Life Lessons Friday: Living in a Culture of Fear

I love so many things about how we live in the present day, but one thing I don't like is how we live in a culture of fear. Sometimes it's warranted, sometimes not.

I'm a parent of two girls who are 4 and 6 years old. Not a week goes by that I'm not reminded about how "scary" the world is for parents and their children.

I hear the voices of fearful parents all around. Parents of teenagers and pre-teens leave their children home alone and worry about what is going to go wrong; parents of young children don't let their children play in the yard alone, for fear that an animal or human predator will attack them. Children don't go to camp because their parents fear they might be afraid of the activity of the day; they don't go on nature walks because a tick might bite them. The list goes on and on. The message? Our children aren't safe. Someone, or something, is going to get them, and it's our job to protect them.

Sure, those things could happen. More often than not they don't happen. Is the world really a more dangerous place than it used to be? Or is it our perception?

I try hard to not give into the fear. My children play outside without me watching over them; in public places they sometimes leave me to observe something they see. As time goes on and they get older, their range of independence will grow. I like to think I'm comfortable with it. After all, when I was their age, I was walking to kindergarten on my own (1/2 mile each way, and I took the shortcut through people's backyards), walking with my sisters and cousins to the candy store (1 mile each way), and riding my bike around the neighborhood with friends. I wasn't older than 5 or 6 years old. I never felt that I was in any danger, and apparently, because I'm here to tell the tale, I wasn't.

Just as my parents didn't keep me close to them out of fear, I can't keep my children hidden away in hopes that danger will never touch them. How would they learn and grow if I didn't let them out into the world? I do tell them what to watch out for, what to notice, but I can't live their lives for them. I can't learn their lessons for them. I can't have their experiences for them.

All of this is easy to say when I'm feeling safe and in control. The other night something happened here and I had a flash of doubt about my children's safety. The feeling settled down and I thought it through, and I'm back to trusting that we're all as safe as we can be.

It happened while Jeff and I were eating dinner. I gave the girls each a popsicle and told them to eat outside. They were outdoors for a while. Jeff mentioned that it seemed awfully quiet out there. From my chair, I couldn't see them, but I assumed they were fine and didn't give it a second thought. Just then, they came inside and announced that they had walked all the way down the street and back, just like they did last night. What??? I didn't know they had walked down the street and back last night. Were they safe? Did they watch for cars? 'H' said, "we didn't even get hit by a car, not even once!" Bless her! Even in my disbelief and mild shock, I thought she was so cute.

In that moment, I didn't think it was okay for my children to be exploring the neighborhood with such a free reign. Now that I've had time to think about it, I see that I was most upset because I didn't know in advance what they had planned to do. I appreciate how they were relaxed and living in the moment, one thing leading to another, and before they knew it they had set out on a journey to the end of the street. But what would have happened if I had looked for them and couldn't find them? I would have panicked, and that would have been ugly.

In my heart I want to let them go free, the way I had so many chances to go free. My head is almost there. I'm not sure what it will take to align both in the right direction. What I do know is that I can't live in fear.


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About Me

My name is Jillian. I started this blog as a way to experiment with my camera and it's a become a nice little spot where I enjoy spending time. I'm a mother to 6 and 4 year old daughters, wife to a cool computer guy, and mama to a cuddly cat. We enjoy eating local, organic food; managing several food allergies; homeschooling with love; spending time in nature; and we love to take time each day to be creative. You can also find me over at From Scratch Club from time to time. Welcome!