And I mean it literally because we’re talking about matters of distance, i.e. too much space between a parent and their children. This latest incident at the hands of a Florida gator would be mind-boggling enough if it weren’t for the fact that just a few weeks ago, a toddler wandered away from his mother in the Cincinnati Zoo, climbed a wall and fell into a gorilla enclosure.
You remember that episode ended on a “happy” note but was not without its cost. The tot was rescued, suffering only minor injuries but the ape, a renowned and endangered silverback, had to be euthanized to protect the boy. In both instances, it illustrates how quickly small distances between a parent and child can become vast expanses with sometimes horribly, tragic results.
As a child, I can still remember my Mom’s admonitions when we went somewhere, anywhere. It was straight up and to the point and even at a young age I knew it was not open to discussion or negotiation. It was, “Bennie, stay here, right by my side and don’t move” or it was “Hold my hand and don’t let it go”. Both of these prohibitions were given out of an abundance of caution and love and with the realization that even then in the sixties, the world could be a dangerous place for children.
Raising my own, I found myself acting in a similar fashion. I sometimes felt I was stifling my charges, wanting to know what they were doing, where they were at ALL times of the day, even in high school. But as they became vibrant, responsible adults, I recognized I had found that parental sweet spot that allows parents to keep an eye on their children while at the same time, not being overly stifling in a manner that prevents them from growing in confidence.
And that’s the problem today I think, parents are missing the mark. They’re equating permissive parenting with providing your toddler space enough to grow into their world. The two are not always or necessarily the same and it’s up to the parent to recognize the difference.
In the case of the Florida toddler, “No Swimming” signs were posted yet the child was allowed to play in the water-distance-not swimming but about one to two feet in, according to news reports. I ask myself did the parents initially tell him to stop and stay away from the water’s edge but relented after the child objected? Unfortunately, I see that a lot just walking down the street-Honey, stop, don’t do that, honey please-and I always ask myself, what do you hope to gain with such laxity? Being in the state of Florida, a state almost synonymous with alligator, sitting out at night beside a large body of water, it would only have been prudent to keep your kids very close to you.
Monday morning quarterbacking sucks frankly and it damn sure sucks when it comes off the death of a youngster. Still,we have to get away from these new-age ideas on child rearing that seek to promote independence and confidence. Aside from the fact that the two don’t necessarily go together well with the psyche of a toddler, much of what a parent reads should be taken with a grain of salt.
And maybe that’s the core issue: parents are taking what’s written literally at the expense of what is probably the best gauge or tool they have available to them, better than any damn book or class ever will be; themselves. I’m just saying, you know you love your children so don’t doubt your ability to take care of them. Follow your mind, hold them close to you and damn what the book says, don’t let go.