Op/Ed

Hovering or protecting: The fine line of parenting

HOPE E. TREMBLAY

Last week’s kidnapping of a Springfield girl has shaken the region, including this mom. The 11-year-old was taken in broad daylight walking home from her bus stop. She was forced into the back of a car and could have vanished if it were not for the cooperation of the kidnapper’s family and the public. A Springfield husband and wife were essential in her safe recovery when they spotted the abductor’s vehicle after an Amber Alert was issued.

As a mom, I cannot imagine what this girl’s parents went through. It’s one of my worst fears, especially because I’m trying to raise independent children who can do things for themselves.

I am not a “helicopter” parent. I don’t hover over my children’s every move. They don’t have phones yet, so I am not in constant contact with them. I want them to be able to walk to the library after school or attend an afterschool program outside of school without me there. But I do worry, and when something like this happens, it brings those fears to the surface.

A terrifying incident like this just furthers my mission to raise independent kids. I want them to be aware of their surroundings more than ever, but not in a fearful way; I want them to observe and be confident in their ability to assess a situation and make a safe decision. But I also don’t want to raise kids who are afraid of their own shadow or are suspicious of everyone.

Sigh.

Being a parent is hard, as all of us parents know. Every generation has its own fears, but it seems that today there are more things to be afraid of when it comes to raising children. Growing up on Granville Road, I lived in the middle section of the long street. I had no sidewalks and few neighbors. Our house was surrounded on three sides by the woods of the Stanley Park Wildlife Preserve. That was my playscape.

I would play in the woods, sometimes with friends and other times — gasp! – alone. Not to date myself, but at the time, kids could go play by themselves and no one thought anything of it. As long as I responded when someone yelled for me, I could explore the woods on my own.

My kids are not exactly the outdoorsy type, but even if they were, there is no way I’d let them run off into the woods to play. You just never know.

So, I’ll continue to walk the fine line between not hovering, but protecting my children while trying to let them do their own thing. I will also be more vigilant in watching out for other children. So often, we see other children doing things that maybe they shouldn’t, but mind our own business because, well, it’s none of our business. But sometimes, you have to go with your gut and take the chance that you’re helping someone by “butting in.” I’d rather be called judgmental or told to mind my business than not say anything when my instinct tells me something is not right.

What do you do when you think a child could be in a dangerous situation? How do you keep your kids safe, yet independent? I’m always open to tips! Share your thoughts with a letter to [email protected]

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