Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

August 6, 2011

Danger, danger everywhere

I have never considered myself a fretful or anxious parent until our recent holiday in the Lake District.

It was wonderful: scenic, sweeping landscapes at every turn, rugged mountains to climb, fresh air to inhale, local ale to sup, tumbling, cascading waterfalls to admire .... and yet danger and peril lurked around every corner. You see, with a 4 and a 6 year old those sweeping landscapes and rugged mountains and cascading waterfalls take on an entirely different meaning.

In short, they become Perilous Death Traps and I become a Harbinger of Doom. And don't even mention signs like the one above. That sign, when young children are ANYWHERE NEAR IT is, quite simply, enough to make my arms fall off in sheer terror.

Panic and dread set in as I watch my kids running gleefully over the Very Narrow Bridge which crosses the waterfall which plunges to Unfathomable Depths onto the rocks below. I clench everything clench-able as they ascend the Highest Mountain and teeter around on the Unstable Boulders at the top as we take a hasty snap to capture their moment of glory. I suck in my breath as they wobble and slide over slippery, wet rocks across the Raging Torrents of river rapids, which a few moments before looked like harmless stepping stones over a babbling stream.

"Be VERY, VERY careful," I cry.
"Will you STOP running near the edge," I screech.
"Will you PLEASE slow down and LOOK WHERE YOU'RE GOING," I plead.
"That's FAR enough now."
"Come back down. Right now. NOW."
"Right, I think you've seen enough now."
"PLEASE don't rock the rowing boat. It ISN'T funny."
"WATCH where you're putting your feet. You are VERY near the edge."

It's not that I don't trust my children, I do (well, as much as you are supposed to 'trust' a 4 and 6 year old boy who are over-stimulated on fresh air and 100% sugar content Kendal Mint Cake), or want them to have fun and experience adventure - I do, very much so, which is partly why we're clambering up a mountainside in the first place, but.......

...something dull and sensible and pessimistic and 'motherly' within me kicks in when we find ourselves in these types of environments. So while Fun Daddy merrily hoists giggling young boys onto his shoulders and slips and slithers down muddy paths with them swaying around precariously on top, and while he leans them over precipices and ledges so they can see ALL THE WAY DOWN and runs down steep hills with them at breakneck speed, I wince and mutter under my breath and sometimes even close my eyes completely as it is simply easier to not observe the mild peril which I, and my family, find ourselves in - at least in the part of my imagination which controls fear and dread.

So, there you have it. I am a fretful and anxious parent after all - or at least I appear to be so for at least one week in the year when we go on a 'relaxing' holiday.

Maybe next year we'll do a beach holiday - surely there can't be that much danger in searing tropical heat, unpredictable tides, small inflatable boats and disease-wielding insects. Can there?



  1. Oh but how the most innocent of places metamorphose into death defying traps when your little ones are around them! So much of what you have written rings true for me. A memory of a week in Fuerteventura when my now ten year old was twenty months & the apartment footpath had a sheer drop of one foot each side & she was wobbling along...I spent the week up to ninety!

  2. I often worry about things the 'could' happen, and it's probably no coincidence that my kids have had very few accidents.
    Having said that, my little one was horsing around today, knee'd himself in the front and chipped it. Didn't see that one coming did I?

  3. Oh I'm SO with you on this one. I always class myself as a laid back, whatever, parent and then add in heights or cliff tops and I start shrieking. The Boy senses this and hams it up even more, throwing the girls higher or encouraging more shaking of bridges or dangerous jumps, delighting in my clear terror! Yes, I'd say go to a calm blue lagoon next year.

  4. The stress! My husband is always giving out about me being over protective (I'd like to think just protective) but I really do see danger everywhere...

  5. Don't get me started on the sea-urchins in the supposedly safe Croatian waters... So with you on all of this HCM; I seem to spend much of our holidays biting my lip and sitting on my hands...

  6. I fell off a castle wall walk in Cornwall when I was young. I was grabbed by my brother and he hung onto me for dear life until an adult strong enough to pull me up made it to me. We used to have to lie down on our fronts at cliff edges to look over in Wales. I've always taught my daughter to be careful and assess her situation. I think it has made her wary of life and danger and she doesn't have an immediate joy de vive that so many children have. I think over protection has done that to her. I think it is a shame but on the other hand, if I dumped her and her friend in the centre of London and told them to find their own way home, I know which one would come out unscathed!

  7. Oh - I'm so with you on this one. And I know my kids just tune me out when I start on the 'Be Careful' litany. But I can't stop it, however hard I try!

  8. Holidays are so not relaxing anymore! It's us against the world, babe!

  9. Oh yes! I know exactly what you mean. Was on a tame enough walk recently until we came to a viewing point over a drop with my 10yo near the edge and the younger ones racing towards him. My husband assured me it was not 'that far down' but I, like you, closed my eyes and walked away. Another horror I've had is going on a fast upside down rollercoaster with my then 8yo. Not only did I think I was going to die but reached out to hold him in because he was going to die too, wasn't he? Arrgghhh!

  10. Actually In New Zealand they have a million and one signs with stuff falling off cliffs and things on roads, the whole countryside is so littered with graphic designs you think everywhere is alive with Pow. I used to be very laid back but then a couple of weeks ago an acquaintance just stepped back into a blow-hole in Hawaii.

  11. My heart was in my mouth just reading this! That could have been me on that mountain top...honestly. I actually think ahead for any potential dangers on any outings/holidays. Sigh!

    xx Jazzy

  12. OMG you are right to worry, I reckon. I sometimes worry too little, and then stuff like this happens (when my daughter actually nearly fell off a cliff). I tend to get distracted, and I dread to think what COULD happen.

  13. My mum maintains that Nature provided dads and mums to counterbalance each other on this point. It's the mum's job to be boring and careful, she would say, so carry on the good work!


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