Thursday, February 4, 2010
The Illusion of Safety
The real reason they'll have helmets strapped onto their sweet little heads is that I called 911 for the first time last Sunday after our four-year-old friend sledded into a metal mailbox post. It was a total fluke -- nothing dangerous or risky, just good old-fashioned sledding on a Sunday morning. If the sled had dumped her a couple of inches to either side, she would have had a face full of snow and a reason to stay inside drinking hot chocolate for the rest of the day. Instead, she had a terrifying gash down the side of her forehead that ultimately required 10 x-rays, a CT scan and 20 stitches.
Thankfully, our friend is fine -- we knew she'd be okay when she started yelling at the paramedic because he suggested Mickey might be her favorite Disney character instead of one of the princesses. Her parents, however, still need some time to recover.
The whole accident left me shaken, reminded of how delicate our lives are. Accidents are random -- that's what makes them accidents, and also what makes them so scary for us parents. I prefer to believe that if I do all the right things -- make my kids wear helmets, brush their teeth, buckle their seatbelts, look both ways -- that I can protect them. But any one of a million random moments takes everything out of my control.
So I do what moms have done for centuries: I make rules. No jumping on the bed, no running with scissors, no crossing the street without an adult, no talking to strangers, no swimming after you eat, no sledding without a helmet. The older they get, the scarier the world seems, the more rules I make.
At the end of the day, I know I can't bubble-wrap them into safety. Accidents happen, even when I'm right there watching them. But the rules help me survive, give me the illusion that I have some control. Otherwise, I'm this close to becoming That Mom -- the helicopter type who never lets her kids have fun -- and that's not a safe way for anyone to live.