Good Parents are Scaredy Cats

I don't really want to know if this is real or not. Photo Caption:

One of my favorite places is the beach. I am captivated and transformed by the symphony of crashing waves, the salt-tinged wind, the soft yet textured sand and the seemingly endless stretch of ocean. I have to visit the beach every year, even if only for a few days. Ironically, this place is also home to one of my greatest fears – the shark. And not just any shark, but the Great White Shark – star of one of the most influential movies of my generation, “Jaws.” I wish I was lying or simply exaggerating. As much as I love the beach, I am also terrified to venture into the ocean past my knees. I know it’s irrational. I know that you are more likely to get hit by lightning than to get attacked by a shark. According to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File Report, in 2011, there were only 29 attacks in the U.S. and no fatalities. But, this does nothing to settle the knots that form in the pit of my stomach each time I try to venture out beyond my comfort zone.

This is why I do not judge the irrational fear. We all have them. Personally, I think fears can be healthy and may even save your life or your child’s. I was reading an article titled Top 10 Mom Worries You Should Drop (interestingly shark attacks was not on this list) and decided that I had a problem with several (okay maybe all) items on the list.

Here is the list of things you are NOT supposed to worry about:

  1. Kidnapping
  2. School snipers
  3. Terrorism
  4. Stranger danger
  5. Drugs
  6. Vaccinations
  7. Playing in the front yard/walking to school
  8. Bullying
  9. School buses
  10. Natural Disasters

The person who wrote this article obviously didn’t grow up in the 1980s. If so, that person would recognize that numbers 1, 4 and 5 were drilled into our heads by our teachers, parents, and by the media. Remember D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education)? Or the photos of missing children placed on our milk cartons at school? How about the endless videos we watched that taught us never to accept candy from a stranger, to never help find a missing dog, and never ever to help give directions? Is it wrong to worry about these things, or to teach (maybe in a more toned-down manner) the risks of taking drugs or interacting with strangers to our children?

In light of the shootings at Virginia Tech, and more recently in France and Florida, I do not think number 2 is a false fear. With easy access to guns, there will always be the possibility that individuals with untreated mental issues, may act in ways unimaginable. Isn’t this why schools now allow students to carry cell phones and practice lock-down drills?

If you lived in New York or Washington, DC during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, then I don’t even have to explain why number 3 is so real. No, we shouldn’t be frozen in fear, but it is okay to worry about something that can change the lives of so many in just a morning.

Parents have a right to fear number 6. While vaccinations are usually safe and medically necessary, it is not wrong to question and yes worry about the long-term side effects.

Ask Trayvon Martin’s parents whether or not number 7 can be dangerous. Even if he wasn’t walking to or from school, he was simply walking in his neighborhood. Also, ask the 16-year-old girl in my school district (one of the top ranked and supposedly safest in Fairfax, VA) who was grabbed walking home from school last week whether or not it is a real fear.

On a truly serious note, this person is also undercutting the effect of bullying on our children by listing it as number 8. This fear is real and is prominent in so many lives. If you are a parent and you do not fear this, then you should see the movie Bully, which premiers March 30. As I heard in an interview recently with the parents of a child who lost his life because of bullying, it doesn’t matter how much you love your child, your child can be at risk of being bullied.

Numbers 9 and 10, well I don’t have anything to support why these should be eliminated from the list, except to say that Washington, DC recently had its first earthquake and that was pretty scary. I imagined aftershocks for weeks, so I don’t know how you west coasters cope.

I say trash the list completely (not in any disrespectful way of course) because it is okay to embrace your fears. If you think yours are ridiculous though, then read Liz Kozak’s list of 49 parent fears and how to ease them.

I for one know it is okay to get clammy and overly attentive to the surface of the ocean looking for fins as I watch my 13-year-old body surf. Do I shout at the top of my lungs, “SHARK?” No, I don’t. Do I prohibit my children from enjoying jumping over waves? No, I don’t. It takes everything I have not to cause a scene from time to time, but I control my urges because I do not want my children to share in this insane fear. On the other hand, none of my kids have been eaten by a shark.




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