One day when I was pregnant and feeling helpless, I told my husband that I was glad that he was here to protect the kids. He said, “Thanks, but I can only protect them from so much. I’m not much good against meteors, for instance.”
I laughed, and thereupon absolved him from any meteor-repelling responsibilities.
I carry in my head a collection of statistics, anecdotes, warnings and news reports, each about the death or injury of a child. What might cause cancer, what might fall, who might be out to get her – the mental notes play through my day like the updates running on the bottom of the CNN screen. Is that cupboard locked? Is that buckle buckled? Is that hot enough to burn?
In an effort to keep my children safe, I have bought car seats and childproof locks and outlet covers. The baseline for acceptable risk for children keeps getting more and more conservative. And while our society’s precautions have undoubtedly saved lives, I find myself wondering, do we really believe that we can make a world in which children do not get injured?
I see the news articles about children’s injuries or even deaths and I am shocked at how often commenters rush to blame the parents. The rage seems built on an idea with dangerous implications: the idea that we can make the world completely safe.
While we certainly have the responsibility to reasonably protect our children from danger, a perfectly harmless world is not an attainable goal. As long as we walk on two legs, sometimes we will stumble. As long as there are staircases, someone will fall down them. As long as there are cars, there will be car accidents.
I do not fear a meteor hurtling from the sky to crush my wee babes. But other random events, just as unforeseen, do happen. When they happen to other parents, a silent belief that a good mother would never let that happen robs us of the compassion we should show.
And that is something we can control.