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Generation Paranoid


Before I get into the post, I gotta tell you all that you’re gonna give me a big head with all of your compliments! All I can say is that I’m not worthy of all of you. I see other people and their blog rolls and I know that my blog readers can beat THEIR blog readers in a fight, and that makes me proud to know you all. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, thank you.


When I was a grade-schooler, the playground for my school (well, one of the playgrounds) had this gigantic wooden bridge leading to the metal equipment. I can’t remember what we called it exactly, but it was a deliberately wobbly bridge, flanked on either side by rusty (probably lead) chains that made the pattern of squares. I suppose the squares were there to hold kids back from falling down below, probably a 5 or 6 foot drop.

A forbidden game for us was “Bridge Tag” and as such, at every possible opportunity whenever the playground supervisor had her back turned, we played it. The rules were simple: two teams, one on either entrance to the bridge, and a fraction of those on either team would gravitate towards the middle. The object of the game was to get from one side of the bridge to the other.

One day when we were furtively playing this game, on my way across the wobbly bridge, I got seriously denied by another kid and ended up falling between the rusty chains onto the ground below. Square on my head.

This knocked the wind out of me, which frightened me enough to go and seek the playground monitor so that I could go to the nurse. When I found her, glowering and smoking a cigarette in front of the school, yelling insults to the kids in her physical proximity, I told her in deep hiccupy sentence fragments what had happened. Instead of whisking me off to the nurse, she put me in the penalty box for playing Forbidden Bridge Tag, and I stood there, still trying to catch my breath while my head throbbed uncomfortably.

Obviously, save for a few missing brain cells (probably the one’s responsible for spelling words properly and knowing when NOT to use a comma) I was fine. I’m here today, have no neurological issues (shut UP!) and had forgotten about it until I was talking to my friend KC last night.

But can you IMAGINE what would happen if this happened today, 20 years later?

That monitor would have been fired well before she didn’t send me to the nurse and instead punished me for my misdeeds, if not for the smoking in front of kids (oh the HUMANITY!) but for the fact that she routinely insulted us about nothing. She was not, as the French say, a Kid-Lover.

The school would have been sued for having such a dangerous playground, and the principal would probably have been sent to prison for…something.

I mean, I’m all for keeping my kids safe, really I am, but I tend to think that this whole safety thing has just gone too far. There’s a point somewhere where you really need to allow your kids to be kids and not be mini-adults.

I recently had to sign a waiver allowing my big son to attend a school birthday party at which some dude brought in a number of reptiles. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the kid to get salmonella or something, but I am pretty sure that this is the awesomest idea for a birthday party ever (hint, hint, The Daver) and that I trust that my son will wash his hands after handling it.

When I scoffed at The Daver’s insistence that Ben get a helmet for riding his bike, I was promptly rebuked by him for ignoring obvious safety issues. While I have any number of scars on my body from falling off bikes and such, I am pretty fond of them overall. They each tell a story. And Ben’s head? On his peewee bike? Not very far from the ground. I’ve watched as both of my macrocephalic children use their heads as battering rams and frankly, I’m not too worried about Ben on a bike. Especially since he’s going 3 feet/hour.

Not exactly a cyclist, right?

I don’t know, but I think I’m in the minority here: day to day, I’m not overly concerned for my son’s safety. He’s bright enough to look both ways before he crosses the street, he knows not to go anywhere with strangers, and if he breaks his arm falling off a trampoline?

That’ll make a kick-ass story for him to tell later in life.

24 Comments to

“Generation Paranoid”

  1. On May 1st, 2008 at 11:50 am Carlynn Says:

    I tend to agree. We grew up eating soil and building houses in haystacks that could have crushed us and we’re ok. I am all for safety as well but I think we are going overboard. I suppose we want to avoid the awful accidents and we want someone to blame when things do go wrong but kids need a little freedom to just be kids and as you say, a broken arm usually has a good story behind it when you’re eight.

  2. On May 1st, 2008 at 11:54 am Kyddryn Says:

    Metal spring. Exposed plug prongs in electrical socket. Water. Small boy.

    I’m right there with you…I don’t really worry much. Bird hasn’t got a helmet, and his knees and elbows are already chewed up from falling off the bike.

    I won’t get into the freckle/dent on his back.

    I bought him a bed with a ladder and a slide as the only ways in. It’s inches from the ceiling fan (the fan’s never on, because I’m not that awful a mum!).

    I believe that children should climb, crawl, jump, and fall. They should know up close and personal how gravity works, and they should bleed a little, too. They learn about scabs and scars, things that hurt and things that hurt a lot, and thinking before doing. If you pad them, wrap them in bubble-wrap and keep them safe from everything, you do them a disservice – they never learn to choose the safe way, the fun way, to decide that any pain experienced will be worth it…or not.

    Hmm…I think I’ll turn this into a post some time. Thanks!!

