Two and a half years ago, I received some devastating news. I had chronic Lyme disease. The fatigue, muscle pain, joint stiffness, sudden onset food allergies, and forgetfulness was not just a result of having two young children and running two thriving businesses. I was sick. Very, very sick.
The symptoms I experienced were the result of a bug bite. One bug bite. Let that sink in for a minute. One bug bite literally turned my life upside down, wreaking havoc on literally EVERY aspect of my existence.
Fast forward to the summer of 2016: The Summer of Zika. Zika is an insect transmitted virus that could potentially have a devastating impact on unborn children. “Stay inside!” They said. “Don’t travel to ANY tropical place!” Others said. I can’t tell you the number of social media posts I read that encompassed people’s fear of contracting this virus. FEAR. Not facts, not actual numbers, or scientific data. Fear. For a minute, that fear resided in me as well.
I had a choice to make: Would I base my response on the facts or on fear?
Fear: It’s Everywhere
As a mom, fear is everywhere. Scroll through social media, blogs, and news articles, and if you aren’t careful, the only logical conclusion will be to invest in a family set of hazmat suits and never leave your house. Even then, you have to worry about SIDS, choking on legos, kids eating laundry detergent pods, and being the bully of your own child. I guess we need to nix the hazmat suit idea and just opt for living in our own little individual bubbles. But, wait . . . then we have to worry about our bubble popping! Crap. We are all screwed! All kidding aside, we have SO many things to consider every single day.
Danger is everywhere, folks. EVERYWHERE. Because of this, fear is also everywhere you turn. But do not fear. You DO have a choice: You get to decide how you hear, process, and respond to those dangers.
Fear or Fact?
Let me tell you a little story. I recently got in a discussion with a mom who chose not go to a family reunion at a local lake, fearing a brain-eating amoeba she recently read about. “It’s SO common!” She said. “The website said so!” I had not heard about this threat, so I started to do some digging. I came across a horrific, heart-breaking story about a little boy who died only days after swimming in a local lake in the heat of the summer. When they finally realized what was wrong with him, it was too late. This story is enough to make ANY parent’s heart sink!
I continued to read. The awareness page did an excellent job of citing ways to prevent getting sick from this amoeba. It spoke about increasing awareness and this family’s desire to find a cure. It also mentioned that there had been hundreds of cases reported worldwide, with a possibility of more that went undiagnosed. Hundreds of cases worldwide.
Did you know that in the United States alone, there were 98 shark attacks in 2015? There are also an average of 267 Americans struck by lightning each year, and an average of more than 37,000 Americans die in car accidents every year. Now, compare those things, some of which are considered “rare” things to happen, with the hundreds of cases of brain eating amoeba deaths TOTAL worldwide. That hardly seems “so common” to me. This mom simply read bits and pieces of the story then jumped to a rash conclusion based on the fear of losing a child.
Don’t hear me wrong — EVERY injury or death is horrible. And any injury or death that is seemingly preventable is even harder to stomach! But, we owe it to those people who are no longer with us to LEARN from their situation and then LIVE our life to its fullest! We must take the information at hand, put it into perspective, and move forward with wisdom. When you come upon a possible threat to you or your children, read the facts from multiple sources, and then think about the realistic risks that are associated.
For My Child’s Safety?
There is a 1 in 1.5 million chance of a child being abducted, and there is a 1 in 3 chance of a child becoming obese. However, it is VERY likely to find most children today sitting in front of a screen eating Cheetos and fruit snacks rather than playing outside on their bikes because . . . it’s safer?
Mommas, if you hear nothing else but this, you must know your fear based parenting is NOT keeping your child safe. It is keeping them from experiencing the world. It is keeping them from learning who they are, how to problem solve, and how to become an independent, productive member of society! It is one thing to educate our children about the dangers of this world and give them strategies for how to handle them; it’s a completely different thing to stifle their ability to be a kid. To get dirty. To get in trouble. To scrape their knee and, God forbid, break a bone.
My husband and I have chosen freedom over fear, and we are doing our best to teach our children to live with the same spirit of freedom. We realized that when we are scared, they are scared. So, we have decided to only let them know we are afraid when a very real, imminent threat is in front of us. They are happy, healthy, BRAVE children who are aware of the dangers around them but also confident enough to simply be and act like children! And, yes, in case you are wondering, we played outside in our mosquito infested backyard all summer without fear of the dreaded Zika. But we did wear bug spray.