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Fears I Won't Pass on to My Kids

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Whether they like it or not, my kids are going to have to deal with my fears. At 2 and 4 years old, they are already aware that I worry about them darting in front of cars on the street or choking on carrot sticks. I’ve also got a weird thing about them sitting properly in chairs for “safety reasons.” I’m sure we’ll just be adding to the list of “Mom’s Fears” as the years go by. Lucky them.

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But I want them to know that they actually are lucky that I am not exposing them to all the fears that I grew up with. Under the shadow of my parents’ and teachers’ uniquely 1980s fears, my siblings and I managed to have some fun, even though we were routinely warned against the perils of the day.

So, for the record, I will not be instilling the following five fears in my children, even though they were a regular part of my otherwise idyllic childhood.

1. Lead poisoning. Both my teachers and my parents were extremely concerned about the prospect of lead poisoning. Hence the endless admonitions not to bite, run with, or jab another person with a pencil. Maybe it was because we used Husky pencils that were big enough to double as small weapons. But with all the warnings about how dangerous pencils were, I swear I grew up thinking that I was one jab away from an early grave.

I was so terrified of white vans, I quit my 1st grade soccer team because the coach drove one.

2. Rabies. Maybe it was Texas thing, but I remember being in kindergarten when I first learned that a stray dog could give me rabies. My teacher explained in great detail that the treatment for rabies involved getting 20 shots in the stomach every week for a month. I don’t think I slept for three nights after the Rabies 101 Lesson. To this day, I still shy away from unattended animals.

3. Old Refrigerators. I grew up in the middle of the suburbs, not far from malls, Howard Johnsons and Best Buys. I lived nowhere near the town dump, but, nevertheless, I was repeatedly warned to never, ever play in an abandoned refrigerator, “because if you get in and shut the door, you will suffocate.” Where did my mother think I was going to go encounter an old refrigerator? In front of the Bennigan’s or Spencer’s Gifts?

4. White Vans. Somehow, my youth was peppered with stories about kidnappers luring children into their white vans. I was so terrified of white vans, I quit my 1st grade soccer team because the coach drove one. Why the adults in my life harped on the color of the potential predator’s van was never clear. But my children should be lucky that I’m adamant that a potential abductor’s car could be any color at all.

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5. Nuclear Holocaust. I think we can thank the televised debut of The Day After for this ubiquitous, post-Cold War fear that big, bad Russia was going to blow us off the map. I remember hearing snippets about nuclear war with Russia all through my childhood. Of course, the threat is no less real today; in fact, it’s arguably become more real. For the life of me, however, I can’t think of why I need to explain that to my small children. For now, I’m going to put them on a need-to-know-basis and just pray they never need to know.

What about you? Did your parents or teachers warn you against dangers that make you laugh today? Will you pass them along to your children?

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