Safety verses Fear…..who’s winning now?

I am a mother of 5 (almost) so before you read this, please remember that I think about the safety of my children all the time.  Every parent does.

But lately it seems as if everyone is getting just a little out of control.

For example, our neighborhood elementary school has a no running policy on the playground unless you are wearing proper shoes and running base to base on the kickball field.

Seriously.  No running at RECESS.  (which, on a side note, is the only single 15 minute recess these kids get in an almost 7 hour day, but that is another travesty not being addressed in this blog)

The school has told the kids that they might fall and get hurt if they are running.

Well, yeah.  They might.  But by telling our kids not to run, we are telling them to live in fear of getting hurt.  And an essential part of life is all about getting hurt, finding a way back up again, and then overcoming it.

I have two friends that will never let their kids play in front of their house, ever, not even while being watched, because they might be kidnapped.  Another friend won’t let her 13-year-old walk home from school with her friends because of the same fear.  We have a cottage in the woods of Michigan we go to and someone once asked me “Aren’t you too afraid of ticks to let your children play in the woods?”  Um, no.  Can you get lime disease from ticks?  Sure can.  But which is more likely to cause your kid damage:  one or two tick bites a year, OR having my kids stay inside our cottage all weekend, staring out the window, and telling them, “Kids, it looks fun.  But there are these tiny little bugs called ticks that could get on you and IF they bite you, you actually have a whopping 1-3% chance of getting lime disease.”  Be afraid kids….be very very afraid.

Those may seem to be such obvious, irrational thoughts, but here’s one that might make you wonder if I’m right.  This was recently in the news.

Park Elementary School student Josh Welch was suspended March 1 for two days after school officials accused him of shaping the pastry into the form of a gun and waving it around. School officials sent a letter home to Park Elementary parents saying the student had been “removed from the classroom” for making “inappropriate gestures that disrupted the class.”

The incident has captured national attention and focused a debate on what constitutes a threat among schoolchildren. Josh’s suspension came in the wake of heightened security concerns in schools across the country following the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children were killed.

“They tried to brand this kid and throw him under the bus, and he’s going to be in the school system for more than 10 years,” said Ficker, who contends the incident could reflect on Josh Welch later in his academic career in Anne Arundel County.

Interesting.  Without a doubt, there is a heightened sense of fear surrounding weapons in schools, but I have to say this is going too far.

I can say from experience, that this is not necessarily a reflection of poor family values.  Nor does there have to be a gun in Josh Welch’s house for him to make his pop tart into one.  We were the parents that intended to a house void of weapon toys, and I’m here to tell you that boys will make weapons out of anything.  Chicken legs, paper, sticks, a pair of under ware, even pop tarts.  It happens.  This kid is being punished for having an imagination.

Tragedy happens, and when children are involved it rocks our world.  But who wins if we begin to create a world where we do everything we can to stop children from ever being hurt, even in the smallest of ways?  If we attempt to do this, think of all that we would have to limit besides running: sports, dating, mowing the yard, swimming, playing in the woods, waiting at the bus stop, auditioning for a play, even touching.  Which Fairfax Middle School in Virginia has already banned.  Yes, folks, no touching in any way.  The principal has seen too many touching episodes end in bloody knuckles and just feels the kids are unable to learn appropriate from inappropriate touching.  Wow.

We learn from mistakes.  We learn from getting hurt.  Our kids need to take some risks.  The question is how far should we go to ensure the safety of our children, without making them live their lives in fear?