In light of recent events, Michael and I faced the question this weekend, “now what?” Do we continue to let the kids walk to school?
I know many of you will whole-heartedly disagree with us – and that’s okay; I understand your perspective – but we confidently decided together to let them continue. I’ve been mentally fleshing-out our reasons in hopes of clearly explaining why, and to hopefully stimulate your own thoughts about your own families.
It comes down to this: we don’t want our kids to live in fear. If we said, “no, you are not allowed to walk to school anymore, even though your response last week was dead-on, absolutely correct,” then what we are really communicating is The world is too scary of a place, and when something bad happens, you high-tail it out of there and retreat. You can’t handle this.
What we want to communicate is Yes, the world is a scary place. Bad things happen, and there are some really rotten people out there. But I am confident that you can handle it.
The kids were prepared. That’s a huge part of this. They knew what to do, and they did it (other than waiting two hours to tell me…but now they know better). As much as I would love to put my kids in a little bubble and protect them from all the evil in the world, I can’t. That is not realistic. Yes, protecting my kids is part of my job, and I do that as is needed and age-appropriate. If there is a situation that they can’t handle, I step in. But instead of completely (and unhealthily) protecting them, I would much rather prepare them to deal with the evil themselves. I can’t always be there to do it for them. I think part of being a good parent is letting your kids go, letting them prove themselves, letting them learn responsibility. They can’t do that when I am hovering and guarding their every move.
Some might say, “there are only two days left in the school year – why not drive them for those two days and let them walk again in the fall?” Huh? Where is the logic in that? Danger is constant. You’re not safe from danger until you’re dead. What is the difference between walking for the last two days and the first two days three months from now?
I was thinking about how this looks in different scenarios. When the kids were babies, we covered up all the outlets because they did not have the reasoning skills to know that fingers, toys, and eating utensils do not belong in an electrical outlet. But they know that now, so we have taken off all the outlet covers. They are responsible enough to know the proper use of an outlet. Nathan is not allowed to plug anything in yet because he does not know how to get his fingers out of the way. Meghan and Griffin have free reign over the outlets because they do know.
Water is a scary thing. As one of my friends said recently, it is unforgiving. But I don’t forbid my kids from swimming because of the risk of drowning. No, I make darn sure they know how to swim. Until they do, they do not leave my sight or their life vests.
So it’s kind of the same thing. Michael and I know our kids, we’ve prepared our kids, and we know they are responsible and equipped. They have proven to us that they know what to do in a dangerous situation. We set strict rules when they started walking to and from school: stay on the sidewalk, stay together, be kind, don’t pick up rocks or sticks (guess who that last one was for?). And for the most part, they have followed the rules (still working on the rocks and sticks part). We also went over every possible dangerous-situation scenario and discussed what they should do. We did not send them out unprepared.
The world is a very scary place. Even suburbs can be scary. But scariness is everywhere – and all we can do is know our kids, equip our kids to face it, and pray like crazy.