I was watching 20/20 one Friday night. I use the 'watching' term loosely because I tend to turn on the tv just for noise and to pretend it's my friend while I clean, cook, fold clothes - all those chores that send other family members scrambling to anywhere they won't be asked to help. God forbid.
Anyhoodle, I actually watched this time. John Stoessel was doing a great show on fear and worry and unintended consequences. One example (and I quote here):
"Most of us, when we have a new baby in the house, make an extra effort to keep the house especially clean. I was no exception. But now there's research suggesting that kids who are exposed to more endotoxins — mild dust, bacteria, pollen, like kids who go to daycare or have pets or live on farms — are less likely to develop allergies and asthma."
Hallelujah! There's something they didn't put in the baby books. I am proud to say that my children do not have allergies or asthma and they have ME to thank for that. They grew up in a house with a cat, a dog, and many, many (dust) bunnies. They also went to daycare, they did. I'm going to pretend I knew this all along and failed to keep the house immaculately (not even close) clean because I was preparing them for a life of good pulmonary health! I hope my mother and mother-in-law also saw the show. PFFTHT!!!
I found other validation in that show, as well. I tend to be a pretty laid back parent - the bad kind that has a trampoline in the back yard. I know that in most cases what could happen probably won't. I have friends who are strung tighter than piano wire trying to anticipate every danger that might befall their child. It seems to me that when accidents do happen they tend to come from places you never suspected. Or the risk is calculated. You know that bicycles can be dangerous but they also have benefits - transportation, exercise, fun - that in my mind override the fear (ditto with the trampoline). I have tried to be a vigilant helmet-mom but sometimes even I forget to wear one. Well, according to the 20/20 report, helmets aren't all that effective either. This guy they interviewed did research and found that when you wear a helmet, drivers are less careful around you. They also found that helmet wearers tend to take more risks. And, in places where the law requires helmets, head injuries have not dropped because now there are fewer cyclists on the road.
"When people don't cycle, they're not getting exercise," he said. "We know that not getting exercise and being sedentary is incredibly dangerous. You get heart attacks, you get strokes … proven killers that kill thousands of people. So when people make helmets a requirement, with the best intentions, it may actually kill more people."
I am also a big fan of prescription medicines. They can do great things. I know that many have side effects. But if you read the fine print you will also find that people taking placebos experienced side effects. My mother wouldn't take Claritin because of the possible side effects listed on the package. She never experienced any of the side effects because she never took the medicine, even though Claritin was found to have proven benefits for allergy sufferers (her mother was a clean freak, by the way). Score: Fear 1, Mother 0.
Here's what they had to say about that:
"You may have seen the warnings about anti-depressants (causing increased suicide in teenagers). The FDA demanded that a black box be added to every package. The unintended consequence? Prescriptions to anti-depressants dropped 20 percent. And with fewer teenagers taking the medication, many experts say they are seeing more teen suicide."
I read an article a few years ago that bit me to the bone. It was about a toddler who pulled on the cord of an electric frying pan and was covered with boiling oil. I realized that there, but for the grace of God, go I. At some point I probably left a cord dangling. It is pretty dang hard to always be vigilant, always one step ahead of a toddler, child, teenager. It's hard to know how to balance caution and the business of being a kid.
I guess my point is that it was good to hear that you can worry too much. I always felt that I was missing the parental-worry gene so maybe I wasn't supposed to reproduce. My husband is even worse. I don't seriously take credit for raising my children to the good place they are today. I know that it is as much luck as parental care that has made them good, happy, productive kids thus far. I just hope the good luck stays with us.