As much as Lydia and I try to present a united front with our decisions, there are times when I find it difficult to tow the parental line. Lately, this has cropped up with regards to Sylvia and her desire to walk to the park on her own. There are times Lydia and I are not available when Sylvia wants to shoot hoops. Despite her fervent entreaties, Mitchell usually finds some excuse to avoid joining his sister in a competitive sibling-death-match. To her credit, Sylvia will still want to take some practice shots with or without company. And this is where the trouble begins.
Lydia is fearful of coyotes, dogs, thugs, and rabid budgies. In her vivid imagination every tree hides a vicious predator waiting to attack our daughter. So when Sylvia suggests a solo trip to the park it’s met with something less than an enthusiastic response.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather wait until tomorrow?” Lydia will offer. “Dad will be home then.”
Naturally, this doesn’t go over too well.
Would you be saying this to Mitchell?” Sylvia often asks. She has a sneaking suspicion that her being a girl is the deciding factor. In truth, Mitchell would be treated the same. The reality is it will likely never be put to the test!
Over time, Sylvia has begged me to do something about her mother. This has put me in an odd position. I recall being younger than my daughter taking the subway to downtown Toronto without any problem. Weekends were spent wandering around the comic book shops, used book stores and alternate clothing shops on Queen Street taking in the sights with pleasure. As kids we were adventurous. As parents, we’ve become fearful.
What if I let her go and something happens? I wonder. Then I find myself arguing that it’s unfair to smother my children. The debate is never satisfactorily decided. Even when Sylvia discovers what she believes is the solution.
“I was looking up ways to protect yourself from muggers and big dogs,” she advised me. “One site said to bring a backpack to protect yourself with.”
“Let me get this straight,” I said. “A dog comes charging at you and you’re supposed to take a moment, remove the backpack, and then what?”
“Use it to block the dog,” she answered.
“So it eats the backpack, gets full, and then leaves you alone?” I said. “How’s that work for a mugger? He’s hardly going to eat it. It would just weigh you down. Wouldn’t it be better to whip the basketball at the guy’s head and then run? Or do you offer him the backpack in exchange for letting you go?”
Sylvia replied that the backpack was meant to be swung at a mugger. Unless it was filled with rocks, it didn’t seem overly practical to me. Still, her suggestion of wearing a backpack did work in one respect: Lydia allowed her to go the park on her own. Maybe it wasn’t such a goofy idea after all.
Kevin Toal is a freelance writer who wishes parents didn’t have to worry about their children’s safety.