Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Falling Coconuts Kill More People than Sharks

We’re about to begin construction on a fort. Anyone who remembers the design for our sandbox, which rocks, will know the fort will be very cool as well: room enough to stand in, weather proof, matches the home siding and colors, power (Ethernet?), with a trap door/secret entrance in the floor that leads to the sand box. While dreaming of fort features, Rob suggested putting in fold out bunks on the wall, so the boys could sleep outside…

Now, when I was a kid, I slept outside with friends on our tramp almost every summer weekend. We’d bounce around, joke, and play games. Once we got tired, we’d lay there expressing our small minds while staring into the stars, well past our regular bed time and well out of the earshot of any adult. You could still see then the swath of the Milky Way in the sky of our suburb.

Those nights contain some of my fondest memories from childhood, even those nights we forgot to turn the sprinkler system off :-).

But at Rob’s suggestion of bunks in the fort, my first thought was no way. No way would I let our kids sleep outside. Times are different here in Utah, aren’t they? Right now Utah is mourning the death of Hser Ner Moo, kidnapped and murdered by her neighbor. Elizabeth Smart was taken right out of her home and out the backyard. Why make such easier by putting the kids one step closer to that unimaginable wilderness, where I can’t hear a thing, right?

I’ll admit that I’ve gone overboard at times. We’ve been threatened and it has made me cautious; I know there are people out there who’d think it right that our family was split up, if not worse. So when we built out home, I personally installed our security system. Now I can track any motion in the home and know when even the neighbor’s dog has been through the yard :-). I connected it all to the home automation system, and even installed cameras.

I know all that is ridiculous. But I did it so that I wouldn’t have to think about it and now I don’t, much. But let the kids sleep outside?

We’ve got some years before they’re old enough by most people’s measure, but what to do when that day comes?

Fact probably is that such caution is irrational caution. How many people, children, now live in our valley? Of them, how many are kidnapped and killed? I’m pretty sure it’s no more a percentage than it was when I was a kid, when there were no Amber Alerts or 24 hr news channels. And even if it is higher, the odds must be miniscule.

In fact, the leading cause of death for children is accidents, mainly automobile accidents, and yet I strap them into the car everyday.

So am I being ridiculous to be hesitant? Do/would you let your children sleep outside without you in a city or suburb? Am I being one of those over-protective parents? I don’t want them to even know such a worry exists; I want them to talk with their buddies late into the night where they know we can’t hear them; I want them to sleep on the tramp, under the stars, even if the Milky Way has been drown out; I want them to be awoke at 3 AM by the sprinklers they forgot to turn off... It’s just that, while the odds may be low of any harm coming of it, the consequences mean the world.

Sheesh, parenting is complicated. Maybe I’ll put motion detectors and intercom in the fort ;-)…

21 comments:

Kengo Biddles said...

Scot, you're speaking to the hearts of every parent. I see my sons and I worry, worry that I'm not going to be able to do enough to protect them from the really bad stuff that's in the world. I'll wake up in the dead of night and have to go around the house making sure all the windows and doors are locked up before I can go to sleep again.

It's hard to say. I want to let my kids sleep outside. I want to let them have those fun times, just as we both did, yet I worry, with things like Elizabeth Smart and Hser Ner Moo, among the many that have come to mind.

I think at some point you have to say to yourself, "Self," because that's what you should call yourself, out of respect, "Self, we can't protect them from everything..." just like Marlin has to learn in Finding Nemo.

Tough, tough, tough. I guess that's what spouses are for, though...to help shoulder the worry burden and remind us that the kids do have to live.

MohoInTx said...

I recently heard a story about how a mother let her 9 year old son travel by subway in NYC. People were criticizing her, but she claims it was something her son wanted and she knew he would be alright.

Mr. Fob said...

I tend to fall on the paranoid side myself, but I know I would worry all night until I saw them safe the next morning.

Scot said...

Kengo: “just like Marlin has to learn in Finding Nemo.”

That has to be one of our favorite movies around here, and I get the message… but, well, you know.


I recently heard a story about how a mother let her 9 year old son travel by subway in NYC.

9, wow. Compared to that we’re a totalitarian regime around here :-).

I tend to fall on the paranoid side myself, but I know I would worry all night until I saw them safe the next morning.


I think I might post watch in the bushes if we ever allow such.

But your parents let you do stuff like that too, right? Hmm… Maybe my parents didn't like me all that much ;-).

Chedner said...

I don’t want them to even know such a worry exists

Ah, but the worry does exist, and they should be aware of it -- not so that they will be irrationally concerned or worried, but so they can be rationally concerned or worried -- so they can be courageously prepared for any situation.

I think an intercom or some sort of panic button is a fantastic idea accompanied with calm and rational instructions to your children on how such should be used in an emergency.

Being protective is one thing... a parent should be 100% protective, if not more. But being protective does not entail, in any form, hiding truth or shielding a child from very real worries (nor does it entail denying a child of fond memories).

Children need to understand that being worried, frightened, concerned, etc. is beneficial -- these feelings keep us from harm. We should not hide or suppress these feelings (nor should we let them interfer with a normal life). Rather, we should learn what to do when these feelings arise.

This is a parent's job in this regard, to calmly make their children aware of life and to teach their children what to do when scary situations present themselves -- not to teach their children to pretend scary situations aren't there (because they are there, and children have every right and every need to know).

This the most protective thing a parent can do in both the long and short runs.

