Always Real

Helmets. Because No Dead Horse Is Beyond A Good Beating

A while back, a number of readers left comments admonishing me to put a helmet on Sean when he is riding his bike.  While I understand where they are coming from and I appreciate their concern, and even agree with them for the most part, I don’t completely agree. (Hey I could run for office!) 

On one hand, I think helmets are a prudent safety precaution.  Of course I want to protect my child. Of course I’m aware of stories of children with head injuries. We have many friends in the medical community who have seen the trauma of head injuries first hand and their stories make a compelling case for helmets.  

Yet, I am somewhat resistant to the helmet. Why?  What would a reasonably intelligent person have against helmets? 

One component of my resistance is nostalgia.  I have sweet memories of riding my bike all over the neighborhood with the wind flowing through my hair, freedom flowing through my veins and streamers flowing from the handle bars.  And I want that for Sean.  It is exhilarating and there’s nothing like it.  However, I’m not likely to let him go off riding his bike alone as I did, or jump his bike off a homemade ramp made out of cinder blocks and an old sheet of plywood either, as I did. 

The other component of this argument is that I tend to be a little defiant.  There is a contingent of miltant moms out there who want to guilt you/shame you/goad you into politically correct parenting according to their world view and I’m stiff-necked when it comes to that kind of thing.  I’m not real good at being told what to do.

Aside from that, in trying to sift out the nostalgic and the irrational and self-indulgent defiance,  I decided that it’s not helmets that I’m against, because clearly helmets are shown to save lives and reduce head injury, no question — it’s that helmets represent to me this place we’ve come to in our society where we want to put a fence around the Grand Canyon to keep everyone safe.  

My generation has gone overboard in wrapping our kids in bubble wrap to keep them safe from every possible hurt.   The world is a dangerous place, life is risky.  I want Sean to learn how to negotiate it – whether it’s learning to ride a bike or learning how to ride the subway. 

I want to inoculate him to the dangers of the world, not isolate him from it.  Inoculation is the process of introducing a tolerable amount of an offending substance into the body in a controlled manner so that the body creates immunity to it – the body learns how to deal with it and thwart it and is then stronger for it.  When you live in isolation of pain and unpleasantness, you learn nothing and you are the weaker for it. 

As Sean learns how to ride a bike, he’s going to need to learn how to fall in such a way that he doesn’t injure himself (too badly).  He must learn to put his feet down and lay his bike down when he senses he is losing his balance. That will no doubt mean tears and maybe even a little blood.  Or a scar.  But more than anything else, I realize just now that I really don’t want Sean to come to the end of his life unscarred.  A life well lived is a life with a few scars to prove it.

I know that I’m in the minority in this point of view, but at least I’m in good company.

79 thoughts on “Helmets. Because No Dead Horse Is Beyond A Good Beating

  1. I feel the same way about bike helmets! I understand why people want their kids to wear them, but I hate that they miss part of the experience by doing so. As it is, my children have missed out on so many things in the name of safety and our current version of what that means. The world is a dangerous and uncertain place, and I hope my boys experienced enough physical scrapes and bruises in childhood to prepare for the internal ones that come in adulthood.

    My brother, our friends and I made ramps out of plywood and cinderblocks too! One day, the boys even got up on the roof of a one story house and jumped their bikes off of that!!! All the while, we girls are standing there shaking our heads. They got into so much trouble!!! They did, however, live to tell the tale. I’m 44 and my brother is 42, and we’re still telling that story!

  2. i totally agree! bubble wrapping children is doing a disservice to them. if they don’t learn how to fall and than stand up again when they are young, when the big things hit as they grow older, they’ll just fall and stay fallen.

  3. I let my daughter go without in our dirt driveway or our yard. I figure a few ouchies there, under my supervision, will teach her much better than if she was never hurt at all.
    My MIL freaks over how I let my kid jump off the furniture or whatever, but I figure if she conks her head on the rug, that’s far better than having no clue that jumping can hurt!

  4. I’m with you. Jet doesn’t wear a helmet while riding his bike in our driveway, but he does when we go on family walks/rides in the street (mostly because I’m more worried about *drivers* than his ability to ride his bike safely).

    * * * *

    That policy aligns with my thinking. ~ AM

  5. Well, I’m still in the pro-helmet category although I agree with allowing our children to get a few scrapes and scars along the way.

    A bicycle helmet doesn’t prevent those kind of scars and injuries, it just prevents major head trauma. I’m sure none of us want that for our children. 🙂

    * * *

    Not to completely disagree with you Barb because I think you are awesome and smart and all kinds of wonderful. But! You can get a head trauma going down an escalator or any number of creative ways (I’ve tried them all). I would think a child is more likely to get a head injury on the playground equipment than riding a bike at .1mph and we don’t insist on helmets at the playground. Just a thought. ~ AM

  6. I’m with you on the helmets. While we have them for our kids, we rarely make them wear them.

    I never owned one as a kid and neither did any of my friends – and we turned out just fine.

