Paranoia undoubtedly a certain part of parenting


By Lori Borgman

Before Orville and Wilbur Wright spread their wings, they ran a small bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. They were cutting edge, both the Wright brothers and bicycles. Bicycles were the next big thing of the day. But not everyone was on board. There were voices of concern from parents. Why? Because a child who could not go far from home by walking could now be a mile away — in only 15 minutes.

We chuckle at that now. The bicycle has been eclipsed by a myriad of vehicles and technological innovations. Today a child can be a virtual continent away in a mere click.

Every generation of parents has faced the fear of the unknown, but if you believed all the news releases filling my inbox, you’d think this generation is the first.

I receive a daily barrage of warnings, cautions, advisories, alarms and alerts regarding household dangers, tech dangers, environmental dangers, social media dangers, drug dependencies, behavior abnormalities, and diseases and disorders of all sorts, which lie in wait for our children.

The warnings are not without credibility and fear can serve a useful purpose; a red flag warning of imminent danger. But the constant drum of fear is debilitating, exhausting and weakens us all.

Before you know it, every small cut needs a tourniquet, every child who says “no” is psychotic and every kid who won’t eat peas is nurturing an eating disorder.

Parents begin living in the shadow of fear. Those blasted bicycles simply move too fast.

If parents live in fear, how will the children live? The need for safe spaces on college campuses didn’t materialize out of thin air.

Parents must be prudent, savvy and sensible, but parents must also live boldly. And parents must teach children how to live boldly.

How? The best way parents have always taught — by example.

If we cower, our children will cower.

I recently encountered a young mother from an affluent neighborhood who said she doesn’t allow her child to play in the backyard for fear neighbors will call the police and report her for child neglect.

She doesn’t fear for her child’s safety as much as she fears her neighbors’ fears.

Fear is highly contagious. But so is courage.

Karson Vega, a 13-year-old middle school student in Texas, recently took charge of a school bus when the driver suffered a medical emergency. Vega safely brought the bus to a stop on a bridge over the Colorado River. He learned to act decisively somewhere. Chances are he learned it at home.

Parenting has never been for the fearful. Embrace it all, the good, the rotten and the in-between, and teach your kids that life is a mix. It always has been.

You get one shot at this parenting thing. There are no do-overs.

Your first shot is your best shot and your only shot.

Leave fear in the dust and give it all you’ve got.

Lori Borgman is an Indianapolis columnist. Send comments to