Are We Overprotecting Our Kids to Death?

Two scenes from Mexico, where my family just spent a week’s vacation. (Skip the envy. Nice weather, yes, but my husband slipped before we left and spent the whole time on crutches. Meantime, this was the general tenor of our kids’ conversation: “I just saw a stingray.” “No you didn’t.” “I did too!” “You just think you did.” “But I did!” “See?”)

Anyway, that’s not the point — thank God. The point is to contrast two scenes. The first, in town: A Mexican boy of about 8, sweeping his home. Not its floor. Its roof. With no guardrails.

Scene two, at the resort: Our own boys, 10 and 12, renting snorkeling gear: Mask, flippers, life jacket.

Even a few years back, my sister informs me, snorkelers did not wear life jackets. Now these are standard issue, at least for kids.

I was very happy the boys got them, since I am, at heart, a chicken. But if these jackets didn’t automatically come as part of the package, I wouldn’t have missed them, either. Just like most of us would not miss the safety belts that now come standard in toy wagons. Or the arm straps that now come standard in strollers, so you can plaster your kid to the seat as if you’re on your way to a  typhoon, rather than the park — where, by the way, there’s a spring under the teeter-totter so no one lands too hard, and the slide is short, so no one falls too far, and the ground is springy, just in case someone does.

Did I mention the fact that the swing chains’ holes have been filled in so no one catches a finger in them? On some playgrounds, that’s the case.

As we pile on the safety precautions and equipment, the expectation of zero danger becomes the norm. What seemed a reasonable risk even a year or two ago now seems foolhardy. Snorkeling without a life vest becomes a quaint memory, on par with putting your baby to sleep in a room without a sound monitor. Sure that seemed fine – until those monitors came along. After that, putting your baby to sleep without one sounded positively rash.

Then along came video monitors. Full color, flat screen ones that let you see and hear everything going on in the crib. At which point, putting your baby to bed with just a sound monitor sounded positively rash. (And don’t even ask about the infra-red cameras.)

Do children really need all this protection? It’s hard to say no, when all around us are the means to prevent our kids from encountering even the least likely catastrophe.

But the parents of the Mexican boy sweeping the railing-free roof are protecting their child another way – protecting him from feeling helpless and timid. Deliberately or not, they are raising a child who is confident in a scary place, or, if not confident, then at least forced to be brave, which is how confidence grows. He also looked pretty cheerful. And he’s good with a broom.

Those happen to be my exact goals for my own sons. So far?

Well, they’ve seen some giant sea turtles. And they’ve lived to tell the tale. But now that we’re back home, it may be time for another brand new experience.

It involves a dust pan.

58 Responses to Are We Overprotecting Our Kids to Death?

  1. The Mother February 27, 2009 at 10:47 am #

    Yes! Yes we are!

    As one of the original hands-off parents (and I have taken a great amount of flak for it, I might add), I am SO glad to see others who are willing to say this.

    One of my pet peeves.

  2. Anothersuburbanmom February 27, 2009 at 10:49 am #

    I am trying to be hands off. Kids need dirt, germs and some sugar. The helicopter parents make me nuts

  3. Marcy February 27, 2009 at 10:59 am #

    I’ve just been re-reading the Little House books and getting a brain full of what children can do when not restricted. I always feel a little guilty when I don’t buckle my kids into their strollers or turn on a monitor. I need to remind myself that just because that safety measure is there, we don’t always need it. We can use our common sense and give the kids some freedom.

    Now I’m wondering if we need to sweep our roof.

  4. Evan February 27, 2009 at 11:22 am #

    You know, having once spent two weeks in bed with a serious back injury when I was eight years old and some other kid jumped off the teeter-totter while I was six feet up, I can’t find it in me to complain about springs.

    Yes, it’s possible to go too far with this stuff. It’s almost impossible to find a merry-go-round these days, for instance. And I gather the law requires the few that you do find to have speed governors. And school playgrounds never have swings anymore, in case some kid gets kicked–despite the fact that a lot of hyperactive kids need to swing to self-regulate.

    But springs under the see-saw? That’s just 100% technological improvement, you ask me.

  5. janet February 27, 2009 at 11:27 am #

    Just attended a wonderful talk on parenting by an older nun! It was fantastic! Her speech is based on her own nationwide research of “successful” kids- defined as kids with autonomy, security, initiative and industry. It was just a delight to hear her stories, which come from extensive work with kids and parents. You should look her up, her ideas and research are right up your alley….She was scolding all of us parents for doing everything for our kids because it eventually makes them feel helpless. There’s much more.
    Sr. Pat McCormack Cheers.

