I took a page out of Lenore Skenazy’s Free Range Kids book today, and let my kids do some unsupervised cooking. Maya’s friend Greta was visiting, and at lunch Maya said, “Can we make cookies?” So I said yes, and then explained that this time, it really would be them making the cookies. A few minutes later, Greta, Maya and Ben headed out to the grocery store armed with a list of ingredients they needed to get, and some money. When they got back, I showed them how to turn on the oven and set the temperature (I didn’t do it for them, just showed them the buttons) and then I removed myself to the bedroom and Joshua’s laptop, which is physically the farthest point from the kitchen in our apartment. This way they would not be tempted to ask for my help, and more importantly, I would not be tempted to give them any ‘suggestions’. They made chocolate chip cookies, and nobody burned themselves on the oven or cut themselves or needed any kind of emergency care. And the cookies were good, too.
Feeling pretty good, I clicked on the Yahoo home page and front and center was a headline that read, “US Government to issue warning to Americans traveling in Europe.” The warning? Americans traveling in Europe should avoid public places due to recent undisclosed information obtained by U.S. intelligence.
Great. We leave for London in 6 days.
What kind of a warning is “avoid public places”? (that is exactly what it said). If you are in Europe, be sure never to go anywhere in public? How exactly is one to achieve this? Airports and airplanes are public places, so if you are already in Europe, flying home is out of the question. Grocery stores and restaurants are public, so I guess you’ll need to hire a local to go get food for you, as you are apparently not allowed out of the hotel or house in which you might be staying. But what if someone finds out there are Americans in the hotels? Hotels are public places! I guess it’s time to beg a local family to let you stay there indefinitely, until our government decides it’s safe for you to go out in public again. And if you do go out, try not to wear a sign on your head that says, “American” in big red white and blue neon flashing lights.
We haven’t left on our trip yet. Should I cancel it? After all, we will be flying to Heathrow Airport and then take a taxi to the apartment we are renting. We had planned to go to Hyde Park, Kensington Palace, the Tower of London and any number of other public places.
Cancel our trip? Please. Telling Americans to avoid public places in Europe because there might be an indication that a terrorist attack against Americans is being planned somewhere in Europe is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. No specifics, no real information, just – avoid public places on an entire continent. There might be danger! Is Al Qaeda planning a simultaneous attack against every public place in all of Europe? If so, maybe a few specifics would be helpful. If not then beef up security or whatever, but don’t put out these vague, dire sounding warnings that only instill fear and don’t really protect anyone.
No wonder people are so afraid to let their kids do anything. We live in a world where people think it is reasonable to tell Americans to ‘avoid public places’ when traveling abroad. Hey parents, knives can kill your children – better not have them in your kitchen! Ovens can be hot and burn someone, maybe get rid of yours, just to be safe. All kinds of absurdities are undertaken, preached or made into laws in the interest of “Just to be safe” .
Of course, I would be really bummed if we were on the London tube when a bomb went off. I’d hate to be caught in sniper fire, or any other such terror inducing situations. But not enjoying life because there might be danger is the quickest way to an early grave, in my opinion. Here’s a good example of why fears of danger are so often irrelevant: In 1995, Joshua and I went to Israel to visit. My parents were nervous, considering we would be in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and any number of other places where suicide bombers had attacked over the years. We even went on a tour in Bethlehem, which was in the occupied territory. And while we were there, a maniac blew up a government building in Oklahoma City.
So we’ll go to England as planned, and try not to think that the bogey-man is lurking around every corner. I’ll continue to let my kids walk to the grocery store, and use the oven, and travel the world, knowing that although there are dangers involved in almost anything worth doing, they don’t generally outweigh the joy of doing them.