Why I’ll Never Teach My Children About Stranger Danger

stranger dangerWe hear it all the time: “It’s just not the same world out there anymore.” The world is supposedly a much scarier and more threatening place than the days of old when we would ride our bikes to the store with no parents in sight and blow our allowance money on candy and silly knick knacks with hardly a care. “We know better now,” we’re told. Keep a close eye on your kids at all times. Be aware of the dangers of others adults when you’re at the park or using a public restroom. Be wary of anyone who’s too friendly. Teach your kids about “stranger danger.” The world is so much more perilous these days and you simply cant be too careful when it comes to our precious children.

As a mom of two small boys you might be surprised to hear I disagree 100%. And whats more – I have never, and WILL never, teach my kids about “stranger danger.” Never. In fact, I hope to raise my kids to be ready and willing to interact with strangers in safe and appropriate ways, and I regularly encourage them to do so. I’m not a “free range parent” as they are currently known, but I admittedly make some parenting choices that would make many people these days more than a little uncomfortable.

Now before anyone starts calling CPS (or filling my inbox with hate mail) try to give me a minute to explain.

First off, I just want to take a minute to point out that the idea the world is less safe that the one we grew up in is a common misconception. You might be surprised to learn that all of the crime statistics actually show our children are SAFER today than we ourselves were back in our days. Don’t believe me? The folks over at Free Range Kids have compiled an incredible amount of independent research and statistics on this helpful page to show just how much safer our world really is. So why does it seem so much more dangerous? It all comes down to perception really. Crimes are more widely covered by the media these days in a way you simply didn’t see in our childhood. A child goes missing in a small town in Idaho and it can be national news coverage in the same day, and instantly flooding every social media feed for weeks. Statistics agree though: stranger abductions are remarkably rare, and the alarming majority of all crimes committed against kids are by family members or close friends. In short, the likelihood of a child being grabbed while walking to school or playing at the park is almost negligible.

crowdatparkOn top of all this media coverage we also need to take into account how much internet hoaxes have exponentially compounded the problem. Have you seen the story making its way around Facebook for the past few months about supposed attempted sex trafficking of a child in a Target store with their mom? A little internet sleuthing quickly reveals the story is 100% false, and that both the store manager and the local police have absolutely zero record of any incidences even remotely related to the one described on Facebook (despite the story clearly describing the authorities being the one to tell the mom about the sex trafficking ring.) And this is far from an isolated incident: urban myths have taken on a new level of reach in the social media world, and parents everywhere are bombarded with messages of supposed dangers around every corner. It’s pretty understandable why parents everywhere are feeling afraid.

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Im Not Ready to Quit Yet

photo-1438480478735-3234e63615bbThere comes a point with most all chronic and incurable illnesses where you reach the stage of acceptance. You learn to let go of your unrealistic expectations and find ways to make life with your particular handicaps livable. You surround yourself with excellent supporters, you give yourself an extra serving of grace, and you make your own definitions for success.

And then sometimes there are days like today; days when you throw all that aside for a minute and take the bravest step of all: you let hope sneak in again.

Today I went to a new doctor. We looked over the history of everything thats been tried already, and then promptly threw it all in the trash. We went back to square one and allowed the hope of new options and answers to come alive. We made the choice to go back to the starting line with a new set of eyes and open ourselves up to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, we’ve missed something, or that medicine may have new answers to offer this time around.

And nothing could possibly be scarier right now than hope.

Acceptance is such a healthy phase when you finally reach it. So being willing to let it go, without any assurances that anything will come from it? Thats terrifying. Right now it feels like a huge step backwards – back to a time when my imagination ran wild with possible outcomes and worse case scenarios, when I was bounced from misdiagnoses to failed treatments and back again, and I had no way of knowing what the future might hold. Being willing to let hope in also means letting go of the comfort of having everything all figured out. It means giving up being settled in order to set out on a long and arduous journey – knowing full well that it may come full circle right back to where you started.

Yet that’s exactly what I’m doing. Letting go of it all because maybe, just maybe, there is something better out there for me. Maybe Im clinging to something so much less than I could have if I’m willing to try. And yes, Im fully aware that I might get the same answers, the same lack of solutions, the same diagnoses that will bring the same cycle of grief – all to end up back at acceptance once again. But that’s a risk I’ve decided to take.

So I dropped off most of my blood at the lab (ok not really most of my blood, but it sure felt like it,) and made the difficult commitment to begin the process of weaning off a medication that has been a huge part of my routine for a long time now, so we can start trying new options and see if theres a better outcome somewhere else. In typical fashion, this is an “it’s gotta get a bit worse before it can better” sort of thing. Coming off this particular med is a bit of an ordeal, with a complicated step down regimen and cross weaning process onto the other medication. The side effects of this process alone made me reconsider.

But ultimately, hope is never the wrong choice. I never want to get so comfortable in my acceptance of my condition that I stop being willing to consider Im wrong. Risk is scary, but apathy should always be scarier. It’s simply never time to completely give up; there’s always got to be room for the possibility of hope. And sometimes, on days like today, its time to let that hope out of its hidden corner and let it take the wheel. I have no idea where it’s going to take me, but I know I’m committed to finding out just how far this road goes and where it ultimately ends up, even if thats right back here at the beginning again.

Either way, I’ll know I saw this thing through. And thats worth it.

risk quote