  6. Michele in Playa February 27, 2009 at 11:27 am #

    Until one year ago, the car we drove here in Playa del Carmen didn’t have a roof or doors much less seatbelts. My kids come home from school, ditch their bags and I don’t see them again until sunset. We ride in the backs of pick up trucks. We jump off cliffs. We climb on trees, rooftops and abandonned construction sites. Sometimes the cops let my kids take off on their horses. If my kids ever have a problem, they know that they can run to the closest neighbor for help and CPS will not be knocking on our door the next day. I get to raise my kids exactly how I want to raise them. For better or worse. God I Iove living in Mexico!!

  7. Karen February 27, 2009 at 11:47 am #

    Recently, we visited friends of ours who became first-time parents about 3 months ago. The baby went to bed while we were there, in their single-story, ranch-style home with the baby in the next room, and they put that video monitor on the coffee table and could not take their eyes off their son!
    Made me so glad I only had to feel guilty about not using an audio-monitor when my boys were babies, I don’t know if I could have withstood the video push.

    Thank you for this post, I’ll think about it next time I begin to prevent my perfectly capable boys from doing something “dangerous,” like cooking an egg 🙂

  8. Carol February 27, 2009 at 12:28 pm #

    a) a wee babe is different than a kid – why wasn’t the baby in the same room? That’s what those moses baskets are for (for worriers) or the floor. We had a baby monitor that we used to listen to bird song. (Receiver in the tree. Speaker on the kitchen table. Tres’ cool.)

    b) I can vouch for the nun. Even though we are AP and homeschooled for a long time – our children are very independent to the point where I don’t know usually what projects need to be done for school, and they both pretty much get straight As. (A children’s librarian thanked us for having our 7 year old ask her a question about a book. As if we could have stopped him!)

  9. Deborah Binder February 27, 2009 at 12:29 pm #

    Hi Lenore:

    It’s your sophomore roommate from college! My son Jai (age 9) is an avid snorkeler and he never wears a life jacket. It takes away the fun, because you can’t dive down under water with one of those orange jackets on! He can’t wait to go scuba diving….but he has to wait until he is 12 because it’s the law. We wish he would grow taller so we could sneak him in on that and other thrilling things we like to do like white water rafting. Hang Ten…..

  10. Lesley February 27, 2009 at 1:03 pm #

    As a mom of an almost-6-month-old, I’m overwhelmed by all the safety precautions that I’m supposed to take (and the guilt that I feel when I don’t abide by every single one of them all the time!).

    I don’t use a baby monitor and I find that I wake up almost immediately upon hearing his little cries, even though I’m on the 2nd floor and he’s in the basement (very open Hawaiian house, so that helps). In contrast, one of my good friends just had her first baby two weeks ago and he sleeps on an Angel Monitor, a pad with sensors hooked up to an alarm that beeps if he doesn’t breathe for 20 seconds. He sleeps on this in the Pack and Play in the living room (when she’s in there) and in the crib in her room (when she’s in the bed near him). He’s a healthy, full-term baby, with absolutely nothing wrong with him. The thought of SIDS is devastating for any mom, but would I be any less worried if my baby slept on a high-tech mat? For me, the answer is a resounding no. I hope my friend can learn to relax or else she’s going to have one nervous kid!

  11. Sheri February 27, 2009 at 1:53 pm #

    I love raising my 3 kids in Chicago; there’s nothing like it. Hearing different languages spoken while we walk down the street and the nearby city train from our open windows during the summer makes for wonderful experiences. Although we have a car, I utilize public transportation to take them to school when the situation calls for it (car won’t start, etc). They attend school with kids representing a little United Nations. Just this last summer, we let the boys, ages 12 and 9, walk to the nearby park on their own for baseball practice. They were thrilled at the independence… and so were we. It is my job as an “urban parent” to teach them city smarts and that requires confidence that solo walks to the parks helps give them. Love your site and love being a beta mom to my free range kids!

  12. Thad Moren February 27, 2009 at 2:20 pm #


    Ugh! My poor nine-year-old! Dropped her off at Supercuts with cash to get a cut. I forgot to remind her one major thing! She didn’t check in at the register, she just politely sat down. And waited, and waited and waited as the stylists (loosely used word) thought she was just a kid with other people. I think it was 2 hours before she was done. My BAD!! Forgot to teach her that crucial step of checking in!

  13. Rob C February 27, 2009 at 5:25 pm #

    Some of the helicopter mums you write about would have kittens if they saw the hill I let my eight-year-old son repeatedly ride his bike down last Saturday. I know his mother nearly did! I must admit my heart was in my mouth a couple of times when I thought for sure he was going to come off on one particularly tricky section or another, but he held it together and stayed on (which is more than I did the next day, when I came off while mountain biking and fractured a rib).

