On Fear and Raising Children
I try not to live my life in fear. Different people would have you be afraid of different things. Nancy Grace wants you to be afraid of anyone who may ever come in contact with your children in any way. Dr. Oz wants you to be afraid of apple juice and energy drinks. Hank Williams Jr. wants you to be afraid of our democratically-elected president. Jenny McCarthy wants you to be afraid of vaccinations. Alex Jones wants you to be afraid of…. well, everything. That list could go on and on, as you well know. Some people literally think that everyone is trying to hack their Wi-Fi network, kidnap their children, and riddle any car with bullets as soon as someone shows disapproval of their driving. That’s fine (I suppose), but it’s also fine if I choose to ignore those people and live my life.
The problem is that this thinking affects me even if I choose not to buy into it. Being a thirty-something-white-male puts me in the category of “strangers that people avoid.” For instance, I can’t offer to help a middle school kid carry something heavy into their house. I can’t offer to give a couple of women a jump if their car won’t start unless there are 30 witnesses present. Women love to say that chivalry is dead, but what has really happened is that any man who offers to help a woman is “creepy” and any man who even speaks to a child he doesn’t know is a “pervert.” The result is that my only option is to sit by and let people suffer unless the person in need is a man similar to me in both age and stature.
But it’s different when dealing with your children. Now I have to try to strike a balance between choosing not to live in fear and being a “bad parent.” [If you ever wonder what it takes to be a bad parent, just think of all the things that made someone a good parent 30 years ago.] Even 15-20 years ago, most parents did not know where their kids were for a few hours a day. In the summer, I would get on my bike and I’d be gone. No cell phones. No GPS. No chip implanted in my skull. You can’t do that anymore. There is a very specific chain of custody with your children that is arranged with cell phones, background checks, and bodyguards.
Clearly I jest… but to what extent? Bill Burr jokes that “anything they’re doing to your dog now, they’re going to be doing to you in ten years.” This is a reference to the tracking microchip implanted in most dogs. Is too much safety really a bad thing? Is there such a thing as too much safety?
[Without getting too much into politics,] I for one would rather err on the side of freedom than on the side of safety. I don’t fear terrorists as much as I fear having my phone tapped by my own government. I value the freedom I had as a child. I could venture deep into the woods across the street from my parents’ house, far from the eyes of any authority. And what did I do with this freedom? I caught crayfish in the stream. I cleared out bike trails with a baseball bat and a rake. I climbed up the bank of the river, grabbing on to exposed roots, pretending it was a massive cliff.
This is why I’m looking for a house with a significant amount of land. I want my children to experience some of that freedom that is oh-so-hard to come by these days. I want to be able to send my kids outside to play without it being a death sentence of boredom and drudgery in a fenced-in area the size of a tennis court. Due to a nearly-collapsed housing market, it appears that my wife and I can afford our dream home at the age of thirty. For this we are grateful.
Maybe I’m projecting my desires onto my children. They will probably care little about how I grew up, just as when I was young I cared little about how my parents grew up. But it’s worth a shot, and it’s hard to have a love of the outdoors when you hardly have any room to breathe.
Life is good, and I have nothing but thanks for this opportunity. [I am, on the other hand, already upset by the rapid-fire emails from the realtor and my wife reading the stats out loud all night of every house within 100 miles.]