How do we teach our children how scary the world can be? How do we teach them to be cautious but not scared of everything? How do we enlighten them to the yucky things out there without giving them nightmares?
Last week my daughter was outside on the playground with a friend while her class went back into the building. I cringe just thinking what could have happened while my five year old was unsupervised next to a busy street and not contained whatsoever. She had a substitute teacher who overlooked 2 little girls that should have joined the rest of the class in the building.
Upon learning about this incident, I felt compelled to punish her – take away certain liberties she had been given. Despite being young, she should know (more than 3/4 way through kindergarten) that she needs to follow instructions and follow the schools’ schedule. After careful consideration, I decided to level with her. I explained my fears with her being unsupervised in a situation like that.
Someone could take her. She explained she wouldn’t go with them. She could get hit by a car. She promised she wouldn’t cross the street. Somebody could hurt her. She said she’d run away. She thinks she has all the answers.
A few years ago I had a friend who was making a choice about buying or renting a home. Since I had been beaten up by the housing bubble, I tried convincing her that it would be easier to rent until she could afford a house. I was taking my experience and using that to effect her choice. I wanted her to understand what I had gone through without going through it herself. It was the first time I realized that parents must really struggle through that. I want my children to understand the severity of their choices without having had their own experiences. And as much as I try to will them to have my outlook, they are going to have minds of their own and make their own choices.
I’m not sure how I can tell or show my daughter that her choice of hanging back on the playground unsupervised is extremely dangerous. I don’t want her to have to experience something awful to understand the magnitude of that choice. I also don’t want the horrors of the news (or the things in the world in general) to haunt her in the same way they do me. So where does this leave us?
It leaves me to fall back on my faith. My faith that my children will be protected. I don’t think faith gives you a money back guarantee. But unfortunately that’s all I can really have because there’s no guarantee in life. I also encouraged the teacher to take away my daughter’s outdoor recess for a week. Maybe if my words can’t resonate with her, punishment can.