    And if he hadn’t? Well, he would’ve got scraped up a bit, and probably given his helmet a good test. Then he would have dusted himself off, got back on, and had another go. As it was, though, he got to build up his skills and his confidence on the bike, and no harm was done. If he keeps going the way he has been, he’ll be out-riding me in a couple of years!

  14. anglicanmum February 27, 2009 at 5:46 pm #

    My 5yo daughter goes to a kindergarten in Germany. By age 5 and a half and certainly by 6 most kids are walking themselves to and from kindergarten every day. By age 7/8 you’d be laughed out of school if a parent walked you home every day. Parents get together to provide opportunities for their kids to gain the confidence to go out on their own – starting at about age 5 you phone another parent and send your kid round. The parent phones you if the kid is late or doesn’t turn up. You gradually increase the distance of trips on their own with the goal of them walking themselves to and from school by themselves at about age seven.

    We’re about to start this process with our daughter and I admit I’m nervous. But if I’m honest, she’s probably been capable of walking herself to kindergarten for the past six months or so.

    You might be interested to hear about a product available here: the dinnertime watch. A normal watch with a ‘dinnertime’ alarm, You turn the kids out to play and do their own thing. If your kid is too young to tell the time you can set the ‘dinnertime’ alarm to go off on their watch when it’s time to head home. This product could never be marketed in the UK, our home, as it is inconceivable that a child too young to tell the time would be sent out to play on their own. Sad.

  15. Marie February 27, 2009 at 8:14 pm #

    Such a great distinction!

    The one time I went snorkeling I got a life jacket, but only because I can’t swim. I was one of the few in our group who did. But the comparison all the same is a good one. There are safety precautions everywhere. Playground equipment from when I was young no longer seems to exist. I still get excited about going to the playground, but I’m always disappointed. I’m sure everything seems smaller to me now, less of a thrill, but the equipment itself has changed.

    I get that there is liability involved, especially on the resort. I just wish people weren’t so sue happy that we needed to worry about that sort of thing.

    I saw someone else mention the Angel Pad. I think losing a baby, for any reason, would have to be the most devastating thing to happen to a person. But…. My daughter was a preemie, with bradychycardia problems that kept her in the NICU for much longer than anything else. That Angel pad was so tempting, but she always self resolved in the hospital, so I resisted. Now she is a happy, extremely mobile, healthy baby girl. Our childproofing is gates for the top of the stairs (I fell down them myself, it’s a long way down) since I work on the second floor landing and she plays with me. That’s pretty much it. When she gets a little older we may need to move some stuff. So all these requirements in public seem over the top.

  16. Andrea February 27, 2009 at 8:39 pm #

    I just returned from a week volunteering in Honduras. I was struck immediately by the independence of the young children there. Young children ride horses, pull horse drawn carts, bicycle everywhere alone, and generally speaking, are quite mature when you speak with them. I came home with a new sense of what my own children were actually capable of, and have loosened up the control. We have indeed, “dis” abled, rather than ENabled our children here in the states. We had 8 and 9 year olds bringing in their younger siblings for medical appointments. Talk about responsiblity. We were amazed, awed, and impressed. There were over 80 of us there, and not one thought those kids were anything but to be admired. Are there hazards that need to be addressed there? Absolutely! But there is a middle ground that needs to be realized.

  17. Heather February 27, 2009 at 9:27 pm #

    My sister vistied Mexico with her children this summer. Her comment was there were no gaurd rails at the parks, nothing to keep people from tumbling hundreds of feet from the paved walk down the cliff! She said it was so strange and she felt panic when her 5 year old was walking near the edge… But no one fell and even her 5 year old knew enough not to walk to close to the cliff…

  18. Cagey February 27, 2009 at 9:34 pm #

    I went to a VERY small school in Kansas – my kindergarten class had a grand total of 30 kids. By the time I was 3rd grade, I had lost 2 classmates – one to drowning and one to chicken pox. Another classmate lost a finger to a mowing accident.

    Folks, those are REAL dangers – swimming in a pond (not a shallow surf for snorkeling), a childhood disease (not generally found on a shopping cart, easily preventable by a vaccine now) and lawn mowers (not a frocking pair of safety scissors!)

    Oh, and for the record – I totally removed the shoulder straps from my stroller. Ridiculous. The day that I can run my fat white butt more than 20 MPH is the day I will re-install them. And not a day before. Heh.

  19. Sandra February 27, 2009 at 9:46 pm #

    As usual, I wholeheartedly agree with you. The fearmongering and parental hovering really needs to be railed in and we need to spread “the word” that children aren’t Faberge Eggs, under security watch in a velvet cup. They are little people, able to have the intelligence, common sense, and desire to learn, explore, experience, experiment, and yup – get a bruise every once in a while.

