How do we keep our children safe? We advise them, we educate them, but one of the most common things we do ( not necessarily the most ethically correct) is terrify them. We do this is to scare them away from danger.
Looking back I do think that on occasions I must admit I might have been a little guilty of over exaggerating in order to make a point, and I may have frightened the bejaysus out of them to do so.
A prime example of my method of ” teaching” my children about danger was to tell them a story, usually with a horrific ending to illustrate my point. Most of the stories I told had an element of truth to them.
One time I remember telling them about the young teenager who arrived in to casualty with his mother. He was clutching a bloodied cloth to his ear. On closer examination we discovered half his ear was missing. Shortly afterwards his friend arrived in with the missing piece. This happened a while ago, in the days when an electronic car window just kept on closing, even if a finger or anything else was in it’s way. I told my children this story in a matter of fact way beginning “Oh wait until I tell you about the poor little boy ( a lie but they had more sympathy for young children), who was playing with (another lie) the electronic windows. By the time I had finished my story my children were suitably traumatised enough not to touch those windows!
I never had a child lose their finger so it obviously worked. However maybe the stories were slightly too real. Fast forward ten years….
My son was nineteen and I asked him to cut back some of the ivy growing up the back garden wall. I gave him the secateurs and off he went. A while later he came into the kitchen as white as snow, with his hand firmly clasping one of the fingers of his left hand. I thought he was going to faint.
I lay him down and raised his feet. Telling him to relax, I asked what had happened. He explained that he had been cutting away the ivy and by mistake he had chopped his finger, near the top. I asked him did he think he might have taken the top of his finger off. He went even whiter and said he didn’t know but it was very sore and he thought he might have.
I went to get a cloth to act as a compress and said he’d have to show me. Slowly he began to uncurl his hand from around his finger. It seemed to take forever. I was glad to see that there didn’t seem to be much blood. Eventually his finger was revealed.
He had his eyes closed. As I looked at the finger reality dawned. It was perfect. Not even a scratch!
I burst out laughing. He opened his eyes. The rest of the family, who had stood at a safe distance, all came over for a look. The colour began to return to my sons face and he reddened considerably. There was much laughter and jokes all directed in his direction.
The poor fella stared at his perfect finger, slowly turning it around.
Then he did the only thing he could to get himself out of the situation. He turned to me and shouted, “Its all your fault, you always told us that those secataurs would take our fingers off in a flash”.
Even as an almost adult he remembered my lessons. Surely any mother would feel proud?
However it is probably wrong to enjoy telling this story as much as I do!