The cracked back of my five-year-old son’s helmet after he rode his bike into a moving car and came out unscathed. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

OPINION: On helmets and helicopter parenting

How the “what-ifs’ and close calls can drive people with kids crazy

I had an inch of red wine in front of me as I noshed on a cracker with brie and honey.

It was a rare moment with my wife while out with friends for an evening of relaxation.

Then the phone rang.

The babysitter. A look on my wife’s face that I won’t soon forget. And then the outright panic: “We have to go! Everett’s been hit by a car!”

Our five-year-old son.

We were told he was likely OK. Still, these were the few words said before we literally ran to the car, and before I sped the very short distance to home.

A calm hovered over me at that moment as – interestingly in hindsight – I farmed out my panic to my wife and her unchanging expression, and tried to harvest a brief sense of calm.

Was he OK? Broken bones? Head injury?

Just drive.

As we arrived at the scene, directed by our eight-year-old daughter, there he was, being comforted by a doctor neighbour and aside from some scratches and a hurt ankle he was, in a word, OK.

The driver’s car with a large dent and red-paint scratches, his red bike with bent handlebars, and his expensive helmet cracked.

But his head? Fine. He was OK.

A police officer arrived followed by an ambulance, both of whom were comforting for my little guy.

And for parents who have suffered real tragedy with their children, the personal anecdote told so far here may seem banal, but those of us with kids know that sometimes parenting is about close calls. And we are left with what-ifs.

My wife and I started as helicopter parents, moving slowly if reluctantly at times towards the free range. But of course those helicopter/free range generalizations oversimplify parenting. We all try to balance between the two extremes.

This week, May 28 to June 3, is Bike to Work Week, a time to try to consider cycle commuting, but also cycling in general. I’ve always worn a bike helmet and made sure my kids did too, but part of me always thought: in a really minor incident are they necessary? And in a really severe crash, the helmet won’t help.

But after seeing my little guy crack the back of his head on the ground, emerging uninjured because of his helmet, it occurs to me there probably are a great many incidents like this where the helmet does help.

Yet so many still don’t wear helmets, I see them all the time, kids even commuting to school. Often happy families riding with kids wearing helmets, but parents not.

Little is more boring than continuous nagging about safety, but seriously people, helmets. Wear them.

Part of the issue of parenting is that we can never know when we’ll get that call or see an accident first hand.

We’ve owned a trampoline for years, a near death trap if you talk to some people. And if you ponder all the ways your children can be harmed, you’ll be a nervous wreck.

So it’s not always about helmets, it’s about common sense and staying safe.

Helicopter parenting doesn’t work, but you never know when you’ll get the call.

I think the best we can do as parents is teach safety, make sure our kids understand why things like helmets are important and then, well, cross our fingers.

Paul Henderson is a reporter at the Chilliwack Progress

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo Hospital Auxiliary has been fundraising for 120 years

Hospital auxiliary president says group pioneered Wi-Fi at hospitals on Island

Gabriola Island community bus sees 100,000th rider

Gabriola Environmentally Responsible Trans-Island Express celebrated milestone Jan. 25

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Mayor and council aren’t necessary

Instead of candidates, put municipal priorities on the ballot, says letter writer

RDN budget talks to include public consultation results

Director not impress with level of engagement

Pro wrestler Raven to re-live ECW, WCW, WWE days

Pro wrestler host a talk Jan. 31 at the Queen’s in Nanaimo

VIDEO: Music stars pay tribute to Kobe Bryant at Grammys award show

Music artists including Billy Ray Cyrus, Rick Ross and Kirk Franklin paid tribute to Bryant

Furstenau flays NDP as she launches B.C. Green Party leadership bid

LNG, Site C dam wrong for environment, Cowichan MLA says

Woman guilty of dangerous driving crash that left Saanich girl, then 11, unresponsive

Nikirk guilty of one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm

Pregnant B.C. woman stuck in Wuhan, the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak

Woman is due to give birth in Wuhan, China unless she can get out

Victoria-area wolf tranquilized after being seen running around neighbourhood

Officials say wolf unharmed during its ‘arrest’

Ontario confirms second presumptive coronavirus case in wife of first patient

Both arrived on a China Southern Airlines flight after having been to Wuhan

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Most Read