Readers! Here’s a little note I got that I thought you might like, too.
Dear Free-Range Kids: As the pseudo-aunt of a 2.5 year old nephew and 4 day (yes, DAY!) old niece, and as someone who wants children of her own, it is so refreshing to hear your point of view. My sister and I have arguments about her toddler’s safety : Do we REALLY need to religiously apply sunblock on him for the twenty minutes he’s going to spend in the sun on the deck? Do we really have to use bug repellent on the off chance a mosquito traveled all the way fromsurviving, against all odds, on the blood of jumping fish, and now might bite him, giving him malaria and causing him to die? And don’t even get me started on “if we give him sugar, it’s ALL HE’LL EVER EAT!” (Because sugar, apparently, is the new crack. And we’re all addicted.)
I’m all for safety. Don’t play with matches. Don’t run with scissors. I certainly don’t leave him alone with my loaded gun. No need to COURT danger. But sunlight? Sugar? Killer mosquitoes?
And, by the way, I have a clinical diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I’m big on what-ifs. There’s a reason I wash my hands thirty times a day and quadruple check my door locks. Of course I worry. I’m better than anyone at finding things that could potentially be harmful. But I also know how miserable living a life afraid of “what might happen” can be. And if OCD me can let the child watch a movie (might harm his eyesight, you know, if he sits too close), or play with my Labrador (the puppy might suddenly, without provocation, attack him then turn on me and rip out my throat, leaving us in a bloody mess), or help me cook by adding pre-cut ingredients into a soup pot (I might lose my grip, drop him head first into the pot, causing him to sustain large burns and eventually drown in vegetable beef soup) — if I can do this, with a disorder that’s colloquially called ‘the doubting disease,’ then by God, there’s no excuse for the rest of us. — Signed Auntie OCD