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.
"HOLD MY HAND," I urge. "PROPERLY."
"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?