Protecting the Young: Exercise in Futility

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Love in the Third Degree.

My daughter and her friends just keep getting pummeled.

Shannon and I have a joke. When we go for walks, I walk on the side closer to the traffic. We joke about respecting her elder versus protecting my young.

But we can’t always protect the young. As parents, we try to put every possible obstacle between our kids and harm. We smooth over the hurts and the boo-boos and downplay life’s little tragedies. The hard stuff gets through anyway, no matter how hard we try.

Teen years seem synonymous with immortality. They think nothing can ever happen to them. They won’t be the ones who get pregnant or bash a car terminally or lose their health. They’ll escape whatever dangers fate warns them of. They may grudgingly accept death as inevitable for the sick and elderly, but within their own circle, death is especially harsh, whether it’s accidental or called forth, and not quite so poetic as in dreams.

So here we are in the 21st century with all our technology and we like to think we have a headstart on anything we might fear. For all of our medical knowledge and psychobabble and support groups, death comes as harshly as it ever has, just a little more unexpectedly. We worry about violent crime, but for the most part, we don’t expect it. We mandate suicide prevention classes to our employees. We pat ourselves on the backs for protecting our children from all the big-bads out there so they’ll never have to know the bad stuff.

We no longer fill our cemeteries with year after year of fresh baby graves in the name of some long-eradicated childhood disease. We no longer watch the warlords and their hordes swoop into our villages and slaughter our families to take our land. We no longer expect a likelihood of starving to death as a typical end.

Knowing that all this has gone on before is of no help. We like to think that history is in the past and we’ve beaten the expectation of death among those who are healthy and youthful. We like to think we’re protecting our young and doing a good job at it.

But all we can do is hope, and be there when our young immortals discover that the bogey man we’ve tried to keep them from seeing is more prevalent than they realized. By the time I was Shannon’s age, I’d seen way too many deaths of friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors—murder, suicide, terminal illness, freak accidents, and unexplained medical problems.

I’d really hoped to protect my young from seeing as much as I did.


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