On New Year’s Eve, some family friends came over to celebrate, and while our daughters played together, we four parents drank wine and talked about parent things. Somehow the subject of guns came up, and how this other couple owned a gun. She spoke up immediately.
“By the way, I want you guys to know, we have a gun, but it’s hidden in a really safe place, the kids are in no danger,” she said, and the two of them carefully explained to us the precautions they’ve taken to ensure children’s safety in their home.
We thanked them for their straightforward address of the subject, which is an awkward one for me. I am very, very anti-gun. If I had my way, no one would own a gun. I don’t want to be around them, and I definitely don’t want my child around one. I don’t really feel like getting into a Second Amendment argument with you (so please don’t start one), but I also understand that by law people are allowed to have them. There’s nothing I can do about that except to talk to any parents hosting my child about my concerns and be sure that my daughter won’t be around one.
After the door had been opened to the dangerous-things-in-the-home discussion, we started talking about all the other awkward conversations we have to have with other families to ensure our kids’ safety. All of us agreed on the subject of trampolines.
It’s a hard one for me, because some of the dearest folks in my life own trampolines. But make no mistake, I see a trampoline as, at best, a broken-bone machine, and, at worst, a death trap. Wrap it in netting all you want, but this is no assurance of its safety. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve arrived at close friends’ homes and had them send all the children—theirs and ours—out to the trampoline so we grownups can relax inside and talk. I can’t relax, and you need to know this. I may love you dearly and know you would never willingly endanger my child, but I will never be able to relax with you when I know that my child could easily be trampled or crushed or battered on that trampoline.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says only athletes who are in training for diving or gymnastics, under direct supervision of coaches, should use trampolines. They advise parents not to buy them, yet SO MANY DO. Three-quarters of all trampoline injuries happen when multiple kids are jumping at once. And though netting helps, it by no means ensures safety—especially when a child is in more danger from being trampled by another child than from falling off it. Kids are notorious showoffs, and all those tricks—the somersaults and such—could cause one of them to be paralyzed.
So why is it that I’m treated with eye rolls as an overprotective helicopter mom when I express anxiety about my child jumping on a trampoline, or hover and watch with eagle eyes and a knot in my stomach as I watch every move she makes, since you went ahead and let her go out there without talking to me first? Why do I have to be put in that situation to begin with? How about first asking me, quietly, if I’m okay with my daughter jumping on your trampoline before you send her out there? Why do I have to be the bad guy?
And is your trampoline insured? It most definitely should be.
If you choose to have a trampoline, that’s up to you. You have your own rules with your own kids, and I absolutely respect that. But I ask that you respect my rules and talk to me before putting me in the uncomfortable situation of telling my daughter no, she can’t jump on your trampoline or any other potentially life-altering equipment, regardless of whether the other kids are doing it.
And while I’m at it, after you tell me about your gun and your trampoline, go ahead and tell me about your toy guns, too. Because it upsets my daughter when kids shoot with her toy guns—it’s happened and I’ve had to calm her afterward. We don’t like gun play. Let’s skip it. Please let me know what kinds of games are going to take place, and consider that many parents, like us, simply don’t like this kind of play.
Let’s also put away the large dogs—especially those who jump, bark, or growl. The ones who get excited and are stronger than my daughter. Don’t tell us, “Oh, he won’t hurt you, just ignore him and he’ll stop.” No, just put the dog away. She’s already scared of most dogs, because there have been too many dogs like that, and though your dog may in fact feel like a member of your family, it’s not a member of mine. Please don’t make me be the bad guy and ask you to put your family member in the backyard. Please just offer it. Once she’s had time to adjust, maybe watched you and your own kids play with the dog, gotten it calmed down, feel free to let her adjust to it slowly. But if the dog jumps on her, we have a problem.
Everyone parents differently, so please respect the choices we make for our daughter, and I promise to do the same for you. Feel free to ask us ANYTHING when it comes to how we will ensure the safety and well-being of your child. And before you host our child for any amount of time, please be up front with us about what activities will take place. Even if you think they’re benign, just talk to us first, and don’t make us feel bad about it if we say no.