swimming in a lake by herself). Basically, they have no idea that bad things happen.
I really struggle with managing the need to increase their awareness of real dangers with the desire to shield them, for now, from those remote and terrible possibilities that it is my job to protect them from as best I can. I know that age and maturity are a big factor in kids' ability to understand dangers and why they have to follow certain rules. But how do you teach a child that they cannot run into the street unless you are prepared to introduce the concepts of accidents and cars and injuries? How do you explain that to a two-year-old? Maybe the answer is that you can't, and therefore it's a matter of vigilance and gripping their little arms a little more tightly than may be comfortable. But my god, sometimes the weight of that feels enormous.
I love that my kids believe the world is inherently a good place and that they are invincible. It has to be one of the greatest treasures of childhood. But it's not realistic as kids grow up and I know it's one of my jobs as a mom to instill a healthy level of awareness and fear into them. There's a really interesting difference between Chris and I in this regard. I am sure that part of it is that I am the children's primary caregiver and therefore spend a lot more time fully in charge of their safety. He just doesn't see (or doesn't look for) the inherent dangers lurking out there. I feel like part of it is that he, as a large and strong male has probably never experienced a true feeling of vulnerability.
There's not really a conclusion to this post, but I would love to hear from anyone else about when and how you start introducing safety and awareness to your kids without making them fearful.