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.