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family_discussionsI’m in a little trouble this morning because I refused to let my two teenage boys go to the skate park if they didn’t have helmets.   The displeasure at my ruling was palpable.

“Is it uncool?” I asked.  “Is that what it is?”

“They’re annoying.”

“So is a head injury,” I responded.

“Fine,” one of them muttered.  “We’ll never do anything then.”

They disappeared downstairs, but you could feel that sort of room-to-room, floor-to-floor tension that follows on a family argument.

I Googled  a story about a mom who lost her son to skateboarding without a helmet and fired off the link to them. They shot back with a story about a guy who died after tripping over a beer glass at his own wedding.  So then the discussion moved back upstairs and I tried to make a distinction between high rate of speed sports and freak accidents, but it was clear there would be no dispassionate, reasoned exchange of ideas.  Their friends were at a skate park right now — and I was in the way.   “You can skateboard,” I said, finally, “but you need to wear helmets.  That’s it.”

Life is absurdly dangerous.  It is, in fact, a guaranteed death sentence.  And I’m a pretty thoroughgoing libertarian on most issues.  Let people decide for themselves how many risks they want to take, what they want to put in their bodies, how many guns they want to own, and how they want to treat their own illnesses.

But children, your own children, represent a special charge.   It seems to me you either go out of your way to impart your sense of what  is safe — physically, spiritually, and culturally — or they will be subject to someone else doing the teaching.  The advice they get will be “luck of the draw,” and so will your results.  It stuns me to think, for example, that hard working middle class families actually take out mortgages to send their children to colleges where they will be required to participate in every hare-brained, leftist ritual you can imagine, including wearing burkas and donning tattoos in apology for their birth race.  Yes!  (Read the links.)

The sad reality, however, is that many parents either quiet their own sense of danger, or they believe they are not qualified to comment.   Sometimes, you can’t endure the disdain of a teenager who thinks you’re only out to spoil their fun.   Believe me, if it drives me to blog, I have trouble with it too.  We all do.

But my sense is that whether you believe in God or not, parents are given special instincts.  Does that dress make your daughter look cheap?   Is there something about one of your son’s new friends that just, for some reason, creeps you out?  Are they being asked, in school, to endorse an idea you find repugnant?  Are they barreling up a cement wall and going horizontal without

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This post was written by Jim Riley

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