Life is full of contrasts and dramatic diversity. This is especially true as it pertains to the plurality of views regarding what constitutes proper parenting and preparation for life.
At the conclusion of a concert at Madison Square Garden, featuring a self-important performer who waited 3 hours to start singing, my 13-year-old daughter and I were walking to our hotel when it was realized we had forgotten to pack something important. At the front desk, we were told there was a Duane Reade drug store several blocks north, so back out on the sidewalk we went. Fortunately, they were open 24 hours because it was 1:40am, and we are able to return to our room by 2.
Fast-forward several weeks later, at a community gathering discussing guns and violence, a local young mother with two small children in tow said she “never used to go to the grocery store armed,” with the implication being that she certainly does now. Clearly her perception of the world in which we live is radically different from mine. I stroll Midtown Manhattan unarmed, while she packs heat for the aisles of the A&P!
Naturally, we parents are all entitled and actually responsible for rearing our progeny in the manner deemed best. Yet with all the measures taken, ostensibly keeping our children safer, I wonder if in reality we have simply made them weaker.
Like their immune systems compromised by the overuse of Clorox, I wonder if we have undermined their ability to healthfully engage a world around them provably loaded with far more opportunities and blessings than traps and pitfalls.
Similar to the drills in the 1950’s forcing school-children to hunker down under their desks in useless preparation for a nuclear attack that never came, I wonder if our current approaches to perceived dangers and threats offer very few kids actual protection while leaving a great majority of them ill-informed and afraid.
Truth be told, from an anthrax outbreak to an asteroid strike, anything is possible. But what is increasingly likely is that with the emphasis away from what children can do, to what might happen to them, we will enhance their security not one iota while simply inculcating a widespread sense of apprehension. Recalling the effects of the movie “Jaws,” it’s easy to arouse unreasonable alarm, while ruining the gift of riding the waves and swimming in the sea.
As safe as NYC generally is, shopping in most small towns is likely even safer. Yet that reality may not be what some children are allowed to appreciate, and the joy of living in a wonderful community may all too easily be drained from the consciousness of young people who have so much to look forward to.
The miracle of life comes packaged with risk. It just does. However well intentioned, in the attempt to eliminate all potential danger, we become liable to forget that youth need to be empowered as much as protected. Not only is this defensive tendency demonstrably ineffective, it is fundamentally counter to the practice of a strong and divinely excited faith.