    Thank you again, Lenore.

  20. NJMom February 27, 2009 at 11:25 pm #

    This was a great post with great responses. We were just in Central America and it was the same…children walking hot dusty roads alone to and from school, children riding horses bareback along the road, children and mom’s washing laundry in the river, children carrying water to their families on their shoulders, children carrying water jugs on their bikes, children riding in cars without seatbelts (oh my god!), babies in the front seat….and on and on. I do not wish poverty on anyone or any country, but with wealth comes the time to worry and control things that shouldn’t necessarily be controlled. Children in our country are being denied the real self-esteem that comes with having responsibility for your self, family and community. Overprotection is another form of indulgence and spoiled kids just don’t turn out very well. And they are the future…

  21. mida February 28, 2009 at 12:31 am #

    It never occurred to me that sound monitors are considered a “safety” device. I can’t live without a sound monitor because I am hard of hearing. If I am not in the baby’s room, I can’t hear the baby. And if I am in the front of the house, I can’t always hear the cries until it is hysterical and screeching. The video monitor – I agree that is overkill, but the sound monitors are quite helpful.

    On the other hand, I am pretty hands off compared to most moms I know, to the point where I get accused of being mean and neglectful all the time. If my kid doesn’t have some scrapes and bumps, then he’s not running and playing enough, I say.

  22. Casey February 28, 2009 at 2:39 am #

    I really enjoy this site! I have a 6 week old daughter and I find keeping up with all the “safety requirements” to be exhausting! I do have a monitor, but just the cheep one and I use it for when I am doing things that are loud in another room. If I’m listening to music while she nas for example. I’m also not planning on using the monitor for ever. During the first 3 months I hear you are mostly just getting used to one another and she is learning to trust my husband and I, so generally I like to get to her bassinet before she starts whailing so I can feed her. When she’s 6 months old I expect there will be times when I let her cry a bit so she can calm herself down when I know she doesn’t need to eat for example. I don’t think I’ll use the monitor for night time because it’s so loud even when she’s sound asleep…and lets face it, I need my sleep too!

  23. BMS February 28, 2009 at 6:03 am #

    I used the monitor so I could go outside and mow the lawn while the kids napped when they were little. But that was about the only use I had for it. 🙂

  24. Uly February 28, 2009 at 7:32 am #

    What some people are saying, “justifying” your use of a monitor, is pointless.

    Not because we’ll all judge you for ever using a monitor, but because we won’t. There is a time and a place for baby monitors, and for stroller straps, and for any of this.

    The difference is that you can use these things as tools, or you can turn them into a lifestyle. There’s a big difference between, say, walking with your child to school because the two of you like to talk together, and walking your child to school because at the age of eight you still think she’s not capable of going three blocks from there to here.

  25. justanotherjen February 28, 2009 at 7:53 am #

    I’ve been saying for years that kids are more capable of things then adults give them credit for. I remember staying home “babysitting” my little brother when I was 8 and he was 6. Technically our gramma lived downstairs from us in case anything happened but otherwise we were left to our own devices. Sometimes we would go outside and play, go down to the park or ride our bikes but most of the time we just watched TV and set up GI Joe wars in the living room.

    My dad tells me stories of how, when he was 6 and 7, it was his job to take his little wagon to the coal yard several blocks (those are long, Chicago city blocks) and fill it himself with coal and then take it a few more blocks away to his aunt who still had a coal fired furnace. When he was 8 he would walk several blocks away to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for his mom or buy his dad some cigarettes, etc. That was in the 50s. I remember sneaking into John Ball Park Zoo in Grand Rapids, MI when I was like 7 or 8 with my older cousins. Now that was an adventure.

    I did use a baby monitor with my older kids because their room was on a different floor then mine and we all slept with the doors closed but we stopped using it when our 3rd child was about 7 months old and I never had one with my youngest since she slept in our room until she was 16 months (for space reasons). The only other baby proofing we ever did was a gate at the bottom of the stairs and into the kitchen (until they were a little older), closed the bathroom door, latch on the cabinet under the sink and a few random outlet covers. All 4 of my kids are still here, no worse for wear.

  26. Lola February 28, 2009 at 11:00 pm #

    When we were expecting our first baby, we once stopped at a “babies r´us” to get a general idea of what we should have ready for her. After about five minutes of wandering about, we started gigling as we pointed out all the “security” stuff we found. And we decided, then and there, that we would not turn our house into a padded cell. It didn´t suit our deco. And since strapping our babies down in straitjackets is considered child abuse (for the time being, at least), we decided to take the chance of them banging into the furniture every once in a while.
    So far, the score goes furniture, 2 – children, 8.

