I wrote about where to Draw the Line a couple years ago. That proverbial line in the sand when enough is enough. Or the case of that post, when danger is too dangerous.
I’d like to tackle it again. That post was inspired by an astronaut (the closest to astronaut I get is the space in my head). Former commander of the International Space Station and the first Canadian commander, Chris Hadfield. He gave a Ted Talk about fear and danger. I show that video to classes I substituted in and it inspired me to write about the fears and dangers we face in parenting.
I’m afraid my kids will fall out of the tree when they climb to the top.
I’m afraid my kids will drown while swimming at the beach.
I’m afraid my kids will like the Yankees.
I’m afraid my kids will roll their eyes at me and I’ll have to knock them back into place.
When I stop to think (which doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should) I understand that fear is all in my head. I can’t see it. I can’t touch it, though I can certainly feel it. I can’t smell it or hear it, either. I’m not saying it’s not real. It’s very real, just like every part our mental health. Depression. Anxiety. Addiction.
I also understand that saying “Don’t be afraid,” equates to “Don’t be sad” or “Don’t be so anxious”. It’s like telling your wife “Calm down”. You just don’t do it unless you have a high tolerance for pain and can survive death stares.
However, with fear, we need to evaluate the risks involved. For example, is that spider poisonous? Very unlikely (unless you live in Australia where everything is poisonous, even the kangaroos). Here in Canada, there is only one poisonous spider, the black widow, and it doesn’t even build a web that you can walk into. It builds webs in corners near the floor and it’s “no more than a nasty sting” (according to Chris. I’ve never been bitten by one nor do I want to test that claim myself).
*side note: It’s called a black widow only because the female kills the male after mating.
Will my kids fall out of that tree? It’s a possibility, but they’re good climbers. It’s a pine tree so there there are lots of branches packed close together. I should be afraid to see them at the top. Will my kids drown? Unlikely. We’ve thought out possible scenarios and have taken preventative measures. We stay close. We put a life jacket on the 5 year old when the water’s too deep. We watch for signs of fatigue. I’m not saying it can’t happen, just that we’re cautious to be sure that it doesn’t.
The danger of falling out of that tree or drowning at the beach is very real. They could lose their footing, lose their grip, forget how deep the water is, or inhale water. Like I mentioned, we’ve taken preventative measures. We’ve looked at the possible dangers and set in place rules so those dangers are no longer factors. Would I like throw them off the pier sometimes? Sure. Like when I’m explaining for the 15th time why he can’t play the recorder right now (he’s supposed to be getting dressed, brushing his teeth, and packing his backpack because we were supposed to leave for school 15 minutes ago). Would I throw them off the pier? No, of course not. They know how swim anyway.
Your fears are in your head. The dangers are what will hurt you. It’s not the fall that will kill you, but the sudden stop at the end. I love how Chris explained how to overcome a fear. Repetition. His example used spiderwebs and our caveman reaction to get the web and spider off us. He explains that to rid ourselves of that reaction, that fear, to walk in spiderwebs intentionally, i.e. face your fears. Every time I go hiking I walk into a half dozen webs. My reaction now doesn’t involve flailing arms, a crazy dance, and screaming. Now I just wipe the web off my face and keep moving. Not once have I been bitten by a spider. My fear is gone because I understand the danger. It’s still fun to watch others flailing and dancing and screaming, though.
The boys are not Yankees fans.
The eye rolls still happen. Lucky for them their eyes haven’t gotten stuck back there.