Last week, you may recall, we discussed Dear Abby’s advice to parents that they not allow their kids to leave their side at the store until the children are “big enough to fight off a predator.”
Along comes Carolyn Hax with almost the opposite advice: It is not fair to constrict a kid’s life only to make the parent feel less worried. Apparently Hax was responding to an earlier question about a once-traumatized (maybe even abused?) mom who only lets her child, Emma, go to school and come home. If any other friends want to hang out with the kid, they must come to HER house. After all, “Better safe than sorry.”
(A phrase that riles me because it supposes that if you are not super-safe there’s only one other option: sorrow and regret.)
The “My kid must be under my supervision at all times” attitude, wrote Carolyn in the Washington Post, is unfair and unfounded:
…If the risk is so high that Emma isn’t safe anywhere but home or school, then why is it OK for Emma’s friends to come to her house? By the parents’ logic, these friends, too, are safe only at their own homes or school.
Thinking logically about parenting issues is often assumed to be uncaring, as if excess worry proves excess love. So, Hax continues:
My logic probably sounds unsympathetic, but I’m not. I understand. Trauma doesn’t bug you for days or weeks and then leave; it rearranges your life.
It’s unrealistic to expect its victims to shed every memory of it, especially during the profound and emotional experience of child-rearing.
But there has to be compassion for the children, too.
For one thing, sometimes home is the problem. So much — too much — trauma comes from within families…. A culture of permitting kids to visit other houses…can rescue kids. It can give an abused child temporary refuge, and chances to know how healthy environments feel.
It can also just broaden typical kids’ horizons.
Plus — parents aren’t creating something on their own, of their own and that only they control. Child-rearing isn’t sculpting. It’s loving, protecting, teaching and ultimately releasing a fully realized human whose experiences from the beginning are her own. Emma deserves a chance at the childhood her friends are having when they come to her house….
And they all deserve a definition of “safe” that protects them not just from predation, but also from emotional stunting, from the joy-warping effects of irrational fear, and from the risk-seeking rebellions often launched by teens and young adults who’ve been raised like veal.
Seems that Hax actually thinks through her answers, rather than giving knee-jerk hysteria about stranger danger. She’s an advice columnist with actual advice.
Imagine that. – L.