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Riding In Cars With Boys

Dad and his girl, Violet.

Yesterday I let my daughter take a ride in the back of a pick-up truck.  And I’m glad I did.  The decision wasn’t an easy one to make.  I went back and forth for several minutes, every What If scenario loudly making itself known.  Then, one simple thought occurred to me and I decided that I want to be the kind of mom that okays a ride down the street in the back of a pick-up truck for ice cream on a hot summer night.

Here’s what I thought:

Yes, it’s important to be safe but it is equally important to live life without the constant fear that something bad might happen.  Here is where I admit that I’m somewhat afraid to write this.  I know a million of you will judge me a bad mom for allowing my daughter to be in an unsafe position.

But here’s the thing:  I rode in pick-up trucks all the time while growing up.  It was one of childhood’s greatest pleasures.  Last night I wanted my daughter to experience that pleasure. Grandpa was driving, dad was holding Violet and we were cruising slowly along some pretty isolated back-country roads.  Does that mean nothing could happen?  Of course not.  I guess it means I’m willing to take the risk.

I want my daughter to take risks.  I want her to climb trees even though she might fall.  I want her to jump into an icy river every now and again, I want her to explore, I want her to really live life without constantly being afraid of what might happen.  It’s a fine line, of course, because I also want her to be aware of the possible outcomes of certain actions but I want her to use that information to make her more careful, not keep her from experiences.

This morning I woke up and read an article by Larry Magin in the Huffington Post. Now, let me preface this by saying that I in no way equate letting a child ride in the back of a pick-up truck with letting a child walk home alone from school. But Magin’s reasons behind continuing to allow children to walk home from school even though an 8-year-old Brooklyn boy, Leiby Kletzky, was recently murdered the first time he was allowed to walk home alone really ring true for me.

Magin says:

While we mourn the death of young Leiby, we must remember that safety is more than just the absence of danger. It’s the presence of a full and happy life —  a life that’s not dominated by fear. Of course we must do all we reasonably can to protect our children from crime, and I wouldn’t blame any parent for reacting by wanting to not just hug their kid, but bubble wrap them and hover over them to protect them from anything that could possibly harm them.  Perhaps it is a good time to remember how much we love our children and let them know, but it’s not a time to lock them up, keep them from the world, prevent them from exploring or fill them with fear.

Again, I completely understand the difference between putting a child in the back of a pick-up truck and letting a kid walk home from school alone. What I’m laboring to impart is that Magin managed to summarize the argument that led me to let my daughter ride in the truck in the first place. I don’t want to lock her up, keep her from the world, prevent her from exploring or filling her with fear. I want her to experience the wondrous beauty of the countryside at sunset from the bed of a pick-up truck, wrapped in the arms of her dad as the wind blows her hair every which way, even though I’m fully aware of the dangerous possibilities.

I guess that’s a little like the decision thousands of parents in Brooklyn are making this morning as they decide whether to allow their children to walk to school alone in the face of last week’s tragic murder of Leiby Kletzky. They are aware of the dangerous possibilities that exist so what kind of parent will they be? Will they take Magin’s advice and live life boldly or will they bubble wrap their children in fear, hovering over them to protect them from anything that could possibly harm them?

What do you think about my decision? Would you have made a different decision? Why?

 

Take risks, make mistakes: Teaching your child to be the Anti-Perfectionist

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