Saturday, August 20, 2011

Irrational Panic Room

Sometimes I feel like I'm not the greatest mother because my Panic Button is broken.  You know the panic button - it manifests in multiple forms.  It shows up when you've had a near miss with your child's life (lost track of them for 10 seconds in the grocery store, saw them almost lose their balance on the stairs).  This feature of the panic button works for me.  I do in fact freak out a little when my child almost falls down the stairs, or gets away from my hand in a parking lot.

But the preventative feature of my panic button seems to be broken.
My brain fails to jump to the most horrific of the what-if's, especially not regarding other people's children.  For instance, someone recently posted on a Facebook group about seeing two children, 7-ish, sitting in the back of a car in a parking lot playing video games while their mother was inside.  Outraged, many commenters said they would have called 911 because *insert list of things* could have happened, seeming to think these children were in some kind of mortal danger, warranting an immediate and/or legal intervention.

Me?I decided that since it wasn't illegal for them to be there (not in the state in which it occurred, which is my state, so I knew the law off hand), and they were obviously fine, I saw no reason to call 911 or freak the heck out on the parents.  Now, if the children were banging on the windows with hands that said "NOT PENNY'S BOAT" tattooed on them, begging for help, or if they looked to be in some kind of distress, that would be completely different.  So I thought "meh, why get involved? Kids seem fine."

Apparently what I SHOULD have been thinking was that these two young children were going to be kidnapped out of the back seat, the victims of a freak car jacking, beat up for their video games, or they were going to put the car into gear and kill themselves or someone else.  This is why my Panic Button is apparently broken, because none of those things really occurred to me.  And even once they were suggested, the only option I considered a legitimate possibility was beat up for their video games.

Maybe I just know too much about statistics? There is a .00016% chance that any given child will be kidnapped by a random stranger anywhere in the US.  I can quote sources if you'd like, but you should just take my word for it.  While I'm not thinking "it'll never happen to me" I *am* thinking that "it probably is not going to happen to me, or them, or them."  Obviously it does happen to some people, but it can't be denied that some areas are safer than others.  I know the crime statistics in my small little college town, and the odds of my child being snatched off the sidewalk while I'm putting his sisters in the car are incredibly slim, and I might even venture to say that it's never gonna happen.

Here's what you've been waiting for - a list of things I think are and are not worth panicking about (I'd like to add a disclaimer that my children are generally too old or too young for some of these items, so they may not apply directly to me.  I do not let my 2-year-old play outside where I can't see her, but if she was 8, it'd be a different story).

Don't Panic: There hasn't been a kidnapping in your town for over a decade so you want to let your child play outside unsupervised.
Panic: There is a serial kidnapper in your town, and your neighbor is letting her child play outside unsupervised.

Don't Panic: Stepping six feet from the tub your toddler is in to get a towel
Panic: Wandering around talking on the phone and cooking dinner while your infant bathes.

Don't Panic: children alone in a car, experiencing no distress
Panic: Children alone in the car who look as though they made need help

Don't Panic: A dog riding in the car with children
Panic: A dog in the back of a pick up truck

Don't Panic: you see a pit bull
Panic: you see a pit bull that is foaming at the mouth, snarling viciously, and/or holding a sign that says "I want to rip out your throat."

Don't Panic: Your neighbor leaves her sleeping child in the house to run next door or across the street.

Panic: Your neighbor leaves her sleeping child in the house to run to the store or go to a bar.
Don't Panic: A mother feeds her baby rice cereal at six weeks because she hopes it will help him sleep.
Panic: A mother forgets to feed her baby anything for at least a day.

Don't Panic: Your child has a fever of 103.2.
Panic: Your child has a fever of 106.

I think you're starting to get the idea.  I really feel like MOST parenting decisions are merely choices, and the children will be fine.  Just because they are choices that *I* wouldn't make for myself or my children, it doesn't mean you should panic and alert the neighborhood watch, fire department, and/or local hospitals.

I really feel like I'm in the minority of parents because I don't panic (or freak out) if my child were to spike a fever.  I let them ride in the base of the shopping cart, and sleep in their bouncy seat.  I use a crib bumper.  I have a dog with a large blocky looking head.  I have more than one dog.  I do not follow my dogs around the house to make sure they aren't salivating over the potential deliciousness of my children.  The list goes on, but I won't go into any more detail.  Suffice to say there are many parenting decisions I make that others don't agree with.

It just makes me wonder if I am somehow a broken parent.

SHOULD I go to the ER if I start spotting at 6 weeks pregnant, or just wait it out at home and save my $300?
SHOULD I let my children play on the trampoline, or dress them in bubble wrap before they go outside?
SHOULD I always assume my dog is always on the brink of an uncharacteristic death spree?
SHOULD I be concerned about other people's children (age 6ish) playing outside alone in a 99.99999% safe neighborhood (I'd say 100% but I don't like absolutes)?
SHOULD I worry that my house is going to be broken into at any time, morning, noon, or night?
SHOULD I mentally slap people who turn their kids around at 1 (or sooner), or booster them at 2?

This list goes on as well.  I don't dislike that I don't freak out, but sometimes I worry that I come across as cold and/or unfeeling towards my children because I am not constantly worried about their safety, or thinking of the horrible things that could happen to them when they go outside or eat macaroni and cheese for the second time in a week.

So I guess my whole point was to let people know that I do in fact consider these things, and I feel confidant that my child will not be kidnapped from my front door, that my dog is not going to randomly channel Kujo, and that my 3-year-old is not going to drown in the bathtub if I look away for 10 seconds.  It's not that I haven't considered the possibilities, it's that I considered them and then discarded them.  I can't imagine I will change and become a panicker any time soon, and would like to add that I do take reasonable precautions in all things.

Even though I know I PROBABLY won't get in a car accident in my neighborhood, my children are still always in car seats.  I still stay in the room while my almost 4-year-old takes a bath, and I don't let my small children run around the neighborhood while I sit on my butt and blog.  Again, this list goes on.

And that's all I have to say about that.

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