Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Balancing Act

According to all the information I have read about protecting your safety on the internet, I am doing it all wrong. Now, before everyone runs for the hills, hear me out.

It is not that I would willingly sell my children to the wandering pack of gypsies that I see every now and then (although, if the price was right . . . ), or that I would ever really stop the car on the side of the road and make them hoof it home (but don't tell them that), but I don't think allowing their pictures on the internet is really going to do them any harm.

Of course, I try not to post anything too personal about their lives. It is not my intention to embarrass them. I don't post anything that I wouldn't be afraid to share with them at some point and I try to be careful about the photos that I include. And still, all this sharing sometimes makes me question my choices. That is the mother in me whispering in my ear, and she can be quite loud and obnoxious at times.

I am a protective mom. Of that I have no doubt. I get scared and queasy when my kids get too close to the edge of a cliff. I feel like being sick if I've lost sight of them for a nanosecond. I do not like it when they show me how they can climb waaaaaaay up high in a tree. And riding a bike without a helmet? Forget about it.

And yet I share them, freely.

I encourage them to interact (with me nearby or course) with others when we are in new situations. I let them talk to strangers in public places (think little old ladies here) when they are approached and I tell them to be nice to other kids who want to play with them at the playground.

I don't want snobby kids.

So I share them.

We stopped at a wonderfully delicious fruit stand on the way home from an exhausting day trip last weekend to partake in their ice cream cones. These cones are at least the size of a cantaloupe, and to watch a toddler try and tackle one is the best kind of entertainment around. So there we sat, licking and rotating and licking some more, trying to keep the frozen confection atop the waffle cone. A young couple (gosh that makes me sound old) sat down with us to enjoy their cones. Pretty soon, the woman (more like a "young lady") began talking to Katie and complimenting her on her licking skills. She asked me how old she was and remarked on how cute she thought she was. There seemed nothing wrong with this interaction, and I certainly don't mind positive attention for good ice cream eating (this allows me to enjoy my own treat). The gal was friendly and nice and had a brand-new Nikon digital SLR hanging from her neck so I sensed a kindred spirit.

And then she asked,

"May I take your daughter's picture?".

For a split second I thought, what for?, my mind raced with all the horrid possibilities of her little face being plastered all over some disgusting site. Little Girl Licking Ice Cream Cone. Oh! The horrors!

"Sure, go ahead."

What, really, is the big deal? If I am going to put her pictures up here, why not let a perfectly kind stranger, whom we were sharing a moment with, snap her photo to document their day? What is the difference?

Sometimes I think we've become too afraid.

And sometimes I think we're being way too naive.

Finding the balance between the two is the tricky part and one that I think about almost every day. How do we teach our children how to be cautious, but to enjoy life to it's fullest? How do we teach our children not to be afraid to try new things, but to not pass our own insecurities and fears on to them? How do we let them become themselves without influencing each and every little decision that they make? How do we protect them and yet allow them the freedom of being a child?

I am not a religious person, but I believe a certain amount of faith plays a huge role in my parenting. I have to have faith that what is to be, will be. I have to have faith that the good outweighs the bad. I have to have faith that people are good, and generally not trying to inflict harm upon me or my family.

But I will still lock my doors at night (even during the day). I will still not allow my kids to play in the front yard without watching their every move. I will still only allow the boys to leave our yard if they are together, and have a cell phone, and have just told me how and where they will kick anyone who tries to grab either one of them. I make them wear life jackets in boats and won't let them swim past the dock without me.

But I will let ladies take their picture eating ice cream.

Because I have faith.

And my intuition tells me that it is okay. That I wouldn't want to live in a world where strangers never interacted, or smiled, or spoke to, or helped each other.

And the balancing act continues . . .


Rock the Cradle said...

This is wonderful, Carrie.

I had the exact same drop in the pit of my stomach when a perfectly harmless, pleasant looking middle aged lady asked if she could take a photo of the Impling.

All those things you wrote of went furiously through my head as she waited for an answer. Then I listened to that little thought under all the baggage that said:

"I cannot live in fear."

and I let her take the photo.

Becky said...

that is a great post and man can i relate. i too hvae been criticized from friends/family about posting hannah's pictures and i've never seen the big deal. if some perv wants to stare at them thats HIS problem. its not like our kids would ever know the difference if we posted their pics or not. we're all pretty private about where we live or what our kids do personally. but yeah i agree----how do you find a happy medium between freedom and paranoia?

prrrof said...

Totally agree that we have to, ironically, try to speak back to/live back to the paranoia that (can) (too easily) rule our parenting lives. I often hear "you can never be too safe"--but actually, I think you can. If we fear everything, we teach our kids distrust. If we fear some things, mostly rationally, we teach them balance. But it's hard!

Not The Mama said...

Wonderfully said. It can be a scary world, but we can choose not to live in fear. Obviously we do what we can to protect ourselves and our families. There is no need to take unnecessary riskes. But I think we miss out on so much if we shy away from strangers and refuse to share ourselves with them.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

What a lovely post! I think you have written about exactly what most parents struggle do you teach your kids to stay safe, while still allowing them to explore the kindness of strangers?!

I post pictures of my kids from time to time...I like doing it. I like seeing pictures of other people's makes me feel like I know them better. Then again, I do have that tiny nagging fear of some weirdo! I suppose you cannot live your life that way!

Oh, The Joys said...

The balancing continues... Yes,yes!
The intuition, moment by moment, interaction by interaction.

jen said...

a consistent balancing act forged with faith. this is beautiful.

creative-type dad said...

That is interesting.

I always judge somebody by the way they act and talk and then use my instincts.
I don't like the assume everybody is a serial killer

Christina_the_wench said...

As an amateur photographer and not a perv, I can appreciate a good photo op/subject, especially as adorable as your daughter is. And you are right. People are too paranoid at times. Parenting in moderation is the key.

aimee / greeblemonkey said...

Great post.

Have you read the book "Protecting The Gift" by Gavin DeBecker? It is a totally excellent book. Pretty hard to read, but helps you sift through some of the realities of what is safe and what is not (in general, not really specifically about Internet stuff).

And he really pushes trusting gut instinct like you had with the lady photographer.

Stay at home dad said...

Excellent post: I particularly liked the part about religion and faith. So what if it had been a man? No, don't even answer that! I agree with you and I agree with Becky too.

Sarah said...

I would just hate to have that "fear of the unknown" rule my life. Life is too short. We need to take some chances now and then.

Miriam said...

Thanks for writing this.