    Hahaha! I suddenly remembered the one time our 2yo fell down from a climbing thingy in a playground and needed stitches. All the parents around were terrified at the amount of blood the poor kid was sprouting from his eyebrow. But when we told them it was surely nothing serious, since he had not lost consciousness, he could cry loudly and his eyes were not crossing or anything, they didn´t know what to say. Really, I don´t know what these people will do when they face some serious injury, if they already want to call an ambulance for four stitches…

  27. Mel in New Zealand March 2, 2009 at 8:25 am #

    We’ve just been on holiday to beautiful Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. My kids, 13 and 8, went snorkelling with flippers and, wait for it, no life jackets. And they were fine. I’m so pleased I didn’t fuss about the life jackets – no one else was wearing them. The kids thought it was so cool.

  28. Amber March 3, 2009 at 2:09 am #

    I really try to let my own daughter explore her limits, but it’s a struggle for me. Still, I’m working on it, and that’s gotta count for something.

    Anyways, the real reason I’m commenting is that your story reminded me of a scene from my own suburban neighbourhood. One of the neighbour boys, who by the looks of it was maybe 10 years old, used to crawl out his bedroom window and walk around on the roof. I would occasionally catch a glimpse and wonder what the protocol was for this situation, not knowing the kid or parents myself. My husband told me he was fine and to leave him alone, so I did, and no harm befell him. But in our neck of the woods it’s not the sort of thing you see every day.

  29. Kendra March 3, 2009 at 2:38 pm #

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  30. Amy March 4, 2009 at 10:45 am #

    Regarding reading the Little House books to see what kids are really capable of — it’s enlightening reading those older kids’ books. Even Ramona was walking to school by herself (well, with a friend) in Kindergarten, back in the ’70s.

    My daughter is 5.5 and she likes to walk around the block by herself. Last time she did, though, she was bothered by a lady with a baby — lady kept asking, “Are you lost? Are you supposed to be by yourself? Where’s your mother?” So now she doesn’t want to go out by herself any more. What a PITA (the lady, not my kid).

  31. Bob Davis March 4, 2009 at 1:04 pm #

    Maybe I’ve already told this one (if so feel free to delete it). When my daughters were in the 8 to 11 year old range, we used to spend weekends at a railway museum. Sometimes they’d help the track crew, carrying spikes, bolts and other hardware. I’m sure some folks would be shocked at children working near heavy tools and construction activity, but they thought it was fun! Sometimes we’d camp out in an old caboose. Many years later, my older daughter was working in the stockroom of a major retail store. She was moving a large pallet-load of merchandise, and a male colleague said, “Isn’t that awfully heavy?” (implying “for a member of the weaker sex”) And my daughter said, “Doesn’t bother me a bit! I used to build railroad track when I was a girl.”
    We should always remember that experiences can be more valuable than “stuff”.

  32. Jim T March 6, 2009 at 12:59 am #

    At our community school, they recently tore down the old playground equipment and installed one with new low-fun ultra-safe equipment and a spongy surface.

    The first week it was open, two kids broke bones while playing on it — something that, to my knowledge, had never happened before in the 10 years we have been associated with the school.

    The quest for zero risk is a fool’s errand.

  33. ebohlman March 6, 2009 at 2:08 pm #

    May I call your attention to a blog post describing how overprotection is just as bad for special-needs kids as for typically-developing kids:

  34. Uly March 6, 2009 at 10:02 pm #

    Of course, Jim. When deprived of actually age-appropriate play spaces, children adapt by playing inappropriately with what they’ve got.

  35. Maureen March 7, 2009 at 12:56 am #

    Multiple concussions, many broken bones, bad second degree burns, being constantly covered in bruises, falling off cliffs that was my experience. Over protectiveness is a real problem, but the solution is not to remove all protections unless people are willing to spend the time teaching children basic safety skills.

  36. SheWhoPicksUpToys March 7, 2009 at 5:46 am #

    It strikes me to some extent that all these precautions actually REMOVE the need to watch and protect your child, instead of being ways to fulfill that need. I mean, sure, you don’t expect a two-year-old to always know and obey what she shouldn’t touch — but doesn’t over-child-proofing just teach a child that they CAN have anything that isn’t walled off? Wouldn’t it be better to let mom’s eyes and ears do most of the child-proofing, keeping only the really lethal, quickly-dangerous hazards completely out of reach, and thus teach the child (gradually, age-appropriately, over time) that she can’t just do whatever she wants with things that aren’t hers?

