Brits are a very safety-conscious people. Security is their lifeblood. I think they invented the phrase ‘play it safe’. Incidentally, it’s an English phrase, so chances are I’m right.
I’ll never get over all the little things here that are designed to minimise the risk in peoples’ lives. Like the neon-coloured high visibility safety vests that every cyclist and professional driver is wearing, along with gardeners, rubbish pick-uppers, supermarket cashiers and loads of ordinary people just walking down the street. Sure, if I was a lollipop lady I might want to don one of these, too, but leaving the house early in the morning when it’s still dark doesn’t mean you are automatically hit by a car without your high-viz vest. Unless, of course, you can’t wait for green before crossing the street.
And what’s with all the warning signs? You know, I was under the impression we Germans were the world champions of ridiculous, superfluent danger notices à la ‘Don’t go too close to the drop-off, you might fall down’. Look at this one here:
Sorry, the little monster wasn’t even half that age when he confidently strode towards said tower. At first, I had to help out a little by holding my hand under his bottom when he climbed up the ladder with rungs at intervals more than half the length of himself. But soon he’d just monkey all the way up and come down the really long slide on his own.
It was quite an accomplishment for him, and he was accordingly proud. Who am I to thwart such enthusiasm by pointing out that he had to wait another 2 1/2 years plus? Only so that the zoo could not get sued if anything ever happened to a less-than-5-year old!
This kind of disclaimer is unfortunately all-too common around here. When friends of mine from Germany visited last year, we had to make it almost a sport to find a place that would microwave the baby food jar for their youngest. It normally took several attempts, and the usual response (especially at but not restricted to chains like Subway or Burger King) was “Sorry, management doesn’t allow me to do it because they could get sued if I heat it up too much and your baby burns his tongue”. Really?! Which parent would 1. not check the temperature before feeding something someone else has warmed up to their little one and 2. sue the helpful soul that had mercy on their hungry toddler?
I also think the island monkeys might have invented helicopter parenting. If you so much as sit down on a bench at the playground and let your toddler run around and explore on his own you get shot dirty looks. The other day the little monster threw a tantrum (it’s known to happen with 2-year olds, you know) on the way home from the shops, and because I couldn’t be asked to drag a screaming, wriggling rugrat along I just kept walking slowly, confident he would follow me eventually as he does. Two minutes later I was shouted at by a complete stranger who deemed the distance of about 30 metres between him and me too large to be safe. For whatever reason, because this is a section of the pavement that is actually separated from the road by a fence. I suppose I should have put a leash on my little monster, that would have taught him!
Just like that day when we went to a pantomime with him. OK, one could argue why I have to take a not-yet-3-year old to a theatre, but then, despite my general awesomeness, I have by bad-mom moments like everyone else I guess. Plus, my mother-in-law had been raving about how much fun the kids have at these Christmas shows with singing along and dancing in the aisles. Except that no-one was allowed in the aisles. For health-and-safety reasons. Of course. God forbid someone trip over him or he fall down the stairs!
Newsflash, people: Kids need to run around on their own, bump their heads or fall down a climbing frame every now and then. It’s called adventure and an integral part of growing up. More often than not they will not even hurt themselves (much) because their bones and ligaments are still super flexible. And it will teach them valuable life skills. Like risk assessment, or finding out where their limits are. Pushing those limits in order to succeed. Trust in their own abilities and ask for help when they feel they can’t succeed on their own. I am convinced they come out better people when you don’t constantly mollycoddle them.
And please, don’t continually try to decide for me, too, what’s too dangerous and what’s not. It will only bring out my rebellious side and I will end up taking risks that I wouldn’t have taken if it weren’t forbidden.
Note: I am probably not as bad a mother as I make myself sound. My little monster is actually allowed to play risk-free games, I do comfort him when he hurts himself and I (dare I say it?) cringe when he runs, climbs or does other risky stuff at insane speeds and with his seemingly uncoordinated movements. I just don’t stop him all the time.