As a parent, one of the things that strikes me is how I feel my kids are so close to danger, even hourly. Even at ages 7, 10 and 13, I believe that I must warn them of all dangers, and almost see into the future to warn them about future dangers.
One book that I recently read called me to question this impulse of mine: The Ascent of Humanity by Charles Eisenstein. It’s a great read.
He argues that since the dawn of agriculture, we began to have some control over our natural environment. We could cultivate a predictable food source and not have that necessity left up to chance in the way it was prior. Moving ahead several thousand years, ever increasing faith in technological progress has caused us to believe we CAN, SHOULD, and ARE ABLE TO control our environment and our family and our children.
It is obvious though that life is out of control. We know so much about how our planet and humans operate. We want our kids to get educated. Yet, when they go to get educated in schools, our kids might get shot. We think we are in control, yet we are not. Not to mention the huge political problem that prevents gun control at the national and state level which is likely to persist. But, some animal impulse in us (or in some of us) causes a few to harm many, innocent victims.
So, how do we parent our children acknowledging a failed worldview of control? Each time my 10 year old son rides his bike, I feel I should tell him — remember to “Watch for cars.” Now, on his own, he would acknowledge that he would not want to get hit by a car. It would be painful, and not fun! Instead of barking at him and telling him what he should do, I could ask him how he will approach riding his bike on a public street. How will he do it, and what will he watch for? I can ask him what dangers he notices. I can remind him that he has an invaluable internal sense that he can rely on that will warn him when there is danger such as someone unsafe in his vicinity.
It should be stated that Eisenstein does not argue that we should turn our back on our 2 year old playing on the curb by the street. We have a duty to protect a young mind that cannot put all of the pieces together. He does argue though, that it is our need to control — and control each and every day, and each hour of our kids life that drives these remarks more than actual dangers, most of the time. We spend much more time controlling for our benefit than in truly helping them to gain more sensitivity that would help them personally to survive.