Over-protective parents are not protecting their children because they don't know where the real and present danger lies. They have been brain washed--due to the media, the tongue wagging Mothers' Army, curtain twitchers and Social Services snitchers--into thinking the danger lies outside when in fact it lies inside.
A couple of years ago, when my daughter was a very independent and outdoorsy six year old, I went to a sunset beach gathering with a friend from England and his male friend....two men. My friend was used to my relaxed approach to parenting and equally used to my daughter being free to come and go. However, his friend was shocked to the point of shuddering when he saw my daughter scampering down the beach and me not chasing after her but, dare I say it, enjoying myself!
His inner rage approaching boiling point, he stood up and followed my daughter like a robotic policeman; stomp stomp stomp. As it's easier to catch a squid with one left hand than it is to entrap my daughter against her will, he gave up and stomped back.
"As I am a responsible parent I felt the need to follow your daughter seeing as you didn't feel the need to do it yourself!" He announced on his return, steam now coming out of his ears.
Not being used to such hostility and objection, I didn't quite know what to say and had to hold back a laugh.
My daughter had been able to explore this tourist covered beach during these events since she was about four. I distinctly remember the time she got quite adventurous when we went with my parents and saw her, not much older than a toddler, making her way up the stone path at the end of the cove that leads to the dive spot. It was just her and one man, who looked like a very good looking Jesus, at this very visible vantage point. Many people watched in anticipation of what was to come next having watched my daughter confidently make her jaunt. It was such a captivating scene because the man she was now partner to was not only doing a yoga headstand but a naked yoga headstand! One an upside down naked Jesus facing the crowd and the other a naked little blonde angel facing Jesus. If only I had had my camera I could have won a competition! The man eventually righted himself so he could have a proper look at his new podium partner and the two of them stared at each other, almost like two aliens from different planets. The exchange was eventually broken by my daughter being reminded of her reason for being there. She made a half-hearted attempt at plucking up the courage to leap into the water but, after a few minutes, turned around as expected and made her way back to the beach where lots of people were having a jolly good giggle. Jesus, now looking dumb struck, obviously didn't expect his show to be turned into a comedy.
So, two years on and semi-clothed, my daughter romping about the beach, playing with the other equally liberated kids and having a go on a bongo drum was not going to worry me in the slightest; I was a well practiced cool mamma by then.
But this man, who had gone on holiday without his kids, was far from cool--he was so hot with rage you could have lit a campfire with him!
But how do you even start to find common ground with someone who has sucked all the media hype in with gusto and built some of his persona on top of it? He would never understand my style because that would mean accepting his style was wrong; we can't both be right; there is only one right. Yes, I do believe that is the case although each situation will have its own 'right'. If he lived next to the M5 in London in a tower block then his situation would require his style and not mine, but mine is still the right one if you wish to turn out an adult who has lived a fantastic and developmentally beneficial childhood.
I tried to explain that life is different here and people generally think differently; parents generally allow their kids to roam free on beaches, at parties, etc. although in varying degrees. You do still get lots of helicopter parents who proudly admit they never ever let their child play outside without them and never ever let them have sleepovers because--you got it--'you just never know'. But most children here have far more freedom to play unsupervised than in England.
Did he soften back into a human after being a robot fuming at the rivet holes? No.
I sat down with him, mostly to try to calm him down before he completely malfunctioned. I asked him whether his children ever played outside alone and if not why not. He said they never played outside alone because of pedophiles. What a surprise? That old chestnut. I explained to him that the chance of a child being abducted by a stranger is one in a million but his mind was made up; the risk was there and it needed to be tackled with extreme measures; the kids had to be locked up for their own protection!
I asked him what they did inside, did they have TVs/DVDs/internet/computer games in their bedrooms. 'Oh yes, of course--they have everything.'
He looked at me and I wondered whether or not I should break it to him or just let it pass. I decided to break it to him.
"You do know they are far more likely to be approached by pedophiles in their own bedrooms while on the internet than out playing in the street?"
No response other than a look of incredulity.
"Young boys are only a few clicks away from extreme pornography and, left to their own devices in their bedrooms, will have very little to stop them from becoming porn-aware or even porn-addicted children."
Oh no, not his children; that is what other people's children might do but not his. No, no, I was wrong; his boys were good boys, obviously not realising both naughty boys and good boys can get drawn into the darker corners of the internet. But, shaking his head slightly while looking into the distance, he suddenly seemed less focused on me and my daughter and more focused on his own thoughts.
So, we were both in denial that our respective children were going to come to any harm but at the end of our stay at the beach my daughter skipped to the car giggling and energised but, of the sons of this father, who knows? Time will reveal all.