    Shade and Sweetwater,

  3. On May 1st, 2008 at 12:34 pm DD Says:

    Oh, the crazy shit that we put ourselves through as kids (jumping from the haymount into the grain pile below; sneaking a swim in the “pond”; biking to town – 6 miles – on gravel roads and no helmets). Today? I feel my mommy-senses tingling just watching my son spin in circles, fearful he smack his head on the coffee table.

    HOWEVER…I agree with the Daver about the helmet. Nothing wrong with kids getting use to wearing them now. Sure it’s a 24″ bike now, but tomorrow it’s a skateboard or a trick-bike. I’d rather my son collect cracked helmets than scars and mild concussions.

  4. On May 1st, 2008 at 12:35 pm Vered - MomGrind Says:

    I don’t necessarily agree with you. I am probably as paranoid as it gets.

    Having said that… my daughter fell of a playground structure a couple of years ago and broke her arm – badly, in three places including the elbow. She is fine, but I guess my point is, that even if you *are* overprotective, it doesn’t necessarily protect your kids… so it could be just a huge waste of energy.

    I’m just not sure I can help it.

  5. On May 1st, 2008 at 1:02 pm Denise Says:

    I think there is a line between being protective and being overly protective. I’m a bit more relaxed on safety issues than my dear husband. Our daughter must wear her helmet for her bike and her scooter! He freaks in a parking lot if she’s not holding his hand. Me, she knows she has to hold my hand or stay right by me and I just don’t freak out about it.

    I know for a while we were way overprotective of Ariana after she was born, but she was over 5 weeks early and had GERD. We had rules and expected family & friends to follow them, no matter how ridiculous they made us feel. But the experience has also taught me that I can’t put my kids in a bubble. Things are going to happen. And it will be okay.

    My kids are high energy and quite spirited. Jumping from chair to couch, falling as they run full out, etc. I don’t flinch when they fall, don’t rush to their aid as they are falling. Most of the time they brush themselves off and keep on truckin. If they need some comfort, they get it but I will not freak out on them.

  6. On May 1st, 2008 at 1:10 pm Sara Says:

    I agree that being overprotective isn’t going to fix anything. I look at the crazy stuff we did, and hey, my kids won’t get that hurt.

    We do insist on helmets for wheeled activities. But mainly because I’m certain MY kids would be the ones to fall two feet and end up with a cracked skull, while another kid could get thrown across a car and end up with a scratch!

  7. On May 1st, 2008 at 1:13 pm Backpacking Dad Says:

    I wrote a post about this stuff a few weeks ago called ‘Free Range Kids’ after the blog of the woman who let her 9 year old ride the NYC subway home.

    People are crazy.

    Don’t let them get their crazy on you.

  8. On May 1st, 2008 at 1:29 pm Pauline Says:

    I totally agree with you. I may not have kids yet, but we have to let the kids live a little!

  9. On May 1st, 2008 at 1:30 pm b Says:

    K and I have had many fights over me not making my 15 yr old son wear a helmet while riding his bike. I never wore one. Sure..I’ve got scars (from stitches) from some of the accidents I had..but like you said..I’ve also got some awesome stories of my adventures. I used to be able to stand up on my bicycle seat..NO HANDS while riding down the road. Dude..I was the shit.

  10. On May 1st, 2008 at 1:42 pm andria Says:

    Just the daily dodgeball games in itself would have been reason enough to fire our smoking fifth grade teachers. I want to sue them for exposing me to all their second hand smoke all those years. I could probably do it too.

  11. On May 1st, 2008 at 1:56 pm kbreints Says:

    Yeah — I hear you with all of this! I had to sign a Sun Screan Waiver at Daycare the other day… WTF??

  12. On May 1st, 2008 at 1:58 pm KC Says:

    Remember those steel slides they used to have? As a kid – the big steel slide was always the tallest. It was also always 9 million degrees. My leg skin would stick to the metal and I swear my skin would sizzle. Of course, once you made it down into a pile of gravel, you would get right back in line to burn your ass all over again.

    Good times.

  13. On May 1st, 2008 at 2:24 pm Heather Says:

    A sun screen waiver?! Nuts, I tell you! I’m probably a 4 out of 10 on the paranoia scale – but mine is due more to my own control issues than safety (sad and strange? Yes.). I’m cool with him being a boy and getting a bit roughed up; it’s the grandparents who have to be restrained all the time wanting him tied down and subdued — oh, no! He’s running! Stop him! He’ll fall!


    And I have a teacher tale, too.
    Mrs. Dot. Kindergarten. Used to sit on her desk during naptime while picking her nose. And then she’d flick the boogies at the “sleeping” children. I think I’ll never forget that. She’s probably a hundred now.

  14. On May 1st, 2008 at 3:08 pm tash Says:

    Point of the first: bike helmets? Good things, IMO. Remember, they used to play football sans helmets, but I don’t think anyone wants to go back there.

