Fear Can Be Useful When Parenting

I’m not generally a fearful person. I don’t cross over to the other side of the street when I see a rough looking dude coming the other way. I stand by windows during thunderstorms. And Homeland Security’s old color-coded terror scale amused me more than worried me.

I’m not some macho nitwit who covers my car with No Fear stickers, and I don’t think I’m such a badass that I can conquer anything. I’ll leave that attitude to the morons in Mountain Dew commercials.

The bravery I possess is more of the statistical kind. It’s unlikely in life that really bad things are going to happen to me, thus it doesn’t make much sense to be frightened of them. Sure, I could be shot on the street at any time, but it’s not likely so I don’t give it much thought.

This attitude frees me to worry about other really important things in life. Such as how to slow the passage of time, and whether Harper Lee’s second novel will be as good as her first.

However, there is one aspect of my life in which fear has always gripped me, and continues to grip me. I wage a daily battle against it. For the most part I think I’m victorious—or at least not badly defeated—but it’s a battle that never ends.

The battleground is parenthood.

Hsas-chart2What is parenting if not a series of fears? Although we might not all share the same fears, we all have them. Any parent who says they have no fear regarding their children is a no-good parent.

I’m not talking about the sort of fear in which you think every single thing is going to harm your child and you’d have him or her live inside a plastic bubble if you could. That’s a common fear, I suppose, but I think most people know that it’s not realistic, so we don’t go to those extremes.

The fears I have in mind are more of the day-to-day fears.

What if he’s not learning enough in school? What if she’s no confident enough? What if he doesn’t make new friends? What if someone makes fun of her?

These are the sort of fears that keep parents up at night, and sometimes they’re fears about which we can do nothing.

I don’t deny my parenting fears though. I think it’s better to embrace them. When we embrace them we might find out that we can actually do something to alleviate our fears.

When I was a little boy I used to worry all the time that someone would kidnap me. I remember actually thinking one time, “I wouldn’t be surprised if someone just snatched me right now and I never saw my family again.” That didn’t happen. But when I became a father I redirected those old fears toward my children’s well-being.

My wife is the same way.

But we don’t keep our kids locked in the house all the time just so they don’t get kidnapped. Instead, we do rational things like make them stay by us in public places instead of running around. We don’t let them wander the neighborhood by themselves. We always know where they are.

However, while this protects them from being kidnapped, I fear that it’s stifling their sense of adventure, or limiting the development of their independence. I rode my bike around my neighborhood all day when I was a kid. I don’t let my kids do that. I fear they’re losing something because of it.

I fear that by emphasizing academics that they’re missing out on athletics. I fear that by sometimes letting them eat junk I’m teaching them bad eating habits. I fear that by stressing the importance of the environment and energy conservation that I’m going to turn them into fossil fuel-burning, tree haters.

Fear forces me to think about things I might not have otherwise considered. It makes me consider the bad, but protect the good.

So fear will remain part of my parenting personality. There’s nothing I can do about that, other than to turn it into something positive. I can’t protect my children from every single bad thing in the world, but I’ll do what I can.

The world’s not as dangerous as we think it is, but it’s not as good as we think it is either. Fear reminds us of the danger, and how we react to fear protects us from thinking the world is too good.

Sometimes I’m fearful. But when it comes to my kids, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Once a month, during an event called Blogapalooz-Hour, ChicagoNow challenges its bloggers to write a post in one hour on a topic that's unknown to them until the hour begins. I've decided to tackle all of the challenges held before I joined ChicagoNow over the next ten days or so. This challenge was "Write about fear, or lack thereof, and the role it has played in any aspect of your life."

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