    That’s the same point as the Mexican kid, really — the Mexican kid knows there are things you have to be careful about. The kid who’s only ever played on the playground where every hazard is lowered, sanded off, padded, rounded-off, what have you, thinks he lives in a perfectly safe world and doesn’t know how many things can hurt him, and how to protect himself and watch out for hazards.

  37. Stormy March 7, 2009 at 7:31 pm #

    I had to laugh during our last trip to Mexico. I hauled the car seat all the way down there and then we rode in this car with no roof, no walls, no seatbelts … on a major road.

    I think we have carseats laws because they make the carseat manufacturers lots of money.

    P.S. Snorkeling is traditionally done without a life vest because you need to be able to dive down to see the cool stuff.

  38. mathew March 8, 2009 at 10:58 am #

    Snorkeling *in a life jacket*? WTF?

    I remember as a kid, snorkeling in the Mediterranean, encountering a tuna… Magical memory. No life jackets were involved, because I could swim.

  39. ebohlman March 9, 2009 at 1:30 am #

    Here’s another post relevant to the special-needs vs. typically-developing issue: this post on’s autism section describes a survey conducted by Easter Seals comparing beliefs of autism parents regarding their children’s futures with parents of typically-developing kids. The results were, to say the least, eyebrow-raising:

    Parents of children living with autism are very concerned about their children fitting into society, with very few feeling their children will be able to:

    * Make his or her own life decisions (14% compared to 65% of parents with typically developing children)
    * Have friends in the community (17% compared to 57% of typical parents)
    * Have a spouse or life partner (9% compared to 51% of typical parents)
    * Be valued by their community (18% compared to 50% of typical parents)
    * Participate in recreational activities (20% compared to 50% of typical parents)

    I thinki we all know, or should know, that services for kids and adults with autism are nowhere near adequate, but what’s with the low expectations on the part of parents with typically-developing kids? A third of parents in general doubt their kids will ever make their own life decisions??? It seems that a lot of parents (of typically-developing kids, remember) have little confidence that their kids will ever grow up. What on earth is going on here?

  40. Suzy March 14, 2009 at 11:19 pm #

    Hi. Love this blog! I want to point out that this obsession with safety and security begins way before birth. My middle daughter died in infancy, almost 15 years ago. She was born with a heart valve defect, and died during a procedure to correct it. People are right, losing a child is nearly unbearable. We resisted prenatal testing with all of our children. Ironically, before our 2nd daughter’s birth, I said something to the effect of, “All the testing in the world isn’t going to guarantee that she doesn’t get hit by a bus at the age of 17.” We had one ultrasound with my 3rd daughter, to look at her heart, because at that point I needed to know — for my emotional well-being — that she was OK.

    There is a world of difference between normal concern and overkill, and the more people rely on outside devices to keep children “safe”, the more they lose their own innate common sense. I’ve had to struggle big time with that after losing a child, because I never want to go there again. I checked several times a night to see that my kids were still breathing until they were well into elementary school. My heart is in my mouth when I phone my 20 year-old daughter and she doesn’t answer the phone. BUT I’ve done my best to keep that to myself, not inflict it on my children. They’ve reduced it to a joke: “Mom’s worried about the mountain lions again.” I have a mantra that I use to calm my anxiety when it gets over the top: “It could happen … but it probably won’t.”

    Please keep posting about this. I look forward to reading your book.

  41. Catherine March 16, 2009 at 11:33 am #

    My in-laws, including all my kids’ cousins, live on a remote island in the Pacific where it is like stepping back into the 50s or 60s in terms of parenting style. My kids absolutely love going there and so do we as we get heaps more time to ourselves as the kids are always off doing their own thing. There are no strangers and very few cars so the kids just walk or cycle everywhere (or occasionally ride a horse). The cars aren’t even fitted with seat belts. I have noticed that the island kids always seem a lot more mature than my kids and that there doesn’t seem to be such a discernible ‘generation gap’ as what you see on the mainland, eg, my 10yo niece loves doing lawn bowls with the oldies (in between horseriding, athletics, swimming, reading etc) and also has a part time job helping out at one of the island’s childcare centres (which is owned by her grandmother). It is always tough for my kids adjusting back into their constrained, mainland, city life when we come home from our time on the island. I do think it is the way it has to be though, ie, there are loads of people we don’t know in our neighbourhood and plenty of people who drive like maniacs. I couldn’t let my kids just roam around the way the kids on the island do.

  42. Clint H March 18, 2009 at 11:57 pm #

    Thanks to Boing Boing for informing me about your blog (and upcoming book!).

