The recent disasters overseas got some of us talking about responsibility to safety, knowledge, and understanding, while embracing new technologies that improve human living conditions. There are countless examples of this – vaccines, nuclear power, pesticides, cell phones, and more. As a science teacher, a lot of this becomes topic of debates and discussions on ethics and health, but the populous is generally silent about such matters, passing this responsibility to the government, scientists, and higher educators.
As parents, prior ignorance-fueled bliss is replaced with paranoia about the world and all of its features that we wish we understood, so we could protect our children from them.
I love that I can control to some degree what my kids are exposed to – choosing their foods (organic?), how they are prepared (microwave?), how they bathe (antimicrobial?), how they are entertained (TV?), what they do for recreation (free play or structure?), how they get to school (walk or ride?)… the list goes on and on. But the list is so lengthy, I face either controlling everything and becoming what us teachers refer to as a “hovering parent” with tremendous stress and business added to my life, or I consciously choose to back off, picking a limited number of battles, and resigning to trust other leaders to be responsible. I feel fortunate that I am educated enough to generally sort issues in terms of scientific/health relevance versus popular paranoia, and know that despite media overload on some issues, the probability of my kids becoming exposed to certain risks is tremendously remote.
My husband is famous for being prepared. This might have rubbed off from a decade of boy scouting. My husband’s life goal is to gain as many survival skills as possible, so if something horrible occurs, we are prepared for the chaos and competition that may ensue. He’s learned Wilderness Medicine to complement his EMT and biomedical background, become a proficient mechanic and operator of a wide range of vehicles, and accumulated a wide range of flashlights and emergency tools like GPS and generators. We’ve accumulated MREs, water jugs, camping equipment, and armaments. Paired with my domestic competence and technical background, we figure we’re ready for pretty much everything.
Anticipating nuclear fallout, many families have made preparations for disaster in the last couple of weeks. We spoke of what we would do if local Gieger counters ticked faster. Local scientists remind us that radioactivity is all around us and part of everyday life. We irradiate our foods, enjoy radiant energy from the sun, and rely on waves of all sorts to see, hear, and communicate. That we are surrounded by radiation doesn’t make all quantities and types of it safe, but certainly makes it appear “normal.” The question still remains, however, as to who determines the delicate balance between healthy and unhealthy. Is this a “battle” to fight, or do we pass it up? I am frankly grateful for Stroller Hikes for helping me there – thanks for regular outdoor excursions, I met a Stroller Hikes buddy who happens to be a specialist in radiation safety – I’ll look towards her for guidance.
When I was a little girl, my parents spoke of bombs being carried by hot air balloons over the Pacific Ocean, during World War II. Most fell into the ocean, but occasionally one made it to the West Coast. Several were found in Oregon (where I grew up), overgrown with vegetation in the 1970s and 1980s. You could add that to a list of reasons not to go outside – along with snakes, cougars, poison oak, Lyme Disease, and skin cancer, I know of at least one person who is vehement about avoiding outdoors. I’m not altogether sure why my parents told me about these bombs – we still regularly camped, hiked, and explored terrain not frequently traveled. They may have been alarmed, but I wasn’t scared. If nothing else, I was intrigued to go outside and ponder what would happen if I found one of these old weapons. Perhaps their goal was to empower me with knowledge.
Facing life’s complexities, especially as a parent, presents a delicate balance. Convenience weighs in against more wholesome means. Risks weigh against clear benefits. And goals, personalities, and preferences certainly flavor decisions we make. We hope you’re able to enjoy an outdoor event soon, in spite of the weather and any paranoia. Come out and learn how to identify hazards like poison oak (a risk you can consciously avoid); discuss your anxieties and knowledge with others; and enjoy some exercise and play.
-Debbie, little Max, and wee Holly