Our world has certainly changed, even in the brief 30 years since I was a kid (30 years!!). Ok, that just made me feel old… But seriously, the things that I used to do as a kid, I just don’t feel comfortable letting my kids do. Why does it have to be like this?
This weekend the family was at Disneyland to participate in some racing events, a 5K for Brooklyn and I and a half marathon for Amy. Kensi even participated in a 100-yard “diaper dash.” To make the weekend even more fun, friends of ours from Australia were in town to participate as well and we got to spend a few days at the parks with them. Their 10-year old daughter and Brooklyn hit it off immediately. Of course, they wanted to go on rides that were less exciting for everyone else and for the briefest of moments I contemplated letting them go off and ride a ride alone… for the briefest of moments only.
I recall when I was 10 years old or maybe even younger going to Disneyland with cousins from Phoenix. Late in the evening my brother and I and our boy cousin who was a year older than us wanted to go on the boat ride. Our parents said fine so long as we met them at the monorail at a specific time. We agreed and off we went the three of us alone in Disneyland at night. However, when the thought of letting Brooklyn and her new friend go on a ride by themselves entered my mind, it was instantly eliminated. Not a chance in the world would I let my daughter go off on a ride by themselves, even in the happiest place on earth.
This morning we were running through the McDonalds by our house for breakfast and because the drive-through line was so long, Amy decided to run in so I parked and waited. As I sat there, I saw three girls, two approximately 12 years old and one appearing to be a few years younger, walk out of McDonalds. Where I grew up, there was a McDonalds down the block, about as close to our house as the McDonalds is to our house now. I remember countless times as a kid walking down to the McDonalds for lunch or breakfast or a snack and never having any problems. Yet when I saw those girls this morning walking out of McDonalds, my first thought was that I don’t know whether I would let my kids go to McDonalds by themselves. And this is the McDonalds right down the street from our house in a good area.
Has the world changed that much in 30 years that the things we used to do as kids we wouldn’t necessarily allow our kids to do?
So I began to think—am I being paranoid as a parent or is there some validity to my concerns? Have I simply read too many books and seen to many movies and television shows that deal with abductions and murders and other nefarious crimes?
In preparation for the 5K I started to run but since my days are so packed with work and the kids I typically run at night, usually around 8:30 or 9. I run around our neighborhood and there is one section where the path goes inland from the street through some nature. Each time I run through there, my pace quickens just a bit, a spike of fear tickling my spine as the thought occurs to me of how many books I have read where the murderer kills the jogger in the early morning hours and leaves his body amongst the marshland. Consciously I know that there is nothing to worry about, but there is still that little voice that says to run faster and to make sure that the GPS on the phone is turned on and visualize my escape route if I need to make a quick dash.
Is there a difference between being careful and being overprotective? I guess I can give thanks to “Without a Trace” and “NCIS” and the countless number of books I have read because it has just made me paranoid. But it also reinforces for me the belief that there are bad people out there and I just need to be vigilant in my protection of myself and my family.
And that is a sad thing—because life was a whole lot different 30 years ago, when I played in the street outside my house every day after school and I walked to school by myself and I rode my bike without a helmet and I went to R rated movies without a parent or guardian accompanying me…