An Open Letter to Parents About the Safety of Your Children

Dear Parents,

I get it. I really do.

Whether it is the first time your daughter gets on the school bus or your son’s first foray out into the playground by himself, there is something that stirs deep in our souls that makes us want to roll their hearts in bubble wrap, douse their spirits with anti-bacterial gel and give them a guard dog lest anyone gets too close.

Seriously, have you seen some playgrounds lately? Sure there may be soft recycled ground cover and cool new climby rope structures, but from two feet off the ground it must look like they are about to enter some ultimate fighting cage match.

And why do we watch the news, read the paper or click on any links? At every turn we see stories about children being violent, online bullying pushing kids to suicide and crap, even the soccer field is no longer safe?

What the hell is going on?

Yeah, all of a sudden the whole bubble wrap thing doesn’t seem so crazy, does it?

I remember those repeated moments during each of my daughter’s first weeks in our lives – as they slept soundly on my chest, our breathing in sync and their sweaty little heads dampening my shirt –  when I would promise to protect them from harm, to love them no matter what and to do my best to see that they grew into who God intended them to become.

But how do I really protect them knowing that shitty things happen in the world and that violence perpetrated by, upon and around children knows no bounds. Different populations are impacted differently by emotional, physical or sexual violence than others, but children from all walks of life experience and are influenced by the horrors, tragedies and violence of the world.

I guess we could escape the world by sending our kids to some secluded mountain commune, buying our own Disney island or moving to Pleasantville, but short of such dramatic gestures, what is a parent to do?

What I know I can’t do is to let the violence, brokenness and evil in the world drive how I parent my children. For if I give violence and fear that kind of power, I limit their ability grab ahold of possibilities that I believe God places before them, I fail to trust the communities that have committed to also raise and nurture them and I deprive them of the overwhelming love, beauty and goodness that so often lives side by side with that which we do not want them to see.

Now some of you are thinking to yourself, “Well that’s all fine and dandy Mr. Pollyanna Sunshine, but what about keeping my children safe?” Well, I will overlook the “sunshine” comment, but here are some ways for us to think about safety in different ways that I think will can lessen our anxiety about trusting our children to the world.

Safety is not only physical  I firmly believe that most of the physical violence that our children see in their school and other areas is deeply tied to the kinds of emotional abuse that happens in the world today. Violence is so often the symptom – and certainly must be addressed – but we cannot become so focused on particular actions that we become distracted from addressing systemic and social patterns of emotional violence. Every time we refer to “those kids” or model bullying behavior or deny the humanity of another, we are feeding a culture of violence. And at the same, when we embrace a community larger than ourselves, model graciousness in the face of conflict and see the humanity of every being, we do our part in building a culture of non-violence — in body, mind and spirit.

Safety is not an individual endeavor — As I have had conversations with parents from my daughters’ school where we have had our share of violent incidents, there is a common tension held by many parents between the safety of our own children and the presence of the kids who are being physically violent. This is a crucial tension to acknowledge if only to make sure that we  do not pretend that we are seeking the betterment of the whole, when what we really want is to guarantee the safety of our own children. This is a natural yearning, but what we fail to realize is that in securing the safety of our own children and not really acting with the whole community in mind, we too often compromise the educational and social experience of the kids who might need it the most in order to make the community safer as a whole.

Safety cannot be guaranteed — We can teach our children  how to make good choices in the face of conflict, we can give them the ability to know when to walk away from an interaction and we can create clear channels of communication, but at the end of the day, no one can guarantee our childrens’ safety. We can make settings safer, sure, but if you are expecting any school, municipality or community to promise that no harm will ever come to any child, yours or someone else’s, this is simply not possible.

These questions and tensions are nothing new. Generation after generation of parents have had to learn this lesson, that our job is not to control our kids and shield them from pain and struggle, but to offer them the guidance, the support and love so they can make good choices in life, navigate a world of complexities and discover who God is yearning them to be and become. Each parent will do these things differently, each child will respond in her own way and hopefully, the larger community will be made better by all of our good choices.

In the end, parenting is a journey of guiding, trusting and letting go with the only choice that we really have to make is to what extent we will embrace the challenge.

That said, I will still keep my roll of bubble wrap, just in case 😉

Peace to you my parenting friends – Bruce

PS: If you want further counsel from some good folks, I posed question, “How do we keep our children safe?” on my Facebook Page. [See comments]

This post originally appeared on

My Last Post About Guns. I’m Out.

flickr: vinothchandar

With the recent National Rifle Association’s campaign to bring armed guards into every school in the United States [12/21/12], I’m out. Simply put, this posture of thinking and the conversations that have spun out of it, are indicative of a chasm of perspective that I am no longer willing to try and cross via my blog life.

So, NRA, mission accomplished, you win. You and those who would support this plan are scaring the $h!t out of me.

No matter how folks wish to frame recent conversations about guns in the United States, the violence and expected legislation, it is clear to me that the climate is being fueled by fear, self-preservation and an individual’s rights above all others. These are not bad things in themselves, but the problem is that when the debate currency is hyperbole and hypotheticals no one – left, right or in-between – is able to make much headway with the other. We can all quote studies that support our positions, we can all claim the thoughtful approach and we all find plenty of reasons that the other side is delusional and idiotic.

Now normally, I might chalk this political carnival atmosphere up to just another day of politics in the United States, but in this case, I deeply wonder to what end and at what cost? I have seen very few cases – there have been a few – where anyone has changed their mind or had transformative relational experiences with someone from the other “side.” Much like abortion, civil rights and marriage equality I will choose to trust those whom we have elected to office to do what we have tasked them to do: listen to those who sent them there, make decisions for the common good and have the mettle and determination to see those decisions through without feeding the violent rhetoric that take on a very different tone when the issue is guns.

And if they fail, we vote them out of office.

So, I am done blogging about guns because it stresses me out. It stresses out my family and friends who read the comments. And there are simply times when talking about guns – and I think thoughtful gun advocates need to realize this – that when people get pissed off at you when talking about guns and lift up hypothetical violence against you and your family they are scary . . . um, because they have guns and they are pissed. I suspect this is the intent – and some get off on the power and intimidation – but really it’s just not worth it for me to keep poking the internet trolls in the eye. So yeah, fear is playing a role, but my reaction is not to go into lock-down and arm my family, but to walk away and no longer add to the escalation.

The biggest reason that I am dropping out of much of public blogging debate, however, is that I don’t like the way it is makes me feel about other human beings: strangers, acquaintances AND strangers. I strive to always interact with graciousness, try to see the complex beauty with which God has gifted each person and attempt to appreciate those who hold views that are different from mine. But, what I have noticed about my own spirit is that I can feel these interactions eating away at my soul and my ability to truly honor and see the child of God in all people. As a Christian, when I begin to lose the ability to see the other as holy, I become an unhelpful and even destructive voice.

Sometime we must disengage.

But lest you think I am TOTALLY out of the conversation, I am no abdicating my voice and my ability to help connect people and resources. We must each hold our public servants accountable, strive to participate in helpful ways and, even when we are unable to ourselves, instigate and support thoughtful dialogue.  So with this in mind, as I stumble upon good articles and resources, I will be pinning them to  my Support Gun Control Board  via my Pinterest life.

So . . . I’m not shying away from hard conversations, rather, I am striving to be a healthy part of whatever conversations I do choose to have. And right now and for the foreseeable future, it will not be about guns.

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