    I have been living in Vietnam for the past 2.5 years. Just 2 days ago, as we were driving up a windy mountain road, I saw a young Black Hmong (one of the inidigenous mountain tribes in northern Vietnam) child – maybe 8 years old – walking along this dangerous road alone while carrying a basketful of who-knows-what on her back at 6 a.m.! I see children on roofs, on top of tall walls, even standing on the railings of a bridge!

    My point is (I think) that “developed” countries have an overly-developed sense of child protection which starts even before the child is born. I wonder if a lot of this mass hysteria correlates to intense consumerism. If so, then which is the cause and which is the effect?

  43. Rick March 19, 2009 at 1:10 am #

    I admire the spirit of this blog–I’m not that old, but can remember a time when I was allowed to roam freely in my neighborhood and in the vast forests surrounding it with no issues.

    However, the experience you post about it doesn’t mention one thing–we Americans love to sue. I’m sure not every parent whose kid falls off the jungle gym on the hotel grounds would get litigious, but it only takes one. Considering the costs, any organization with halfway competent management would seek to limit their vulnerability to lawsuits. Thus the filled in chain links on the swings, mandatory life-vests, etc.

  44. Jim T March 19, 2009 at 3:06 am #

    I’m not sure that it’s just an American thing. Canadians seem almost as bad, and from what I hear, things in the UK might be even worse.

    Here’s a thought: not every injury is worth getting hysterical about. If it doesn’t cause death, or permanent/very-long-term disability or disfigurement, then it is just another of life’s (painful) lessons.

    I’ve had two of my kids break bones, one on monkey bars and one while skiing, and they recovered and they learned something. It was painful, and a huge inconvenience, but it wasn’t even close to being the end of the world.

  45. Ashley March 19, 2009 at 7:18 am #

    I went on a cruise in September, 2 days behind hurricane Ike (a bad idea, for the record) and we tried snorkeling in the rather choppy surf. They made us all have life vests, much to my annoyance, but it turns out my husband needed it. The choppy seas kept splashing water in his face, and he wound up inhaling some and then got stung by a jellyfish, and basically needed a lifeguard tow back to the shore.

    It was a hard way to learn that I’m a stronger swimmer than my hubby, that’s for sure. Though I wouldn’t use a life vest if I wasn’t snorkeling in hurricaned waters.

  46. Cher March 20, 2009 at 2:42 am #

    My neighbor just had her second child, nine years after the first. She won’t do laundry because she has to leave her 750 square foot house and walk 15 out the back door to the shed to do her laundry and she is scared to leave the baby alone – she doesn’t have a monitor. Some people live in houses bigger than her yard and house combined and leave the kids alone in their rooms to sleep! It hasn’t occurred to her to take the baby with her, either. It is sad.

    When my brother was 2, my mom would garden while he napped – she put a picture of the garden on the table so he knew where to find her if he woke up before she came in.

    Now, I am about to take a nap and leave my 3 homeschoolers, 4, 6 and 9 watching a movie. Instructions to stay inside, and mostly, be quiet!

  47. Rhonda March 27, 2009 at 1:36 am #

    A consultant I worked with once remarked, “Idiot-proof the world and you end up with a world of idiots.”

  48. Ben May 21, 2009 at 8:00 pm #

    This just ticks me off. Kids who can’t swim shouldn’t be snorkling. Kids who can swim, don’t need the jacket.

    Next they’ll be issuing lifejackets for kids who want to try diving. My sister got all the diplomas you could get for swimming and started training as a diver a couple of months before she was officially allowed to. No lifejackets in sight. Just the regular equipment, some common sense and the standard diving safety training.

  49. July 8, 2010 at 6:20 pm #

    You must see and evaluate the choice of decoration and attractive to care for your child. People love these things, the traditional and conventional, will be interested to become obsolete in a place to sleep or bed linen.
    Many companies that produce different patterns and exclusive baby bedding, and people generally find themselves in a confused state that decides the set of linen is accurate and the best. Therefore, you may find via the web to get an idea of a nursery can be filled and there is a discount bedding for their children.

  50. car review September 9, 2010 at 5:10 pm #

    As usual, I wholeheartedly agree with you. The fearmongering and parental hovering really needs to be railed in and we need to spread “the word” that children aren’t Faberge Eggs, under security watch in a velvet cup. They are little people, able to have the intelligence, common sense, and desire to learn, explore, experience, experiment, and yup – get a bruise every once in a while.

  51. Adam November 10, 2010 at 12:41 am #

    It is important to know that Mexican federal law requires vests in all protected reef areas to protect the REEF. The point is to keep inexperienced snorkelers from getting down to the coral and unintentionally inflicting damage on that region’s main tourist draw.

    Experienced snorkelers can dive with local dive shops and use special snorkeling vests that meet the legal requirements and still allow you to get below the surface. Casual tourists diving with mass market tours will usually get the high flotation life jackets.

