Sunday, June 19, 2011

Parenting and Acceptable Risk

Six year old Sage had a gymnastics performance yesterday. She wore her sparkly blue leotard and joined her classmates in walking across the balance beam, somersaulting, and twirling around the uneven bars. We were proud of her.

Then the older kids did their thing.

Good Lord.

Girls not much older than Sage flipped across the mat at the speed of light, one after the other, almost too fast for my aging eyes to track. I became increasingly uncomfortable. What if one of them landed the wrong way? It wouldn't take much for one of them to die; for Pete's sake, my eight-year-old fractured her tibia last January doing a simple floor jump. What if one of these kids landed on her head instead of her hands?

Then came the tweens and teens, who performed what looked like a cheerleading routine. Girls stood on other girls' hands, girls were thrown and flipped in the air and caught by their teammates, girls spun ten feet off the ground and thankfully did not fall on their necks.

All these gymnasts were fantastic. Their instructors are top-notch and the studio is fabulous. All the parents had a right to be happy and proud.

As I looked around at the multitude of cheering adult faces, I wondered how many of these parents would let these same children hike up Mt. Washington in the middle of winter. Probably not many. Maybe even none. But they let their ten to sixteen year old kids flip head over heels through the air at the speed of light?

These people are nuts.

What about the parents of football players? If your son is a quarterback, that's fantastic...right? Why? Football (along with gymnastics and cheerleading) accounts for a lion's share of the catastrophic injuries and fatalities that occur in traditional children's sports. Reference.

The parents of football players are also nuts.

Perhaps it's better to avoid all children's sports and just let the kids ride their bikes around the neighborhood. That's safe enough, isn't it? Probably not, considering that 86 bike-riding kids under the age of 16 were struck and killed by cars in 2009. Ten thousand (!!) more were struck and injured. Reference.

Therefore, any parent who lets her kid get on a bicycle is absolutely, without a doubt, 100% nuts.

What about hiking Four Thousand Footers? To be fair, a legitimate comparison can't be made because analogous studies have not been conducted. That being said, any parent who takes their kid up a Four Thousand Footer, especially in the middle of winter, must clearly be nuts, right..?

So I guess that makes me nuts.

So which parents aren't nuts? The ones who keep their kids away from all sports and general physical activity? Nope. Inactive kids have a higher risk of becoming obese and developing high blood pressure and diabetes.

These parents are definitely nuts.

So what's the solution to all this nuttery?

I suppose we'll each have to decide what constitutes acceptable risk for our own individual family -- and we'll have to respect the decisions other parents make for their own individual families. We don't all have to agree. However, we can't try to force our own conclusions down other people's throats. After all, nuttery abounds, no one's immune.

I'll take my six year old up a 4000 foot mountain when it's ten degrees because we're prepared, I carry everything we need for an accidental night out, and I stick to popular trails. Some other mother will let her daughter spin and flip fifteen feet off the ground because she has complete faith in her daughter's abilities and the rest of the team's competence. Yet another mother will let her ten year old girl bike around the block because she knows her daughter will be careful and watch for cars. Etc.

Not that any of this matters, because at some point each of us will strap our kid into a car and drive him or her somewhere. And THAT, my friends, is the most dangerous activity of all.



Matt said...

At first glance I said "pbbtt, what would she prefer? Let all of these kids sit around and play violent video games and get fat??"

Then I read the rest.

I see what you did here.

Don Eidam said...

Good stuff. The home schooling portion of the Moosilauke entry (which I personally found very enlightening), now this. Your "off the trail" segments are always spot on.

Natalie Truman said...

Excellent post, Trish. Just wait until you ask Jamie about what she wants to do second semester senior year. Then you'll see that Mark and I are nuts, too. But as you said, we all have very different opinions about "acceptable risk"

p.s. Looking forward to meeting you on Friday!

Patricia Ellis Herr said...

Matt, I'm glad you read the rest. :)

Don, I appreciate the nice words, thank you. I'm going to write more "off the trail" bits as time goes on; thanks for the support.

Natalie, I forgot to ask Jamie what she wants to do...I'll have to ask the next time I see her, in July. By the way, you have a very talented kid!

Anonymous said...

wow you are effing awesome! I loved this post!

Anonymous said...

nice comparisons!

Patricia Ellis Herr said...

Deez and Anonymous, thank you. :) -- Trish

William Wagner said...