So last week, I went to Grinnell College for a symposium of people in the publishing/screenwriting industry and how we figured out our way into the business after graduating. Great people, lots of great talks. Lots of great questions. On my way home, I swung through Zion for the BAM Festival at Zion-Benton Library. And because there was dessert served at my speech, lots of teenagers came. :)
But one thing that came up in both these venues was the question of risk. Are we raising a nation of people who are risk-averse and what does that mean for the future?
So risk is a tricky thing. While I absolutely believe in risking failure, in screwing up and getting back up to try again, there's also a part of me that delineates this kind of risk with the kind of risk that involves sending my children out into the world unprotected.
Because the reality is, as much as I want my children to go out into the world and fail and learn and mess up and get caught and experience consequences, I do not in any way want my children to have to go through what I did to get where I am today.
And I'm not sure how to marry these two instincts of mine beyond writing about it. Easing them into horrible things through story telling. Because as much as I want to be a "free-range parent", after the fourth "attempted abduction" notification from my kids' school, I decided to always drive them. It's a dumb thing really. It's not like the safety of my mini-van can protect them from anything, not really, but it's something I can control. In a world where I have very little control over what my kids are exposed to, I can drive them to school.
And this is what parents do, I think. Our instinct is always to shield, even when we know it won't do anything, even when we understand how little we control. And I think it's maybe okay to shield. I think "free-range parenting" is generally practiced by people who have never been abducted, who have never dealt with driveby shootings in their neighborhood, who have a utopian experience. And I'm grateful for that experience and for them, but it's not the only one.
The minute we get into a solid position of "this is right" is the moment I want to shake my head and point out nuance and discussion and how everything is way more interesting for ALL the different experiences. There are multiple sides to everything.
So yes, I would like my kids to experience the reality of sexual violence through books instead of life, and I would also like them to get an F in school and have to deal with that. I think we can have both. I think we as parents are constantly navigating this. I think we as writers are constantly exploring it. Can we protect our kids? And how far are we willing to go to do so?
It's a slippery slope, protection. But I don't think there's an either/or scenario here. I think everything is a choice. I choose to drive my kids to school, but I also choose to let them read generally what they want. I choose to limit screen time, but I let them play outside without me hovering to watch.