We live in a Culture of Fear argued Barry Glassner. He succinctly argued in his book published in 2000 (pre 9/11) how we live in a society that focuses so much on fear that we perpetuate the myth that we live in a very dangerous scary world. When you look at the statistics, he continued, you find a different picture: we are actually safer today than we were 40 years ago. Glassner writes in a similar vein as Michael Moore, Eric Schlosser, or Morgan Spurlock. They all poke holes in our collectively held beliefs in order to let power shine through the meta narrative under which we operate.
We all have fears. They guide us, warn us, prohibit us. A journalist friend of mine countered Glassner’s argument mentioning that it’s a societal problem when violent crime doesn’t make the news. Glassner argued we spend too much of our focus on it. My friend, after interning in a large city, saw it as a problem when the violent crime was so common it was no longer news worthy.
In my 20s, when I read Culture of Fear and began to understand my political and societal opinions, I came to the conclusion or belief that we definitely did focus too much on our fears. Reading Last Child in the Woods tidies that theory by exploring how we lose creativity and independence when we let fear guide and we protect children from unknowns in such a way we prohibit their natural curiosity. Free Range Kids usually agrees with that concept of paralyzing fear and its detriments rather than perceived gains.
Okay, that all said, the basis of the intellectual argument – but how does it fly in the face of every day parenting? What does it really look like when you consider this gift, your child, you have been given to care for, love, and protect – when faced with simple every day realities? How do you balance fostering this curiosity with protecting them from unnecessary harm?
I don’t often talk about my own personal fears on this blog because somehow it seems a little too morbid. I am superstitious too, so if I voice these fears, will I encourage the fear’s own realization? I was encouraged, though, by my friend’s post describing her frustrations and feelings of inadequacy when dealing with another new parental challenge.
Levi and, two days in a row, were driving at a crawl stuck in a normal traffic jam as cars get back logged against one light that never seems timed efficiently. It’s been warm, so the windows are down, and I’m listening to Levi chatter, the hum of classical music on the radio, and a squeaky wheel? What was that, thinks my brain. It’s intermittent, no discernible pattern, but sounds like the right back wheel. Great, Levi’s tire. The first day it happened, we weren’t in traffic very long, so the thought fleeted and flew away. I forgot to tell my mechanic husband. The next day, traffic was heavier, so I had more time to listen to this intermittent squeak. I called my husband and reminded him, and he said what I was thinking, “That’s not good.”
Prior to my calling him, all I could envision was getting on the bridge where people drive 10-15 mph over the speed limit. I’ve been in a vehicle when the wheel bearings are going – it’s not fun. I saw, from the comforts of a modified tow truck, the wheel break off this van when the bearing is going bad and it drops, skids, and the wheel tumbles off into the ditch on the other side of the road into the field. Fast forward 8 years to today. Cars don’t seem to break on my husband while he’s driving them, they seem to break on me; me who knows little about their mechanics. So, all I have, it seems, is this fear.
Hearing this squeak, all I could picture was driving on this bridge where people drive too fast, me in the right lane, as the wheel breaks off the car. We, of course in my vision, are at the crest of the bridge, suddenly the car lurches left as it struggles to maintain momentum with a missing tire. We cross traffic, and somehow, physics pushes us through the sturdy copper and iron walls of the bridge and sends us plummeting into the river. My desire to plan ahead is thinking through this fictitious fearsome scenario wondering if I’d be able to unbuckle Levi from his car seat while we are plummeting into the river below. I wonder how loud I would have to scream in order to attract necessary attention for the help we’ll need. I am reminded of why I want to take the American Red Cross first aid classes because Levi, currently, doesn’t know how to swim or hold is breath. I am not a strong swimmer, thinks my brain in this scenario, would I be able to unbuckle Levi, grab him through the back seat, and what would the best option be, leave the windows rolled down as the water rushes in, or put them up now, and have to push against the force?
I can’t decide.
My husband looks over the car after we return home, safely. He cannot find anything noticeably wrong with it. He has been working on these cars for the better part of 15 years. My husband is very mechanically inclined. (Not just because he’s in a diesel mechanic apprenticeship, either.) I trust him with our cars. I trust his intentions for mine and Levi’s safety. I am reassured that I have a caring mechanic at home to examine these pesky squeaks that I don’t understand. I am comforted that I have a way to tackle these fears.
Bad things happen to good people, every day. If it’s my time to go, there is nothing I can about it except try before to be the best I can be. This vision, this fear, the takeaways: get Levi into swimming lessons, reexamine the Red Cross training, and be thankful for the days we have now.