    Now making them wear shoes while riding a bike – that is a must! I watched someone’s foot get mulled in the spokes of a wheel – not a pretty site.

  7. You are so absolutely right! I really get tired of all the politically correct people trying to save me from myself. Life hurts sometimes. You can’t keep them in a safe little bubble forever. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be careful, but this safety thing has gone over the line. When it comes to bikes and horses, I choose not to wear a helmet. And I never will. And I will not try to tell anyone else how to live. Just please give me that space, too.

  8. All I can tell you is this. A helmet saved my sons life. I read the comments above, and my hands shake. I am not one of those parents who puts bubble wrap on their kids, if I were, he wouldn’t be back out there playing sports, riding his bike and skiing… but if he had not had a helmet on the day of his accident, he’d be dead. If I had not made sure of that, I would have to live with that guilt. Spend a few months in neurosurgeons office and you will change your mind. I beg you to do that. It is obvious how much you love your son…

    Do you not wear seatbelts because you liked the wind in your hair as you hung out the window as a child? You have to play the odds in life here… and a child who has always worn a helmet will not think he is missing a thing… trust me on that.

    Please re-think this, and listen to your friends in the medical community because THEY KNOW.. they have seen the horrors and years and years of medical care (or death) suffered with head injuries..

    I love to read about you and your son. Please protect him when you can.. Helmets aren’t infallible, either, but in our case it kept the head injury from being a major skull fracture. Don’t get me wrong, what he suffered was serious, but he has recovered, we have him with us and we are eternally grateful that we taught him to wear the helmet. Remember, you’d have to live with that choice, too.

    * * * *
    Don’t get me wrong Rosemary, I agree with you (mostly) and I think I made that clear. Sean has a helmet and he wears it. I have a seatbelt and I wear it (although I think there is a difference between going 65mph on the highway and .1 on a bicycle). What I’m trying to express, and may not have done that very well, is that in spite of empirical evidence, I still fee resistance to the mandatory helmet. This resistance has nothing to do with rational thought and everything to do with nostalgia and my own personal baggage.

    But! As I said earlier in comments, I find the playground equipment to be far more dangerous than a bicycle. If ever there were a place where helmets were required, it should be the jungle gym. Or! When you have 15 kids bouncing around in a jump house knocking heads. It’s just that those things, for whatever reason, are not on the PC radar. But it’s probably only a matter of time. ~ AM

  9. Heh… I have a picture of Evan riding barefoot, in a tank top and shorts with his hair blowing every which way…

    That said. I do have helmets available in every size. When my eldest learned (at NINE YEARS OLD!!) how to finally ride the bike, he was wearing his helmet and elbow pads. As he progresses in ability, the rule will be less strict. But honestly, he felt more secure with it on, so I provided the safety gear.

    My 3 year old, though? My daredevil daughter? Is another story…

    * * * *
    See, I guess I will be more inclined to be more strict about wearing a helmet as he gets older and can rider faster and out of my reach. ~ AM

  10. I agree with you. I think of all of the things my husband and I did in our childhood, and think, “How did we ever survive?”, but, you know what, we DID!

    Last night, we were telling our 9 yo son about the fireworks battles that his dad and siblings/friends had every year. He was amazed that Dad had the scars to prove it and that I once had a coat with a hole in it from getting caught in the middle of said battle.

    He cannot even fathom doing something similar (most “good” fireworks are banned in NC) and that’s a little sad (although I wonder what my MIL was thinking letting my husband participate!).

    You pick your battles (pun intended), I guess.

  11. I think the little kids in helmets is two things: prudent and silly. Prudent because it will be much, much harder to get a 10 year old or teen to wear a helmet if you have never made him or her do so before. Silly because on your own street, on the sidewalk, head trauma is unlikely to happen. My son chose to not ride a bike years ago because I wouldn’t let him ride all over town without a helmet. He was about 12. My daughter will wear one without prodding, and she’s 13. But there are many kids riding all over our small town, zipping in and out of cars, on two way streets without one. And for that I blame the parents – – wind in the hair be damned.

    * * * *
    Yes, riding a bike on a busy Chicago street and whipping in and out of traffic without a helmet seems kind of dumb, even to me. Actually it seems kind of dumb even with a helmet. 🙂

  12. Amen, sista! As an employer I am beginning to see the first of the bubble wrapped kids in the workplace and it is U.G.L.Y. They don’t have the critical thinking skills and initiative that young, idealistic kids out of college should have. They aren’t willing to jump into a new project and figure it out. Instead, they are afraid of failure and want step by step instructions for how to use the coffee machine. It’s a little bit scary and a lot irritating.

  13. I know what you mean we do go over bored on things with the kids but we didn’t wear seat belts when I was a kid and I am thankful we got wiser in that area…..Some things we did may have been fun but not real smart…balance is hard to find at times.

