I am on tick watch. I have to keep my eyes open every day, do tick checks on my kids, encourage them to enjoy the outdoors with my heart in my mouth, teach them to be safe without teaching them to be fearful, never completely let my guard down. I am on a trip, to a place where ticks are everpresent, in a season when they are abundant.
In some ways I am lucky. Right at the start of my trip, when I had the feeling that maybe I was being too watchful, too careful, to paranoid … I lay down on the outside wood porch (off the grass, away from the woods) of the home I was staying at, and less then 5 minutes later I saw something crawling across the thesis I was reading. Small, black… sure it was a tick I jumped up and showed it to the person I was staying with. She was equally sure that I was wrong, and we grabbed a magnifying glass and google and eventually confirmed my judgement call. Only a few hours later, she found another one working its head into her hand after pottering around the garden.
This had a few important effects: No more feeling inside myself that I was being too careful (or that those around me thought I was being too careful). Also, a chance for the kids to see a tick for themselves, and see someone remove one without panic. We had managed to normalize the need for (and experience of) being watchful without creating a situation in which my children were afraid to leave the house.
Even so, I question my decisions all the time. They are outside, enjoying nature, learning to love it, as they should. The world around us is not only beautiful, good for our souls, and educational, but in need of those who will love and protect it. At the same time, there is a risk that I expose them to, daily. A risk I know about and still proceed with. We are careful, but not perfect.
In the end, I guess it comes down to this: Over and over again I have realized that my job as a parent is to give them the wisdom, skills, knowledge, and heart to face the danger in this world and make the right decisions. If I never let them outside, they won’t know what to do to be safe when someone else does (and they will lose so much else). They are still young, and one cannot expect young children to always have sense, but if I teach them to go outside safely, while I am with them, then maybe as they grow they will continue to take the right precautions even when I am not.
So I gamble, and teach, and hope.