I See Bad People…

Flea at Chester Zoo Flea and I went to Chester Zoo last week for her birthday treat. Flea loves the zoo. Well, strictly speaking, Flea loves monkeys. So Chester Zoo is always a good day out.

It was pretty busy, but I let Flea run pretty free at the zoo – after all, they keep most of the animals that eat children in cages these days. But I caught one mother giving me a pointed look as she chastised her own pre-schooler for not holding her hand. “Don’t you know how many bad people there are here who could hurt you?

Oh dear. This isn't quite the approach I take to personal safety with Flea. Of course, we're not anarchists. We do have some special “outdoor” rules in our house. They apply any time we’re outside, except if we’re near a road or car park. They are:

Rule 1: Wherever you are, you have to be able to see Mummy.
Rule 2: There are no other rules.

Yes, I admit it: I’m a believer in controlled risk. This is a fancy way of saying I think it’s important that Flea gets skinned knees once in a while or even walks into a lamp post because she’s too busy looking for sea lions (unfortunate, but so funny).

Controlled risk is how I shocked an Other Mother at the church family fun day this summer when I watched Flea roll down a small slope of grass onto the driveway. "What if she bangs her head?" said the Other Mother, in horror. "Erm, it'll hurt?" I replied.

By allowing Flea the freedom to explore situations,  I figure she has a better chance of making good choices when she finds herself in a situation where Mummy isn't to hand.

Also, if you’re not constantly holding hands with a child, it makes it much easier to whistle innocently and pretend you aren’t with them when they shout, “MUMMY LOOK AT THESE WINDOWS ON THE MONKEY CAGE, THEY’RE EVEN GRUBBIER THAN THE ONES ON OUR CAR!


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 21st August 2009 / 2:23 pm

    Great approach, i second that one! Although letting your 4 year old walk into lamp posts tut tut haha x

  2. 21st August 2009 / 2:39 pm

    Am with you, there. We still insist on holding hands to cross roads, unless on a proper pedestrian crossing (with flashing green men and beeps), but that’s about it. I really hate the whole warning them of stranger danger at such an early age. I know they need to be aware of who to talk to if they get lost, but if they can see you and you can see them, what’s going to happen?

  3. 21st August 2009 / 3:38 pm

    A church group near us were apparently going to cut down a 1,000 year yew as they were worried that paedophiles might hide behind it.

  4. Insomniac Mummy
    21st August 2009 / 6:16 pm

    We like a bit of controlled risk in our house. Sometimes you have to let them fall just so they learn how not to if you know what I mean?
    We have pretty much the same rules as you I guess.

  5. 21st August 2009 / 5:19 pm

    It’s dificult to find a happy medium in this days.I’m totally with you in the controled risk thing, they do have to fall sometimes.
    When it comes to security I usually follow your rule number one but sometimes I had one or two more, depends how paranoid I woke up that day.

  6. 21st August 2009 / 10:18 pm

    You are SO right. Children should be allowed to run and play, and hurt themselves. Holding hands in the zoo? Please!

  7. Sally
    22nd August 2009 / 5:06 pm

    @Laura – I know. I’m a terrible person, but it was almost as funny as the time I dropped her in a toybox in the middle of John Lewis’ nursery dept.
    @Tasha – Yes, I agree. It’s not that I don’t have the same panicked feelings as other Mums, I just think I feel I shouldn’t pass them on to Flea.
    @Kat- seriously???/? omfg.
    @Cecilia – Oh, completely agree. Like one day I did lose sight of flea in a shop for a couple of minutes and I seriously considered buying one of those little location devices that you can sew into their clothes. Then I remembered I can’t sew!
    @CJ – yes, it was the idea of telling a child in that setting to fear everyone by default, that just seemed unbelievably sad. But then, I still believe most people are basically good, and I’m 35, so I’d quite like Flea to grow up with a similar philosophy.

  8. Kassia Gardner
    23rd August 2009 / 3:16 pm

    With you all the way on this one, we have the same rule that you must be able to see mam or dad at all times, and we hold hands whilst crossing roads.
    Likewise, I am the mam that encourages her girls to go down the slide head first..

  9. 23rd August 2009 / 9:54 pm

    controlled risk is the way I do it. I was pretty neurotic until Squidge was about 2 months old. I met a mum at a baby group that would FREAK THE HELL OUT when her kid fell (onto his bum- the one covered w/ a squishy nappy). She would scoop him up and cuddle and cooing. The poor kid was scared senseless and would start balling. I thought right there I wouldn’t do that to my kid. Happy to say that even though she falls and I don’t immediatly run (it there’s no blood I just tell her she’s alright) to her she’s still alive and well 3 yrs later.

  10. 23rd August 2009 / 10:43 pm

    I was in Chester Zoo last week too (Thurs 13th)and the most dangerous things in there were the wasps.

  11. Sally
    23rd August 2009 / 10:48 pm

    Oh God, the wasps!!
    We were there on the 14th and I’m sure I spent all the time we weren’t walking TWITCHING. I try really hard not to pass on any of my irrational phobias to Flea, so I’m busy doing the whole “Oh, they’re just looking for food, just don’t make a fuss and they’ll go away” routine and inside squealing like a small girl. Ugh.

  12. Sarah
    23rd August 2011 / 7:27 am

    Controlled risk? Is that what it’s called? I thought THAT was being a bad mummy! I’d much rather tell my daughter the risks, and if she goes ahead and does it anyway, and hurts herself, I can just say “I told you so” (one of the most satisfying responses ever). She needs to learn these things herself, not be wrapped up in cotton wool!