Why Even Good Moms Take Risks
Sometimes we’re not as smart about our kids’ safety as we like to think.
My neighbor is taking his 8-year-old daughter to school. She hops in the front passenger seat, her head just about level with the air-bag compartment. After pulling the car out of the driveway, her dad heads the wrong way down our one-way street to avoid a long detour to the main road. I once politely pointed out that his actions might, um, kinda be putting his daughter’s life at risk. (Translation: I didn’t scream, “What are you, NUTS?”) He smiled wryly and admitted, “Yeah, I know. But I’m a good driver.”
My stomach churns every time I see him do it. But, truth be known, there are times I haven’t been as careful about my kids’ safety as I could have been. You probably haven’t, either.
A big part of a parent’s job is to keep our children alive long enough for them to have offspring that they can protect. We adapt our rules and behavior to current science and society. Cars, toys, clothes, furnishings and playgrounds are designed with child safety in mind, and there’s an abundance of locks, gates, cushions, safeguards and warnings for the things that don’t already come childproofed.
These precautions ought to make us feel more relaxed and confident about our children’s well-being, but if anything, they heighten our awareness of all the dangers out there. A pretty charm bracelet could be contaminated with lead paint; the string ties on a cool hoodie could snag on something and become a noose. A child’s first taste of peanut butter used to be a non-event; now parents have to watch anxiously to make sure his throat doesn’t swell shut.
Maybe that’s why we can’t help playing a little fast-and-loose with the safety rules every so often – we’re just burnt out from being so cautious. We let a fussy newborn sleep in bed with us for a night. We zip the minivan through a yellow light. We feed a toddler raisins and hot dog chunks despite the choking hazards. Maybe we even venture into trickier waters, like smoking around the kids or – shades of my mom – leaving them in the (locked) car for two minutes while we dash into the convenience store.