Thursday, April 05, 2007

Maybe prevention is the problem

waiting her turn, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

I've heard it a million times: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." But lately I've been wondering if that ounce of prevention doesn't also equal a metric ton of unnecessary angst?

If you’ve followed the news at all during the last decade, you're probably aware of the billions of ailments and hardships we can prevent by eating the right foods, getting the right exercise, getting the proper amount of rest and moving to the right neighborhood ... or being born to the right parents ... or jumping around on our left foot while tugging at our right ear.

Sorting it all out isn't even the biggest problem, although it probably doesn't help that the "Good" list includes coffee, sunlight, red wine, chocolate and sex for their anti-oxidant and stress relieving properties – all of which may also be found prominently on the "Bad" list.

Maybe it's just coincidence that since the advent of safety campaigns such as "Loose Lips Sinks Ships" and "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires," we've seen a collective increase in American anxiety.

Is it possible that the idea that we can effectively stop bad things from happening has turned prevention into avoidance and pushed us all into a state of undue agitation?

Perhaps it's a bit of a leap or an over simplification, but I keep asking myself what has changed since I was a kid and the answer I keep coming up with is fear.

Improvements are everywhere:

*Car seats are safer
*Footwear for kids is better
*Cribs and toys are better designed
*Getting the word out on hazards is instantaneous and fixes are just as speedy.

And yet we'll say "the world is a different place" today as easily as we said an “ounce of prevention …” yesterday.

We’ve all seen stories of children abducted from their own homes or on their way to school, and we put ourselves in the place of the victim. But no matter that numbers indicate stranger kidnappings are statistically insignificant, we can only wrap our minds around the fear and the possibility of preventing a tragedy even if we can’t do it.

Doesn't it seem strange that very bad things continue to befall us, despite the fact that kids aren't allowed to be without parental supervision anymore?

The playgrounds are always empty of the kids I would have known in my suburban pre-adolescence: Kids who showed up after school with their gloves and their bats and wondered who wanted to play pitch and catch. Kids who wouldn't go home until their mothers called or darkness ended the game.

Instead there are huge playfields and droves of parents trucking their uniformed children from one league game to the next, setting up the tailgate of their minivan with Gatorade and low-fat snacks, and yaking on the cell phone during play.

And despite all my digging in of heels and refusing to believe the world has changed for the worse, I fall into the trap of such ill-perception myself.

Anxiety is always the first emotion to appear as I drive my family sedan on the windy, back roads I used to ride my ten-speed Schwinn an unhelmeted five miles alone. What ifs start coming like mad. What if a driver didn't see me? What if there was an accident? What if I just disappeared?

I wonder how my mother was able to let me go. How I will let Ittybit go? And then I realize, sadly, I probably won't have to: There won't be anyone for her to meet. All of her friends will be at soccer games with their moms or dance lessons or gymnastics after school.

The playgrounds will still be empty.


Whirlwind said...

Poor itty-bit, she can come to the playground with us. We always have fun, even if there is no one else there.

It is so true, as I bring the girls to soccer practice, I remember being dropped off and picked up an hour later. I don't think I could do that with them.

kimmyk said...

She looks so sad.

We have a playground behind our house and thankfully it's still pretty busy, but I do understand the fear that a parent feels. I worry about letting my daughter walk to the grocery store across the street by herself and she's almost 14.

Life sure is different than when we were growing up...

Firestarter5 said...

Jeezus Toy...why must you kill me with these images.

toyfoto said...

You think these images are killing you? They're from LAST YEAR. She's trying to kill me with the NO PICTURES MAMA!!! I'm forced to dip into the archives to keep this here blog in "pishers."

Karen said...

So true. And we wonder where the good times went.

ECR said...

Hmmmm. I need to ponder this one. It conflicts with my motto that "nothing ever changes." The details do, but not the big picture. I'll have to get back to you.

toyfoto said...

I think you can keep your motto. Nothing really has changed, however I really do believe that our perceptions have changed about each other, about how "safe" we are and how "safe" we should be, and I think that shift is shaping how we react to the world.

I hear my parents say the world is a different place now, "You can't let your kids go places alone like we let you ... you just can't."
Just that way thinking alone seems to fuel a HUGE change in the way we do things, from the laws we make to the way we raise our kids.

Mom101 said...

This is so provocative and wonderful and sad. And true, most of all true.

L.A. Daddy said...

Excellent post. The world really doesn't change, but we change around it. I'm just as guilty of too much worry. I keep seeing stories on the news and the 'net of kids drowning in pools and bathtubs and water fountains. And I fear all water.

Needless to say, my child is stinky.

Sarah said...

Just last weekend, Fiance and I were commenting on the same thing. We were driving to my parents' place and I was pointing out where I used to ride my bike around and play catch, etc, and then it dawned on me that it was a beautiful day and I didn't see a single kid outside. I didn't see anyone in their yard, anyone on their bike, anyone in the playground or at the park. Zilch. Nada. Nyet.

And then Fiance said those same words: "The world's a different place today." And "nobody does those things anymore."

You can't help but be a little sad when becoming acquainted with that concept.

Kelly said...

Can you imagine letting your children ride around the block on their bicycles, unsupervised? We used to disappear for entire afternoons, exploring the woods and creek near our house, playing with friends.

No one called 911, no one sent out teams and posted flyers to search for the lost ones.

It is a bizarre world now, one that I truly believe to be no less safe than when I was a child, but one that I still cannot simply let my children walk into, without my constant shadow.

Wonderful post, wonderful picture.

Gail said...

That's one of the reasons why Cuba was such a blast into the past: there were kids EVERYWHERE, playing freely, without their parents. There's such a feeling of solidarity there -- people accompanying the elderly across the street and kids engaging in streetsports without worrying about getting snatched. People seemed to watch out for each other.