Parenting is tricky enough with decisions about vaccinations, circumcision, schooling, slumber parties, and whether or not we should make our kids share. We want to keep our kids healthy, teach them to be resilient, and protect them from physical and emotional harm. Add bullying, school shootings, and terrorism to that mix and protecting our kids can feel nearly impossible. If we are not careful, we find ourselves parenting in fear.
Our children are our priority and their safety and health are responsibility. When faced with so many overwhelming obstacles, it is natural to err on the side of caution. Our choices feel so weighed down by forces beyond our control. As a result, we often become hyper-focused on the things we can control.
That need to have control in the midst of so much danger is at the core of so many political, socio-economic, religious, and parenting debates. Our overwhelming desire to protect our children is potent and powerful, as it should be.
We all respond differently to perceived threats. It’s common to see people retrench. We begin to divide people into “us” and “them.” We view people first with suspicion. We become more firmly entrenched in our views. We buy more guns. We reject all guns. We err on the side of caution, despite pricks to our conscience or values. We refuse to acknowledge real danger because of our conscience or values.
And I feel conflicted.
You see, I want to teach my children to be tolerant, inclusive, courageous, adventurous, and loving. I want them to approach the world with enthusiasm, hope, and resilience. I want their future world to be more just, peaceful, and healthy. In order to make this future possible, it seems that I have to take more risks now.
I also want my children to be safe and protected. I want them to be wise, decisive, and discerning. I want them to approach the world with real defenses, able to protect themselves against harm. I want their world now to be safe, healthy, and consistent. In order to make this present possible now, it seems I have to risk their future.
And I wonder. I agonize. Where is the line between:
Caution and fear?
Optimism and foolishness?
Protection and fear?
Mine and ours?
Hope and foolishness?
Patriotism and fear?
Being a worldwide citizen and foolishness?
Prejudice and fear?
Us and them?
I do not want to be ruled by fear. I do not want views of the “real world” to trample optimism and innovation that can alter our future reality. But I also want my children to survive into that new reality.
And I wonder. I agonize. Where is the line?
I will not deny what I believe is good, true, and just so I can err on the side of safety. I also know that a healthy amount of fear keeps my ideals grounded. I don’t know all of the answers, but I am most frightened of being ruled by my fears. Fear steals my balance, my courage, my hope, my reason, my caution. And I refuse to parent in fear.