    Before last year, I think I was with ya on most stuff. I’m constantly pissed at how playgrounds are just totally dumbed down to the point where they don’t offer much of anything that uses imagination or strength or physical ability because of teh Lawyer. (And people wonder why kids watch so much tv. You can’t effin’ use a blank unused field to get a scrum match of soccer going without waivers and trespassing suits and neighbors getting in a twit about noise.) So the more the merrier, I say. I remember hanging upside down by my knees ON THE MERRY GO ROUND and occasionally winding up with a mouthful of sand. Good times. I’m sure worse coulda happened.

    After last year . . . .well. I’m now an anxious freak. I couldn’t even take my daughter to swim class (my husband had to). Every other sentence out of my mouth is “BE CAREFUL!” And I really need to get a grip. I’m thinking about enrolling her in (get this) rock climbing this summer. To get us both back on the horse. Wish me luck.

  15. On May 1st, 2008 at 3:37 pm Michelle Says:

    I am more on the paronoid side. I have this weird fear of my kids falling and breaking their teeth. My kids both wear helmets, they just put them on without me asking them to. If they ask if they can ride without-I do hesitate and almost give in, but I fear it will be that one time that I let them, and they will fall and crack their heads open.
    But I do remember in Junior High, walking to Woodfield, which was about 10 miles away on a major road! Now I am nervous letting my son walking to the neighbors!

  16. On May 1st, 2008 at 4:46 pm heather Says:

    I am more worried about my daughter getting shot at school, or being obliterated in a car crash than I ever worried about her skinning her knee while skating, etc. It’s a wonder anyone my age (34, ahem) and older ever made it through childhood. My mom carried me home from the hospital in the car, in her ARMS. Carseat? What carseat?

  17. On May 1st, 2008 at 5:09 pm Becky Says:

    My own mother used to nurse me while driving.

    Not dangerous AT ALL.

  18. On May 1st, 2008 at 5:34 pm Jenn Says:

    Hahah. I cracked both my heels on the playground when I was 6 (maybe 7) because I slid down the fire pole they had there, it was wet (from rain) and I slipped off. It never once occurred to my mother to sue (though I kind of wish she had because we were what you call po’) or anything. It wasn’t all that traumatic, really. Mostly I was just happy to be excused from Phys Ed for a few weeks!!

    I don’t insist on my son wearing a helmet when he’s on his tricycle or scooter. Of course, there IS the cute factor in someone with a rather small head trying to balance with the extra weight of a helmet, haha.

    Kids these days are babied a little too much, I think. Obviously SOME safety rules makes sense – seat buckles in cars is one. For the most part I think that people worry waaaaaaay too much. My husband gasps in horror every time Boo falls down or Monkey gets hurt. I ask two questions: Is it bleeding? and Can you move it? If the answers are No and Yes then I tell them to move on, haha.

  19. On May 1st, 2008 at 9:47 pm theramblinghousewife Says:

    I definitely agree in principle . . .
    But when it comes to my own two kids . . .
    Admittedly, I am a card-carrying member of “Generation Paranoid.”

    If I could, I’d keep them both in a bubble for their entire lives!!

    Yes .. .I’m one of “THOSE” Moms . . .

    I can’t believe I just admitted that! 🙂

  20. On May 2nd, 2008 at 12:45 am Kristen Says:

    I used to be one of those super paranoid mom’s, I have relaxed immensely. Like a billion times more relaxed. Boys have to be boys. My dh was listening to a radio show about that today, how we are emasculating our boys. I can totally see it.

    By the way, you definitely deserve all the compliments, you are way too gorgeous! And cute too.

  21. On May 2nd, 2008 at 12:47 am Kristen Says:

    And an amazing writer, mother and kick ass chick.

  22. On May 2nd, 2008 at 10:16 pm Stefanie Says:

    I don’t read all the comments so forgive me if I repeat something someone already said (I’m sure I’ll say it with more obscenity anyway) but I agree totally! People ask me if Elby needs a helmet with her Dora bike which is a two wheeler, yes (with training wheels) but it’s so close to the ground it may as well be a trike. WTF? But I let her wear a helmet because it makes my husband feel like a better father. Whatever. I have so many scars I wish they were hip because I’d be sooo cool.

    Oh, can I tell you how much I love your current blog design? I want to copy!

  23. On May 3rd, 2008 at 8:02 am Leslee Says:

    Alex doesn’t have a helmet. Well, he doesn’t have one at MY house. He does at gramma’s, but not at home. He’s already fallen and smakced his face on the curb, but he was fine. I never had a helmet and I turned out (mostly) ok. Breaking bones and getting stitches are a right of passage in my family! 😛

  24. On May 3rd, 2008 at 10:48 am honeywine Says:

    The Daver sounds like M. Just imagine a 30 year old man wearing a military uniform and riding a bike to work on an Army base. It was all I could do not to put a big ol’ D on his helmet! I say let them get hurt occasionally. Danger is big fun and we all know it!

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