Ben Bartosik

January 8, 2024

Happy New Year.

Yesterday I was walking my kids to the library and I had a thought around collective vs personal responsibility as it relates to safety. As the girls ran up ahead of me I considered how this is what parenting is, watching your kids exhibit freedom and move forward into the world in ways that will always be ahead of and beyond you. We're in the process of trying to decide when to start letting our kids walk to school on their own and a big part of that comes down to trust.

But the thing that struck me was that it's not only about trusting my kids to be safe, it's about trusting the community to keep my kids safe. To make this thought even more brazen, it is your responsibility to keep my kids safe. Just as it is my responsibility to keep other people's kids safe.

This is a mindset that I think we've really abandoned here in our neoliberal 'western' society. Here, one's wellbeing is primarily a personal concern. Watching out for one another, especially strangers, increasingly feels like a quaint, naive thing of the past. At best, we accept that there are certain structures in society (laws, systems, etc) that are designed to organize us in a way that keeps people safe. Yet, even those are often pushed back against in exchange for personal freedom. Our car-centric way of life is perhaps the best example of this. There are so many small steps we could take to make our streets safer, but we often reject these as they might interfere with our freedom of movement. And perhaps no one bears the burden of this more than kids.

But, coming back to this idea that kid's safety should be a collective responsibility. I think this is part of what fuels helicopter parenting. We simply don't trust that society will put our kid's wellbeing before their own freedom. So we adopt that mindset as well and our kids experience the world from the safety of their homes, backyards, and the backseat of cars. Never mind that this is having negative effects down the road.

I believe this is something we should reject and move away from. The old adage, 'it takes a village to raise a child' had it right. Kids should be seen moving around freely in our communities as though they belong there, not as a failure of parenting; because we should look at those kids and think it is my responsibility that they feel safe here.