As of late I've been pondering the thoughts of 'Risk vs Reward'. Asking myself "Should we focus on eliminating all risk from our lives – thereby protecting us from every possibility of error or danger?" OR "Should we enjoy living our lives knowing that if we lived solely in fear then we wouldn't really be living?" OR "Is there such a thing as finding a sensible balance by calculating the risks in our world?"
I think I was born in the wrong century… In the early 1900's children walked home from school – sometimes several miles in each direction. Shucks – even in the 1980's when I was in grade school I was walking or biking home from school by myself – and one day I didn't go home like I was supposed to (and I got in trouble for it). But these days parents are considered to be endangering the lives of their children if they are asked to walk home from school. And don't even think about leaving your children alone at home – that's 'neglect' (even if they ARE 12 years old)! And don't leave them in the car at the convenience store parking lot if you run in for a bag of ice – that's endangerment AND neglect. But really – I'm now 32 years of age and I and my brother and our friends (and probably most of my readers as well) have survived that type of "mistreatment".
Please don't think I'm being cold-hearted and obtuse with my words and emotions here. My heart goes out to every single child and family member who has ever had any horrible event ever happen to them. But I ask out of a bit of dismay and a bit of concern for where this train of thought of living in a protective bubble could lead us - when did our views change? Was it when a misguided child wandered off somewhere or with someone he/she wasn't supposed to? Was it when one very unfortunate and obviously distracted father parked the car at the 'park-n-ride' and left his sleeping baby boy in the back seat on a hot day? Was it when a child with a peanut butter allergy ate something he very well knew he shouldn't have? Some may propose it was the events that transpired on 9/11 that led us to this protective frame of mind...
But I ask – how much can we protect ourselves and our own family from what I view as "the inevitable"? In my humble opinion, our days our numbered. And in my opinion, when it's "our time" it's just that – it's our time. So do we look around each corner and fear and wonder and focus on what could possibly go wrong before stepping out? Or – since we only have so much time - do we go after our dreams and ambitions and live in hope with what opportunities and gifts HAVE been given to us? My point: There is a definite balance between living in fear and LIVING.
Do we teach our children that it's better to be safe than sorry? To limit their creativity and imaginations by putting them in a box and keeping them from spreading their wings and … I could go on. Or do we INSTILL creativity and the desire to learn and achieve – and teach our children, and instill in our SOCIETY, the meaning of adventure and excitement for the unknown? Even if it means tackling our innner fears and becoming better people for it?
At what point do our careful ways (with what I even wouldn't hesitate to call "truly good intentions") become superfluous?! Do we decide not to go outside anymore because of what germs we may catch?! Is this the Cold War of the '50s and '60s in a different form? Should we start dusting off the furniture in our basements – are we moving back downstairs soon?! What happens when our children play in that mud puddle in the backyard when we aren't watching?! Now I may be getting a little ridiculous here – but what happens when they want a driver's license when they are 16 years old? At what point is it just too dangerous for us to let them live their lives?!
One example: Today CNN.com is relaying a story out of Rhode Island (WLNE) about a man and his best friend (German Shepherd named Shultz) playing catch when things all of a sudden went horribly wrong. The 9 ½ " long stick got lodged in the side of the dog. The dog's owner says he will never play fetch with his dog again… really? Is this what this is coming to?! Is someone going to propose that we can no longer play fetch with our dogs – or PETA will come after us for endangering our dogs' lives?! Really?!
Admittedly, I know Shultz and his owner are an extreme example… but I must admit, I think a lot of what our society is already doing on a daily basis is a bit extreme!!! But because of the slow evolution of it all, it doesn't seem extreme to us. And when did we decide our children didn't have to be held responsible for their actions anymore? Because if we spanked them or used the word "no" with them or made them take a time out or apologize to someone they wronged then it might quelch their 'sense of self' or be considered 'mistreatment'. Really?!
(This leads me into what could be a blog topic of it's own – If we don't believe in teaching our children the importance of being responsible for their own actions - and being CONSISTENT in this - then how can we expect them to respect authority - and others at all for that matter - how can we teach them to live with a purpose and to be grateful for what is before them? Compare that to most of our 21st century, poorly-adjusted, selfishly demanding, and out of control screamers and whiners and tantrum-throwers cutting in line in front of people or imposing their own way – and feeling entitled to it all along?! Granted – I know some of you will wonder why I have the gall to say some parents aren't doing right by their children's future because I've never raised my own children. But I've been a responsible child and somehow I survived it - and I've been a significantly contributing adult in the lives of children not my own - and I've seen some well-grounded and well-adjusted parents (who were also once children) make some smart long-term decisions in regards to how they raise their children – and I've seen the outcome of their decisions – and in my opinion, something today and in the near future is going very wrong.)
Now – can I go back in time and live with the Ingalls' family in the little house, you know, the one on the prairie? Where the kids played in the dirt, played with all sorts of crazy bugs and spiders, walked home from school, were solely responsible for some of the household chores and if they didn't get done then dinner had to wait, and got up early in the morning to help dad out back - even on the weekends, got sick or hurt from time to time - and learned to deal with it, and saved their own money instead of it just being given to them when they asked for it, and being punished when it was warranted. Wait - this sounds a tad familiar. It sounds like how my parents raised me. Call me 'old-fashioned', but I think I would have liked it back then… save for the fact that I wouldn't have access to the internet where I could blog all my inner ponderings…