When I was pregnant with my first child, an au pair was convicted of killing a baby in her care. "The Killer Nanny" case made international headlines and made me petrified to leave my baby with a sitter.
Sooner or later, however, I had to stop being scared because I needed child care.
Now a family is suing child care website, Care.com, alleging the company is responsible for their infant's death. It's horrible to think about, and of course social media buzzed with moms claiming they'd never leave their kids in the care of someone who wasn't a friend or family member.
Really? What if your friend or family member snapped one day? Do you know everything about them and their background?
I'll admit sometimes 24/7 media coverage — not to mention social media buzz and commenters quick to judge the moment a story involving something bad happens to a child — makes me want to move to the middle of nowhere. Or better yet, never let my kids leave the house.
But I wouldn't be happy with myself as a parent if I actually did that.
It's scary to let kids take baby steps toward achieving independence, but it's an important step for them, and for us. It's hard to think about the big picture and how growing up in a fear-based parenting culture will affect our kids when they become parents.
Bad things happen. Really bad things.
I'm not trying to make light of any of these horrific situations, but I think the worst thing parents can do is stop letting their children live their lives. Sometimes people we trust turn out to be most untrustworthy people around. It sucks. But we can't stop living our lives. Our kids depend on it.
Five years ago, the beloved music teacher at our temple plead guilty to distributing child pornography online. Talk about terrified — I nearly vomited when I read that news. It was also scary to talk to my kids in age-appropriate terms about what happened, but I didn't let fear-based parenting get the best of me. I spent more time teaching them that most adults are good people and they shouldn't be afraid of other teachers.
Recently, an innocent bystander was shot and killed blocks away from my older child's school, near a friend's house. Did I think about not letting him walk there anymore? For a split second, I nearly got sucked into the fear-based parenting vortex.
Instead, I had long talks with my kids about what happened and whether they were scared.
The answer? No. I'd like to think this is because I'm open and honest with my kids about the world around them and refuse to be part of the fear-based parenting culture.
Bottom line? I think instilling fear in our kids and taking away their independence is far more frightening than fear-based parenting.
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