to jump or not to jump - that is the question

Whole grapes in the 10-and-under group -- scary. Kids running full speed in flip flops -- holding my breath. Overcrowded bouncy castles -- not a chance. 

But this does not a helicopter parent make and I get cranky when people confuse my kind of parenting with that  kind of parenting. I don't do my kids' homework and I have no intention of showing up at their future job interviews (unless it's to save them from working at a really awful store in the mall).

Even though my childhood years coincided with the tail end of free-range parenting, I never once left the house without the "how-to-be-unsupervised-for-hours-but-still-be-safe-while-also-making-sure-nothing-happens-to-your-sister" lecture. My dad is a bona fide safety-nut (and proud of it) and either it's genetic or I got brainwashed, but either way, so am I.

We don't let our kids jump off the furniture or run at high speeds through the house. I won't ever buy bunk beds and I say 'watch the curb' and 'look both ways' every time we cross the street. As I write this, my three oldest are on the front lawn playing in the leaves with an adult-sized metal rake. I'm squirmy about the rake, but gave a stern "how-to-use-a-rake-safely-without-poking-anyone's-eyes-out" lecture before sending them out.

It doesn't help that parents are constantly bombarded with news stories and research studies that can leave us second-guessing our choices. Blogger Shawn Burn talks about contact sports for kids - and the increased tracking of the effects of concussions. My son does play hockey, but we'll be hanging out in house league where bodychecking isn't supposed to happen. Pint-sized football, lacrosse or rugby - not for us, thanks.

The thing is, I don't second-guess myself. I own my choices about my kids' safety. My kids might hear a lot of 'be carefuls' but they also run, jump, skip, swim, bike ride, dance and skate, with my enthusiastic support. And besides the name-calling (rhymes with melicopter), I don't normally encounter resistance from other parents about my cautious approach. That is until the trampoline thing came up.

We are good friends with an ER doctor who has a top three list of things he hates: motocross bikes, skill saws and trampolines. In fact, it's rare he gets through a shift in the warmer months without seeing at least one trampoline-related injury. And the evidence coming from groups like the Canadian Pediatric Society just support my decision further - we don't do trampolines. Not even the ones with the safety nets around them.

Let me say here I do NOT think parents who use trampolines for fun are bad parents. But I do expect my decision to keep my kids off of them to be respected by those parents. When dropping my son off at a play date a couple of years ago, I was told they'd be hanging out in the backyard. "That sounds fun," I said. "Just so you know, we don't let our kids go on trampolines." I would have liked to hear "Oh sure. No problem." Instead I got an incredulous "Why?!?! They're totally safe." I could practically hear the helicopter blades whirring in her mind.

Okay - back meet the wall. Either I say, "No, in fact, they're not" and risk coming across as being judgmental. Or I make fun of myself to make her feel better. I chose the latter because our sons were standing there. I felt uneasy leaving him and have since hosted all play dates with this pal at our trampoline-free home.

With the recent circulation and praise for Tina Fey's prayer for her daughter I've been feeling more than a little smug. I am not the only mother who has a healthy fear of escalators, balconies and, as it turns out, whole grapes. And though I have no way of measuring whether my parenting style is stunting my children, I do feel certain they will grow up knowing how grateful I am to have them. All it takes is my dad reaching for my all-grown-up hand when we're crossing a road or walking through a parking lot together, to tell me this much is true.


~ Family boat ride, with life jackets, of course ~


Elan Morgan

Elan Morgan is a writer and web designer who works through Elan.Works and is a designer and content editor at GenderAvenger. They have been seen in the Globe & Mail, Best Health, Woman's Day, and Flow magazines and at TEDxRegina and on CBC News and Radio. They believe in and work to grow both personal and professional quality, genuine community, and meaningful content online.