Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Perception vs. Reality

I have a cat that until he came here had always been housebound:  three years and he had never touched grass, or seen snow, or felt the wind rippling his fur.  He had never played Chase The Leaf, or Drink Muddy Water,. or Climb The Tree and Pretend to Get Stuck. His voice box, I am pretty sure, had been removed, since the only sound he can make is a tiny rusty "acckkkk acckkkkk".   In two years he has never voluntarily allowed us to touch him.  If you do pat him, he curls into a ball and waits for it to be over.  When he goes out, he is frightened of wind, refuses to touch snow, and despises rain and cold.

In reading around the blogs and on the net, I see something most disturbing;  women/parents  who treat their own children in just this way.  I can understand being fearful, I can understand holding your breath while your kid goes to the neighbor's, alone, for the first time.  He's scared too.  But it does seem that we have somehow become a nation of frightened people and we're teaching our kids to be the same way.   Play dates, constant supervision, cotton wool carefully placed where they might fall, emotionally or otherwise. 

I blame, partly, the media and the instant-on culture that gets its news in a stream, all day.  We hear about rapes in California, and women in Ohio lock their doors.  We see almost first hand car bombings, police stakeouts,  robberies stopped in progress.  The immediacy is numbing.  Children are abducted or abused or killed and we now hear about all of them, continually.  So we pull the drapes and keep our own kids close.

What seems to have been lost is a sense of proportion, a sense of what is appropriate in our own lives.  It also seems we are now unable to sort out what is truly dangerous and what we perceive to be dangerous.

To teach a  child caution is one thing.  To teach them to fear is to hamstring them for life, unable to function in a difficult world,  and stunned when they finally realize what's out there and how ill-pepared they are for any of it. 


  1. Rather than teaching caution, an impossible task for most kids, I taught my son strategies. If this happens, do that, if that happens do this, etc. And the value of looking more confident than you feel!

    What did you do for your kids? I'm interested in hearing.

  2. Postscript about cats with rusty little voices: I took care of hundreds of cats over my years in my petcare service, and there were some who had that same tiny voice, out of proportion with their bodies. Often they were longhairs, but I don't know if that's connected. At any rate, even ones who had been in loving homes all their lives could have that tiny scratchy little sound, so it might put your mind at rest to realize this may simply be normal for this cat.

  3. I never had kids, so I draw on being one, once upon a time. I think that's valid, since what was taught me has shaped me for good or ill. And I was taught as all kids were, don't take candy from strangers, don't go with them if they ask you to, and if you get lost stand very still and mummy or daddy will find you.

    My mother, as a city woman, was terrified of the countryside, so until I was 11 or so I was never left alone, never allowed out of sight.

    But when we moved to the city for two years when I was 9, I quickly picked up two sets of girlfriends and spent entire weekends stravaging around a fairly large city, only returning at supper time. She seemed totally unconcerned. Took me years to understand the difference for her.

    My kids, if I had had any, would have grown up up here, and would have had as much free time as they needed. Beyond that I hope I would have made them careful, but not afraid.

    And yes, coping strategies to deal with what came galloping by.

    as to cats, I will take that as gospel, since this is my first encounter with squeaky voiced cats...this one, Toby, is a short hair, but so much of it in spring he looks like a molting sheep.