  52. Bar Fridge · November 13, 2010 at 2:57 am #

    our baby beddings are usually cotton based because i think that cotton is the best fabric that you can use for your baby “~;

  53. KyohakuKeisanki January 22, 2011 at 2:23 am #

    @Rob C: From the looks of things he’s already out-riding you!

    @Marie: Read the rest of my post.

    @Jim T: LOL!!!

    I am currently a 17-year-old boy in Tulsa, OK. Understandably, most of my playground experiences were with the new plastic stuff. Back when I was 4 years old I often went to Whiteside Park, which had a mix of fiberglass and painted wood. I remember a boy named Joe who used to be there many times… he could swing really high on the swings which were still the old chain kind (albeit with a plastic/rubber seat; and they were only 8 or 10 feet tall). AFAIK they still have the same equipment today, including the plastic 10-12′ straight and steep slide (not too many slides are straight anymore). Another park, Darlington, had and still has all-metal equipment (though it’s a really small structure). However, LaFortune is the one I want to write about here. As late as 10 years ago they had old wooden equipment (with metal slides and bars). I remember some very high monkey bars (maybe 8 feet?), a swinging bridge (had to be pretty small… maybe 10′ long tops), and 3 slides, each bigger than the other (top one was maybe 10 feet). Back in 2000 or 2001 or so they changed to new plastic equipment. At the time I was very excited since they had changed from a relatively small structure to two large ones. In 2004 I had the opportunity to visit a playground untouched by litigation-fearful government. My great uncle was about to pass away, and the family took a 1-day trip to Aurora, MO, to see him one last time. Apparently not wanting me to see him in his poor condition, my mom found a playground and told my dad to play with me there (I was 10 at the time). That is an experience I will never forget… there were an old-style metal seesaw, a metal merry-go-round, and a very steep metal slide that had to be at least 15-20 feet tall. Being accustomed to plastic all my life, I was at first afraid of the big slide. From what I recall I eventually got on it and loved it… as well as the other stuff there. From what I see on Youtube some places still have this old-school equipment… but they are mostly in other countries (Germany pops up a lot). After reading this article I realize what has truly become of society today. This is not simply a problem with playgrounds, it extends to all aspects of daily life. The American legal system is becoming too constricting to organizations, often doling out six-figure amounts for accidents that deserve more reasonable payments in the lower four figures (case in point: Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants 1994, aka the Coffee Case). Though consumers may think they are getting a better product from the additional regulations, they are the ones who are really paying for them. Thus the governments force unintended mandatory “insurance policies” upon the people… businesses have to pay more and skimp on the product to meet regulations, and the consumer ends up paying for a few people’s troubles in the form of increased prices or inferior products. Change needs to occur in the law schools before it can occur on the playground.

    If you are older (or have relatives living in rural communities), you may remember the slides and swingsets being bigger than they are today. Many probably tell you that “you were smaller, everything was big”. In most cases they’d be right. However, in this one solitary case, I can confidently say that they are wrong and you are right. While I’ve never (as far as I can recall) seen a 12-16′ swingset, there are [hard-to-find] pictures that prove that they existed. As for the slides, just read my post. Despite the extreme difficulty in finding pictures, I am absolutely certain that they existed (and still do, though straight slides of all kinds over 8 feet are a dying species).

    One particular piece of playground equipment that intrigues me due to its unique history is the Giant Stride. Unlike most playground equipment, these were mostly removed in the 1950s, long before the Age of Litigation began circa 1984 (date chosen on purpose). Google “980 playground equipment” and read the comments on the blog to see more about this intriguing piece of equipment… sure it was probably the most dangerous piece, but it was also the most popular in places that had it. Supposedly Sunrise Park in Paris, Illinois, still has a couple (unless they were removed after the 2008 ruling that any park with one automatically loses any lawsuit related to playground injuries, regardless of the scope of the injury and regardless of what equipment actually caused the injury)

    Here’s a link:

    If they’re still there, anyone care to go and take a video for Youtube?

    Also, just something I’m curious about. After reading many comments on blogs, I get the feeling that kids back then were more resilient than kids today. Kids back then could fall four feet without it hurting much, and eight feet without getting more than a scraped knee, maybe a sprained wrist at the worst (and often these high falls of 10′ or so were from the aforementioned Giant Strides). Kids in the old days used to jump from 10-foot barn roofs for fun, and one particular comment on another blog described kids purposely jumping down 20-30 feet to slightly inclined ground and getting little more than a sprained ankle. I don’t know how they did it… there wasn’t a secretly required Parkour class in elementary schools back then, was there?

  54. iso audit training July 16, 2011 at 7:10 am #

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