  14. I don’t have a problem with my kids riding their bikes sans helmets when the only danger is from something they do. When they leave the confines of our property, they must wear their helmets. Too many careless people talking on the phone for me to trust my kids’ heads to go unprotected.

  15. My children always wore their helmets when they were little. They got a few “tickets” from the local police for wearing their helmets. Free ice cream from McDonalds. That encouraged them to ride with them for awhile.

    My eldest son stopped wearing his when it fell apart and he didn’t replace it. He would ride his bike to school and really fast too, since he was always running late. He would take 40-50 mile rides because he loved to ride–with no helmet.

    He was going away to college this fall and bought a brand new helmet. I felt he was safer knowing he would wear it. The inside of it had a sticker for emergency numbers. I filled it out with his dad’s cell, knowing if something happened I didn’t want them to call me.

    My son died when a drunk driver struck him while riding his bike in September. His helmet did nothing to protect him. I’ve always wondered about a piece of foam and plastic and how effective it was anyway.

    He was always the cautious one and didn’t take unnecessary risks. He loved life, but wasn’t stupid about it and the helmet didn’t save his life–didn’t even prolong it. In fact, the helmet was intact.

    * * * *
    Karen, I am so very sorry for your loss. I just have no words. Hugs, AM

  16. I am so right there with you on the helmet thing . . . I’d call it conflicted. I sometimes make them wear one, especially if they are going a long way, but if they’re just monkeying around the neighborhood, I’m a little lax about it.

    But what I’m REALLY there with you on is the defiant mama part. Oh, I am so there.

  17. I imagined Sean wrapped in bubble wrap, walking stiffly like a frankenstein from the plastic protection. The good thing is that if he falls, he won’t get hurt. Suffocates yes, but no scraped knees. My kiddos didn’t wear a helmet at 1 mph…..

  18. Bravo! I heart you for speaking out against the ‘norm’. I started to copy and paste the things you said that I liked, but then I almost copied your whole post. I have a tendency to go against the grain too. I can’t STAND being told what to do either, especially if it is from someone whose advice I never asked for.

    As far as helmets go though, we live in an apartment, so we don’t really have a place for our little one to ride where there’s no cars or what not. When her legs finally get long enough to ride a bike (she’s so short!), she will be riding with a helmet on, but in places like the park, or at grandma’s house where there is a more controlled environment, I don’t see a problem with bending the rules a bit.

    And Karen, I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but I’m so sorry you have to be facing the loss of your child.

  19. Nowhere do we see the “bubble wrap” problem more than in schools. No longer can we use glitter because it can be dangerous! Those little particles can get in your eye! Seriously.

    My father always illustrated calculated risk with the example of helmets in cars. He said that wearing helmets in cars would go a long way towards saving lives and having fallen out of a car during the days of no seat belts, he probably knows of what he speaks.

  20. I so agree with you. Now–helmets while riding a motorcycle? You bet. The worst injury our kids ever got riding a bike without a helmet was a skinned knee. But now that they’re into motorcycles, it’s a different story. Without their helmets they would have been in big trouble multiple times. I think life itself is a calculated risk.

  21. I too have helmetless children most of the time. My eleven year old has one of those Waveboard things and I do try to encourage her to wear a helmet when she rides that thing ’cause it looks like an accident waiting to happen!

    We had friends in a former city who were helmet fanatics, toddlers couldn’t even approach one of those itty, bitty bikes with the training wheels without a helmet.

    However, out in their backyard was a ratty old trampoline – dry rotted, no pads, nothing. All of the neighborhood kids were allowed to jump. AT ONCE. ALL SIZES. WITH NO SUPERVISION.

    How’s that for irony?

  22. My boys do wear helmets BUT I see where you are coming from. The helmets actually don’t bother me so much (probably because I didn’t do much bike riding myself as a child), but where we live you are not supposed to eat wild berries (even though you know for sure that they are blueberries, raspberries etc.) that you find in the forest etc. because of the risk of getting some parasites. Not being a rebel, I have warned the boys about it but I HATE it. What could be tastier ir sweeter than freshly picked berries that you found yourself?

  23. Amen!

    Now, if I can just remember this when my heart skips a beat the first time he falls down…learning to walk 🙂

    I used to ride my pony full force out in the pasture…no saddle, bridle, halter or shoes for that matter. My mom said her heart about stopped the first time she saw it. But then she realized she’d raised a daughter who wasn’t afraid of doing what she loved and had a pony who loved his little girl. What a wonderful memory that most kids today would never get to have! Such a balance parenting is.


  24. My brother went over the handlebars of his bike without a helmet and had a nasty concussion.
    I went over the handlebars on my bike with a helmet and it scared the stuffin’ out of me. Then I walked the ten feet back to my front door, parked my bike and walked to my Physics 201 final and completed it with a near-perfect score.
    I was going very slowly when I crashed, and still, I felt the helmet compress against my head in that super-slow-motion moment when my head hit the curb.
    Wearing a helmet is such a simple, painless thing to do. Why not wear one?
    (PS play structures are generally not built over asphalt and concrete.)
    (PPS I hope you’ll carefully consider the influence your anti-helmet advocacy might have on others.)