Plus, it builds a steady foundation of trust and communication which is vital to any parent-child relationship.

So, I say let them sleep outside, but make sure they're calmly and rationally aware of any worries and what to do if one of the worries presents itself -- and install any security measures you can think of to help them feel and to give them the resources to be secure and safe and confident to act rationally, so that they can safely enjoy being a kid.

... anyway, that's my advice... even though I'm not a papa yet...

Sean said...

Since we're discussing parenting....

in our family, i'm the one that a little more freewheeling when it comes to the kids doing things outside by themselves. However, I do prefer when that they stick with their friends. We also have to meet the parents. If the older kids are with their friends, then they have to stick with them...no walking by themselves (or anything as such). My good wife is the stronger enforcer of these rules, but then she grew up in one of the major metro cities, whereas I'm just a country bumpkin in comparison.

but speaking on the "cool" side...a fort with fold out wall beds and an intercom with the possibility of SatComm and etherlink connections. THAT is just SO cool.

[kɹeɪ̯g̊] said...

I'm not sure that anyone who's not a parent already is qualified to answer those questions. I know I'm not.

I think that I agree with Chedner's answer.

I know that I loved sleeping outside on our trampoline, or in a tent in the woods behind our house alone, or with my brother. Of course, we lived in the country about a kilometre from the city.

Oh, and I'd love to help with the fort- if you need any that is.

Java said...

"Parenting is complicated"
You've only just begun...

I, too, knew an awful lot about how to parent before I had children. I am now at least partially responsible for 6 children. (two being not officially "my" children, and legal adults yet still very much in need of parental guidance). The more children I have, the less I know.

Should your boys sleep outside in the fort? That would be way cool. But as far as whether they should or not, I have no way of knowing. Good luck.

Java said...

Also, a question about the title of this post:
Unclear antecedent
Do falling coconuts kill more people than coconuts kill sharks? Or do falling coconuts kill more people than sharks kill people?

Kengo Biddles said...

Java, thank you for the laugh-out-loud moment of the day.

Chedner, I think you're 100% right.

Scot, I have no doubt you'll make the right decision, but if you need help one weekend, I wouldn't mind coming up to help you build the fort. I'm fairly handy, as my construction efforts with Hyrum and his remodel (to appease pregnant Eva) can clearly attest.

Cooper said...
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Cooper said...
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Cooper said...

I grew up roaming the woods alone or with my best friend, biking, messing around in the lake, sleeping outdoors on hot summer nights, star-gazing ... childhood times of play and dreaming. My heart wants my sons to experience what I did. I don't want to deny them those joys. Yet, I have my fears, too.

The other day I had a moment of total panic when my 5 year old son briefly left my frame of vision when we were out on a family bike hike (he ran ahead and ducked behind a tree). Really, my reaction was over-the-top, but it was there nevertheless.

I think it's a very fine line between not instilling irrational fear and giving enough information to be aware and self-protective, and allowing freedom to discover and explore life.

My sons are only 5 and 2 right now, but I plan to allow them sleepovers outdoors with their friends. I will probably keep vigil all night by the window. :)

Scot said...

Chedner “... anyway, that's my advice... even though I'm not a papa yet...

And fine advice it is; you’ll make a good papa.

I’m all for letting them know there are reasons for concern. The worry I was thinking of was about what often happens after a child is taken, Hser Ner Moo in particular. They are too young to have such on the mind.

Sean: My good wife is the stronger enforcer of these rules, but then she grew up in one of the major metro cities, whereas I'm just a country bumpkin in comparison.

This is kind of what I’m wondering about. Is the difference between those raised in cities vs country based on a real difference or are there just more people in cities leading to higher odds of such news in the area and more paranoia? Rob, as you know, is a country guy; can milk a cow, harvest hay and everything.

Craig Oh, and I'd love to help with the fort- if you need any that is.

You know this may mean digging a long line for the power and data for surveillance system? :-)

Java Do falling coconuts kill more people than coconuts kill sharks? Or do falling coconuts kill more people than sharks kill people?

No that wasn’t clear. I meant that more people are killed by falling coconuts than falling sharks. It’s a fact.

Kengo if you need help one weekend

Hey, another poor soul… we might have a bbq in the making :-).

Cooper: Really, my reaction was over-the-top

I know what you mean though… I thought I understood panic. Then I had kids.

You’ve been to the ER with that first croupy cough and the doctor has looked at you like you’re insane too, right? :-)

Kengo Biddles said...

Croup sucks. Marko's had it like 3 times this winter, and of COURSE, Ginta's gotten it, too.

I'm just glad that Miki's had experience with sick kids being a nanny so we know to just open their window and put on the humidifier so that it gets cool and damp.

*sigh*

The joys of parenting.

Robin said...

Put it this way - how much would they lose if you didn't let them sleep out?

I'm ancient now, but it's no exaggeration to say that and a bunch of similar independent activities as a kid/teenager profoundly influenced and shaped my whole life and career. I just can't imagine what my life would have been like if I my parents hadn't had the courage to give me that bit of slack.

Though they *did* make sure I knew what I was doing. Not in a negative "don't do that" way, but entirely positive. I did a simple first-aid course at about 8 years old, later repeated (often!); I got interested in kayaking, so they fixed a proper course with the local kayak club, taught me how to swim safely in lakes and rivers etc., etc.

Scot said...

Robin, I get what you're saying, and agree. It's just not easy ;-), but the bunks are in the plan.

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