Friday, April 23, 2010

Overprotective Parents

Okay, people.  I get it, I really do.  You love your children and want no harm to come to them.  We live in a scary world, and there are countless bad things that can happen.  I understand.  But are there really predators around every corner?  Nope.  Will video games make your kids violent?  No, double no, and a "hell no" to top it off.

Here's the deal.  It's the parents responsibility to ensure their kids safety.  Sure, and by all means do so.  But I'm reminded of one of my favorite Benjamin Franklin quotes: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."  He was talking about political policy, of course, but it applies here as well.  Children, especially once they reach a certain age, require the liberty to make mistakes and experience life.  To deprive them of this experience in the interest of protecting them will not prevent harm, but will CAUSE it.  Part of psychological development is learning how to make and deal with your own mistakes.  Part of life is learning how to properly deal with society.

What brought on this discussion?  I was working at the bookstore the other day, and a woman came in with her son (I would guess perhaps age fourteen or so).  He wanted a book on dinosaurs, so I showed them to the science section and offered a few suggestions.  Of course I avoided the advanced scientific books, but I found a couple nice oversized "illustrated encyclopedia" type books that seemed to be precisely what they were looking for.  I gave him a few to flip through and see how he'd enjoy them.

The mother said, "I'm going to go look around.  Can you stay here and look through those?"


"Okay, there are chairs right over there.  You can sit down and have a look."


"Now don't wander off, and if anyone tries anything funky, you scream.  And I don't mean scream like 'ehh,' but you really scream."

This is not a six year old child we're talking about here, but an adolescent.  An acquaintance of mine who I met at a magic theatre owned his own business, was involved in non-prophet work, and a decent stage performer by the time he was that age.  Many lose their virginity earlier than that and though becoming sexually active at age fourteen may be a mistake (not a horrible mistake, but perhaps a mistake nonetheless), I can't help but wonder, what the fuck is wrong with this mother?  The child is old enough to live a little, and unless he's severely mentally challenged (which is obviously not the case), he should be able to visit the bookstore without a lesson on how to scream "if anyone tries anything funky."

Do you want to create a world full of people who don't know how to engage someone in conversation?  A world full of people afraid to get on a plane for a business trip without someone to hold their hand the whole way?  A world full of socially inept, mentally incapable buffoons?  That's what you're contributing to if you're an overprotective parent.  Get over yourself and let your kids live life the way it's meant to be lived, because guess what--there aren't predators around every corner, sitting on the toilet seat isn't going to give you a disease, and as long as you use protection, sex isn't evil.

By all means, teach your children about the dangers that do exist.  The world isn't always a pretty place.  But sheltering them from life is not the answer.  It will only leave them ill-prepared to face challenges later.

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