  25. AM – you need to read a fascinating book on this topic (well, not helmets, but bubble-wrapping our children) called, A Nation of Wimps.

    As far as helmets go…well, my now 16 year old son had a TERRIBLE bicycle accident when he was 6. He was riding down our street, which is at a slight grade, and flew head first into the fire hydrant at the end of the cul-de-sac. No, the helmet didn’t save him. He hit the hydrant FACE FIRST and knocked out 6 teeth (which subsequently ruined his 2 front central adult incisors which had not even erupted yet) and broke the cartilage in his nose. After multiple surgeries – oral and nasal – he still has a slightly crooked nose and is missing one front central incisor which was irreparably damaged. (The tooth fairy really paid big on this bike ride.) Long story to say that helmets don’t always make a difference. And…I guess call me irresponsible – my 14 year old rides to school on his bike everyday sans helmet.

  26. I think the pioneer women would laugh their heads off if they could see what we have turned into. Fussing over every little germ and bump that could possibly harm our little darlings and spoiling them rotten (seriously!) in the meantime. Worrying over every small slight to their self-esteem, acting like a smother instead of a mother. And look at how the kids they raised turned out compared to today’s kids?

    I was really interested in Heather’s comment about how these kids perform in the work place. We have some 20-somethings who work in my department and that describes them to a T! Self-involved, self-absorbed and they feel like they are totally entitled to special treatment at all times. No sense of creativity or adventure, just step by step work.

  27. Wow, good for you for putting yourself out there, AM. I don’t have thick skin, so I have to embrace/read others who do.

    Accidents happen. I’m sure we’ve all fudged our way out of safety one way or the other. Anyone out there smoke while pregnant? Just one? Drink? Just one? Anyone let their kids ride in the passenger side of the car before age 13 and 100 pounds? Anyone give their kids *gasp* a soda?

    My point is, we play the odds, ask for grace, and try to balance it all with the sense that God gives us.

    While my kids have to wear their helmets, I so agree (mostly) with your post.

  28. I’m in agreement with you on this. My hubby had a t-shirt once that said something along the lines of you could go hiking and fall off the mountain or die… or you could stay home, fall off the couch and die. I loved that shirt because his mother is always talking about all the bad things that could happen. We can’t protect ourselves from everything. 🙂

  29. I’m not a mommy yet (though 8 weeks pregnant after 9 years of praying and just being approved for adoption – God is just smiling at his surprise blessing) tough I do teach 4 year old preschool.

    I am seeing the bubble wrapped children more and more in the classroom. They can’t put their shoes or coat on without help. They are afraid to try something new and start every sentence with “I can’t”. They are terrified of petting the farm animals because of the germs. They complain when we go outside because it’s hot or cold, we have a 20 minute play time for Pete’s sake.

    As a soon to be parent and teacher, I’m so with you! Things happen, we can’t always protect those we love or ourselves. We trust God, use common sense and on we go.

  30. First, playground equipment scares the heck out of me, too. You should see me at the playground with the two of them, running back and forth to try to spot both of them at once while they climb and clamber as if nothing could possibly ever happen to them.

    I wonder about what you said about “My generation has gone overboard in wrapping our kids in bubble wrap to keep them safe from every possible hurt.” In my experience, it’s actually been the Boomer moms who were the most defiant, in a “don’t tell me what to do” sense. My Boomer MIL is constantly doing things like taking off her seatbelt in the car while we whiz along the highway, just to retrieve a dropped toy or book, and she takes inordinate glee in doing so. Most Gen-X moms I know, including myself, are much more cautious and careful.

    * * * *

    Touche. You are correct Sherri. At 48, I’m a Boomer not a Gen-x’er. I was putting myself in with moms who have kids the same age as my kiddo. And they are about 20 yrs younger than me. GULP Thanks for making my day Sherri (kidding!) ~Antique Mommy

  31. I’m with you AM. My kids wear a helmet if we’re not on the driveway or sidewalk where they’re likely going to fall into the grass.

    And, like you, I’m not very good at being told what to do or having condescension shoved down my throat.
    I don’t homeschool, I don’t rush my kids to the Dr. with every sniffle and cough and I let my cat go outside as often as she wants. I’m a maverick, I tell ya. A true renegade. 🙂

  32. My kid has a helmet, actually more than one. And he doesn’t wear a helmet. He rides a bike, scooter and a skateboard. It just doesn’t occur to me to tell him to put it on. I am old school and didn’t even have helmets growing up. I am a terrible mother, just terrible. Someone protect this kid from his mother.

  33. This needs to be said, and you said it well. I think you were very clear that this is NOT a helmet issue but a thinking issue.

    Veronica at Toddle Dredge did a great article this week on treating mother’s as grown-ups:

    The problem is many mothers don’t want to be treated as grown ups. We want to be told what is safe and what is acceptable. I don’t want to raise nice kids who follow the rules, but children who can think for themselves and succeed because of it!

    Great post AM, my helmets off to ya!

  34. I like to call myself a Calculated Risk Taker. I know that life is risky. As much as possible, I try to evaluate relative risk, choose a risk set and determine to deal with any fallout. Case in point: our kids do wear helmets when they ride bikes. They don’t mind and it seems like a good idea. I’ve never been militant about it; we provide helmets and they generally wear them. I am not under the illusion that the helmet comes with a force field. We use too many band-aids for that to be the case.

    At the moment, my 3-year-old is sporting 70 stitches in her forehead because she split it to the bone (no exaggeration) when she fell into the corner of a door in our house yesterday. Over the years, 4 our our 5 kids have had facial injuries (complete with gnarly scars) incurred IN OUR HOUSE. Maybe that’s where they need to be wearing the dadgummed helmets. Now that I think about it, maybe they all need dance lessons.

  35. Yes, we can over do it on the precautions. My children go to school with a boy who is paralyzed from the neck down. His injury came from falling off the couch while wrestling with his brother. And yet, I don’t make my kids wear helmets every time they have an argument or watch tv on the sofa.

    I truly see both sides of it – it’s good to be cautious but we cannot live in fear.

  36. Yay, AM! I totally agree!

    I never really gave things like this a thought, until my husband and I went to Ireland on our honeymoon. At the Cliffs of Mohr, a dizzying height about the crashing waves and jagged rocks below, there were no guard rails. You could (and we did) lie on your stomach and take photos down the cliffs. At Blarney Castle, you were slid out upside down over a crumbling wall to kiss the stone, held up by two burly guys (whom you hoped had not been drinking since breakfast!), and the stone itself was casually smeared with an antibacterial wipe after ever how many smooches.

    I left with a deep love for Ireland. And a haunting fear that in America, we have reversed the natural trend of Darwinism. If you don’t have enough sense to watch where you’re going, maybe you SHOULD fall.

    And think of the ramifications! As soon as we dumbed-down every aspect of American life (caution: the coffee is hot!, little stick men showing you the dangers of sticking your hand under the lawn mower, guard rails everywhere, OH MY GOD YOU COULD GET HURT! etc, etc)…we became a nation of idiots. We think every bad thing that happens to us means somebody ought to write us a check for our suffering. When in fact, somebody ought to whack us upside the head and say, “You got what you deserved, Dumba**!”

    And…18 years after we started all this crap, the first generation of coddled, overprotected, write-me-a-check-if-I-stub-my-toe idiots started to vote.

    God help us.

  37. I see your point. My favorite childhood memories involved flying down the road on my green banana seat bicycle. Wind in my hair, bugs in my teeth.

    I wish my kids could enjoy much of the carefree freedom that I often took for granted in my youth.

    Good post, A.M.!

  38. I love your posts. And I agree about the thinking here. I have friends who wipe everything with antibacterial stuff and clean like demons to make sure that their kids aren’t exposed to…whatever!

    Overprotection does more harm than good. Helmets around the neighborhood? Yes. Helmets on more controlled property–our driveway, the sidewalk, the school lot at the end of the street? Probably no. (Mister Small is only two, so this is hypothetical…:)

    Thanks, AM!

  39. ….”A life well lived is a life with a few scars to prove it.”

    Ahhhhh, more fodder for my journal.


    * * * *
    Ah, I love you Mad, you know I do. ~ AM

  40. Absofreakinlutely. It’s hard to strike a balance between our need to assess and minimize risk, and letting them experience all the innocent thrills that childhood brings. I think it can be done. Well stated and I agree wholeheartedly.

  41. Excellent post! As a boomer mom, I think all this ‘bubble-wrap’ is kinda crazy. I raised 7 kids and tried to teach them common sense, but ultimately, I gave them to God, and knowing that they were in His hands gave me peace. I cannot protect my kids. I don’t have that power. The government agencies with all their nanny rules, laws and ordinances cannot protect them either. Our days and our children’s days are written in God’s book (Ps 139), and He is a good God.

    So, I advised them, prayed for them and often looked away when they were high in a tree or doing something kids do that makes a momma cringe. I wanted them to grow up with some exciting memories and without fear of ‘what-might-happen.’

    I am glad helmets were not the law when my kids were little, but I insisted they wear them when they got motorcycles (and had no way to make sure they did…).

  42. I agree with you on this one AM. We also (gasp) let our boys play on rock piles, play with sticks, and even ride on 4 wheelers when old enough.

    My boys have developed a healthy respect for being careful and not putting themselves or others in harm’s way. They realize that their choices will often be what protects them rather than safety equipment.

    But you know who I think needs helmets? Toddlers and young preschoolers! All of my youngest boy’s scars come from walking into doorways, etc… when he still at that top-heavy, running from the parents is a game, devil-may-care stage! Ha!

  43. I can see both sides of the issue. I think in many ways we are a nation of wimps and I don’t think we can or should protect our children from everything. I loved the freedom that I had, and I loved wandering around my neighborhood when I was a kid.
    But then I think we have learned from our past and we have invented things and made rulings because of what we have learned. There used to be cocaine in coca cola, but now there isn’t. We used to do bloodletting to people for all sorts of strange behaviors, and I sure don’t want to go back to those days. I believe that it is only in the past 100 years or so that doctors washed their hands when delivering babies, and now more mothers live to raise their babies.

    I guess life is full of all sorts of risks and adventures and we have to weigh the risk against the dangers. We certainly cannot protect our children from all danger and adversity and they must learn how to navigate the world. And there is no guarantee that helmets and seatbelts will save everyone. And of course, tragic accidents happen in what we think should be safe environments–my friend’s son died after falling down a flight of stairs. I still let my children walk up and down stairs.

    Do I wish my kids could wander like I did? Yes. Do I wish that they could ride bikes with the wind blowing through their hair and not get hurt? Yes. Am I willing to put that risk against the potential dangers? No.

  44. Wow. Great post and comments.
    I’m like you. I came back from Africa and totally rebelled internally against the helmet laws, although we followed them, most of the time. Also against many other quirks of overprotective middle America. Ironically, our children are safer than ever, but we feel they are fragile–perhaps because we are more aware of happenings globally, perhaps because it seems that when something goes wrong, it goes more horribly wrong than it used to.
    I don’t want my children to live in fear. I try to balance my natural protectiveness with the recognition that I’m not in control, that no matter how much I do, ultimately bad things can happen to them. I squelch my morbid imagination and let them climb trees, take taxis alone, and live life.
    I’ve blogged on this too but it was a while ago and I can’t get onto my site to give you links.

  45. Here’s an interesting fact from Entrepreneur Magazine’s interview with billionaire Richard Branson. (The one who built the Virgin brand.) At age 4, his mom dropped him off in a field three miles from home and told him to find his way home. He got lost initially but figured it out. Granted it was 1954. And acknowledged that I wouldn’t do such a thing. But the results are intriguing.

    * * * *
    Indeed. I would love to read more about that. I’ve wondered that about Sean, but of course I would NEVER test it. Not without a helmet anyway. ~ Antique Mommy

  46. Amen and amen.

    Life is not safe. Certainly, we don’t want to take unnecessary risks with our children. But I’m growing increasingly annoyed with people who insist that they think for me in the name of complete protection.

    (Dana makes an EXCELLENT point, by the way. Kids can fall anywhere and hurt themselves. Stairs are dangerous. Maybe we should keep a stash of helmets at the top and bottom, just in case?)

  47. I’m an adult bike rider and a few weeks ago I took a spill on a wooden bridge. I was pretty bruised, but so was my helmet. I had gone head first into the wood rail of the bridge.

    I also like the feel of the wind in my hair and I hate the feeling of my hair under the helmet. But that spill changed my attitude about helmets

  48. Woo. I didn’t read all the comments but man. You put yousef out dere for sho.

    I rode a bike without a helmet, didn’t wear seat belts until JrHi, and ran unsurevised around the neighborhood until dark, and didn’t wear shoes until October, except for school.

    Go AM.

  49. I once read an article about a study (I wish I could remember where I saw it…) that stated that cars drive closer to bicyclists wearing helmets than they do the ones without helmets riding down the road… The study concluded that possibly the car drivers felt the helmets “protected” the bikers and the people in the cars didn’t have to be as vigilant to the bikers’ safety (or something like that). I think this study was done with adult bicyclists, though. Hopefully not too many parents let kids ride on busy streets; helmet or no helmet.

  50. I cannot comment from a mother’s perspective. However, I am a HS English teacher, and I have found that the attitude being largely cultivated in our children today is quite disappointing.

    Most recently, we as teachers are being discouraged from allowing students to fail our classes. In my opinion, this is the same dangerous line of thinking as you have addressed (more eloquently) in your post. Don’t get me wrong-I spend countless hours helping struggling students, and I love helping them see their own potential. But for those who choose not to do the work required to be successful, allowing them to experience the natural consequences of their choices is among my chief responsibilities as a teacher. It is a powerful lesson indeed.

    I often wonder how I would have been different had I been coddled and protected at every sign of danger? Perhaps allowing me to fail/get hurt, etc, was difficult for my parents to do, but it was imperative to my ultimate success as an adult. And it still is a most valuable lesson.

  51. Coming out of lurkdom to first say that I love your blog. I am a defiant little rebel, but I have to say that a helmet is important. When I was 10 years old, I fell off a bike on the sidewalk in front of the house. I got a concussion, chipped two teeth, and sprained my wrist. I did not have a helmet on. I’m in my forties now and my teeth are capped. Teaching kids to fall a certain way does not always work when riding a bike. Sometimes they go flying off the bike in a blink of an eye. They can’t think that fast, nevermind remember how to fall. My children are 21, 19, and 14 and there were times while bike riding with their friends that the kids went fast and they acted like dare devils. The time will come when you won’t be watching Sean ride his bike. He’ll be riding around the block and doing wheelies just like his friends are doing. A helmet is a must because no matter how much you instill bike safety, once they start riding with their friends, they ride faster and fiercer than when they are little and are riding alone in front of their mothers.

  52. My kids are required to wear helmets when they ride in the street, but not in the driveway or yard. But the plywood on cinder blocks? They totally do that and then some! 🙂

  53. I agree with you 100%. As much as our motivations as moms are good – the desire to protect our kids – we sometimes take too much comfort in what “we” can do. And we forget Whom we can trust.

    Even if it were possible to be the perfect parent in every way – it will still be possible and pretty much inevitable that our kids will come to harm in some way.

    I feel exactly the same way you do…I could put it “I agree with the wisdom of helmets, but I question shrewdly the helmet LAW.”

  54. I’l echo all the other teachers.
    It IS good to take care of your kids. But it also good to let them fall, fail and learn. The balance is sooooo tricky.
    I follow the rules dutifully (authority scares the stuffin out of me) but sometimes wonder what they are for. I’d like to rebel a bit, but I don’t. I Admire all those of you who do.

  55. my boys have helmets but have never ridden with them on….of course part of the difference at this point is our driveway and yard is 6 acres of dirt and grass and rocks…as long as they are there no worries….
    they are also allowed to ride at my grandmas and my moms both of which have a great sidewalk for them to ride on…
    if we lived in town so to speak i might be more concerned…
    i do wonder about the whole bubble wrapping our kids thing. My 4 y.o’s pre k teacher was shocked….he was the only one of her students who didnt cry the first week and who doesnt ask for help on the playground or in the gym….

  56. What a great post! We lose our sense of adventure when we surround ourselves with worry and bubblewrap. It’s all about making choices and knowing when to take precautions.

  57. Guess what? I don’t have to make this decision because in our state, it’s a law that children under 14 have to wear a helmet. Yet I will still admit that I let my kids ride on the driveway and to the next door neighbor’s driveway (ten feet from ours) without one on. I don’t worry about the falls that they’ll take (and they have) but I would worry about drivers and any kind of jerking reaction they might have that causes them to go down.
    I also have another, more personal reason to encourage them to wear helmets when they’re riding where there are cars, but can’t bring myself to talk about it.

  58. We didn’t wear mandatory seatbelts in 1972, but my boys wear seatbelts now. Will they miss the wonder that is sliding across vinyl seats when taking a curve with staticy AM music coming through the dash? They will wear seatbelts not only because it’s the law, but because I want to keep them from as safe as possible from a catastrophic injury.

    I wish you could’ve known my lovely neighbor Sharon ( who died two weeks ago when taking a morning ride with her husband. She misjudged a turn, suffered a level 4 brain injury, and died 2 days later. A total freak accident that would have been made much more bearable if she’d had a helmet on.

    Let me manage the broken arms, stitches, scrapes and bruises that my boys suffer. Let them live and learn. But let me also teach my children how to be responsible people that will take the best care of their bodies as they can…and one way to do that is to make sure they’ve got those helmets on.

    3 weeks ago, I would’ve been more likely to nod in agreement with you. I can’t do that now. Hits too close to home.

  59. I totally agree! I have an issue with the “self-esteem” thing. Coddling children so that their precious self-esteem remains intact is an incredible disservice. Encouragement to do their best is key, but basically LYING to them so that they don’t get their feelings hurt is wrong on so many levels (there’s that commandment thing, and then the fact that no employer on the face of the earth is going to give a rip about their self-esteem if they aren’t doing their job to the best of their ability) … It’s a cruel world out there and we do our children a huge wrong if we don’t teach them how to navigate around the dangers while they are reaping the good.

  60. A dear friend of mine died in a bike accident – if she had been wearing a bike helmet, she would likely not have died. And I get severe migraines now that likely stem from a childhood concussion received while riding a bike.

    But all prudence aside – it is illegal here for a child to ride a bike without a helmet. My kids’ elbows and knees will show you that they’ve received plenty of life lessons from their bikes, anyhow.

  61. I agree with most everyone on here. I think if we all try hard we can find many people who cheated injury or death with no helmets or no seatbelts. And at the same token people with helmets and even seat belts on that died. My mil was in a car accident after that she survived, with injuries, her father, and my mil’s daughter and daughters boyfriend and a guy in the back of the truck all lived. no seatbelts. The girl that ran the stop sign, she had a seatbelt on. The belt cut through her chest and into a main artery of her heart. She died. Mil hates to be forced to wear her seatbelt.

    But then again that same mil jumps all over me when I let my son climb a tree or jump ramps on his bike. In the tree no helmet, on teh bike jumping ramps or on a skateboard or scooter, he is asked to wear his helmet. And I noticed the horseback riding thing mentioned above. My dd wears her helmet riding horses, because she has Cerebral palsy. Very mild, most would never know, but another brain injury could damage her more and cause seizures or worse. That said, she only wears the helmet while on the horse, not when she is cleaning hooves or bathing and brushing him. She is my only child to fall at the playground and hit her head. To which she was to sit and be watched just to make sure she did not hurt herself to badly. At almost 11 she knows that if she hits her head we watch her. Her brothers, well they don’t get “watched” near as much.

    I tell my mil all the time, the child could break his arm walking on a flat sidewalk, or running across the yard. The tree is not going to cause it…He has to climb and run and play and be a boy. Helmets are used for stunts for sure, or for dd most always. But walking, running, climbing, just being a child. Nah no bubble wrap.

    All from a gen-whatever girl, of 33. Mom to 3. (so am I gen-x?) Who homeschools not to protect them, but to let them explore and be themselves and still learn without the fears of the rest of the world. 🙂

  62. My husband completely agrees with you! He snapped at me this summer in front of his entire family because I asked that the kids wear their helmets during a bikeride. I’m usually pretty lenient with them…the whole learn from your own mistakes thing…but “brain damage is irreversible.” I catch a lot of flack over it!

  63. Shame on you. As a pediatrician, it’s my job to advocate for and protect kids, and wearing helmets while doing ANY activity on wheels is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent serious injury. Bicycle helmets reduce serious injury by 85%. 75% of bike-related deaths are due to head injuries. And yet bicycle helmets are worn by less than 10% of children riding bicycles! As a parent, you should be on the side of preventing your kid from being a statistic. Don’t worry, he’ll still get a chin or elbow scar falling off his bike, but if he wears a helmet he’s less likely to suffer traumatic brain injury. Be a responsible blogger (and parent) and recommend helmets at all times.

    * * * *

    I always love a comment that starts out “Shame on you”.

  64. I totally see your point, and I agree w/you. We live out on a dirt road that seldom sees a car, so every once in awhile, I let my kids ride without helmets. (I figure a car hitting them would be their reason for needing one.) They’ve never even fallen off their bikes, so I don’t worry too much.

    HOWEVER, I still worry when I allow them to live like I did as a child (in the same ways that you did). With the amount of bad luck my family seems to have (my siblings, I mean), I feel like I am tempting fate.

    I struggle between protecting my kids 24/7, and letting them live a little. It’s so hard!!!

  65. I loved this. We were talking with friends at church today about how different things were when we were growing up.

    As a boy, my husband and his friend Craig rode several miles to the swimming pool. They swam all day, and then rode back home late in the afternoon. 11 miles round trip.

    His mother’s only concern and parting words everyday were:


    * * * *
    Ah yes, those were the days when all you had to worry about was your kid sneaking a few Fritos and then diving in. Sigh. ~ AM

  66. I had to come back again. I went on Pioneer Woman’s blog and her kids are not wearing helmets, they have a jacked up ramp they are riding over… the comments are going to fly over there.

    It made me giddy.

  67. Recovery from brain injuries takes a long time — if at all possible.

    Some risks aren’t worth taking.

    Give the Moose a hug for us.

  68. I think the huge PC hype surrounding certain issues over others divorces it all from parents simply exercising common sense. The Rules can become the sole measure by which people judge whether they are keeping their kids safe, and occasionally it makes us act illogically or even ridiculously. It can come to the point where a person who would throw a fit about a child riding a bike 2 feet off of the ground, on a sidewalk, at a very slow speed, with a parent walking nearby–even one time!– might not think twice about a child doing something even more “risky” simply because it hasn’t been hyped as an issue.

    I, too, get annoyed when asked to throw my common sense and good parental judgement out the window in favor of a set of rules (which change)dictated to me.

  69. If you are not going to actually read the post, for the record, I am not anti-helmet and I am not an anti-helmet advocate, I see the value in wearing a helmet. I state that clearly up front and in multiple places in this post. If you come away thinking that I’m suggesting your child not wear a helmet or that I’m trying to convince you to allow your child to not wear a helmet, you have misunderstood. You should use your own good judgement.

    I do have misgivings about the helmet as the be-all end-all safety device. I do have misgivings about over-protecting children and saving them from failure and unpleasantness. I do resent the government and the PC contingent telling me I’m not smart enough to know when to put a helmet on my kid and shame on on me for disagreeing with them — which I don’t for Pete’s sake — so I guess it’s just shame on me for expressing these misgivings at all.

    Comments are closed on this post. This dead horse has been beaten beyond recognition.

Comments are closed.