Keep them Safe with Paranoia and Fear

One day I said to my kids in a stern voice, “Don’t play that way, because if you do one of you will fall and hit your head. Then you’ll pass out, and you’ll be bleeding profusely. I’ll have to take you to the hospital, and we’ll be waiting three hours. No money for the vending machine, and the stinky old man sitting by us will try to give you candy. But you won’t get it, because you never know! And that’s why Mama always checks your candy on Halloween.”

At the end of this speech, my children stared at me in a daze, terrified of they don’t know what, because they’ve forgotten what I’ve told them not to do in the first place.

My husband can say to the kids matter-of-factly, “No, you can’t play with that. It’s dangerous!” If they ask why, he simply responds with the classic, “Because I told you so!”
But if they ask me why, I’m likely to give them a gruesome, full-bodied answer. This doesn’t just apply to questions concerning their safety.

Not long ago, my son pointed to a picture of an Egyptian mummy.

“How did they make mummies?’ he asked.

I understand his fascination. But what to say? It never occurs to me to lie, I really don’t know. I believe it was a complicated, mysterious process – which nobody does nowadays, so don’t you worry!

“You really don’t want to know,” I say, feeding his appetite.

“Oh, come on. Tell me, Mama!”

“Well…alright then.” I laugh and make room for him on the couch. “Okay, first they took a long metal hook which they inserted into the nose of the dearly departed…”

The other day the kids were playing with a splintery board. They leaned it on the slide, so they could scamper up to their playfort.

“Hey, hey, hey!” I yelled. “You get that board off there right now!”

“Why?” said my son.

It has rusty nails. Do you want a tetanus shot?”

“What’s a tetanus shot?” he asked nervously.

“It’s a shot you have to get when a rusty old nail goes through your foot,” I said. “The needle they give it with is, like, a quarter inch thick. Last time I got one, I passed out. My arm hurt for days. I ran a fever, too.”

Berto looked at the board, finally spotted the nails, and pitched it over the slide as if it were on fire.

I nodded my head in approval and went back inside. But next time I think I’ll caution them with a story that doesn’t involve passing out in excruciating pain. I’ll tell them about stitches, perhaps.

About the Writer
Hillary is a frustrated, starving blogger who yearns to play the banjo like Steve Martin. Her four kids sometimes feel they are more mature than she is. This is probably because she threatens to sell them to the zoo regularly and dances like a Charlie Brown character. She writes at No Pens, Pencils, Knives or Scissors.


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  1. Tracy says:

    Oh, come on! Instilling fear works! My kid WIGS OUT at the most miniscule of cuts, even the sight of a drop of blood makes her cry- so when she stands up on her loft bed HELL YES I tell her she’ll crack her head open if she falls down. Blood will POUR OUT of her head and soak through towels and I’ll cry. So what if she’s only 4? ;)

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    • Hillary says:

      Tracy, sorry I have been late in replying to your very astute comment. But wouldn’t you just know? Before this was published I was in a car accident where a motorcyclist ran a red light and T-boned me. Now I have another tale or terror to weild in order to make my kids make wise decisions!

      But, oh yes, anything ANYTHING to keep them safe. And it pays to be descriptive of the consequences.

  2. Alexandra says:


    You’re so smart, little grasshopper.

    LOVE seeing you here at Aiming Low.

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  3. “Attachment Parenting,” “Detachment Parenting,” “Helicopter Parenting”… personally, I just threaten to break their knuckles and call it a day. Bravo, Mama!

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  4. Jessi says:

    The other day we saw a Praying Mantiss and I proceeded to tell my three year old all about how it mates, kills and then lays eggs in the hollowed out body of the daddy. It didn’t occur to me until much later that perhaps this wasn’t a good plan.

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  5. Margaret says:

    Are you German?? Because I just spent a very funny dinner with my German dad and aunt duscussing cautionary tales commonly told to children. A little boy used to suck his thumb until his mother cut them off and now he has no thumbs. A little girl played with matches, burned herself up, and now her two cats cry over all that’s left of her: her two red shoes. Seriously, Germans parented out of fear and terror! ;) I think my parents’ generation broke the cycle, but these cautionary tales are even on youtube now!

    • Hillary says:

      No, Margaret, I don’t think I am German, but hey – it must be in the ancestry somewhere, because my sister does this same thing with horrific cautionary tales. I think that all the old fairy tales were meant to keep kids safe and behaving. Me? I invent as I go.

  6. Maggie S. says:

    I think you’re doing it right.

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  7. I had to get a tetanus shot after I stepped on a rusty nail on my first day of Girl Scout day camp. Unfortunately, my mom didn’t scare the bejezuz out of me in advence. lol
    Funny post!

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    • Hillary says:

      I’ve been to your site, Mod Mom; it is really unique.

      But, ouch! That can’t have been good….makes you wish you’d heard one of my outlandish tales, huh? :-) I am so happy that you liked my post!


  1. [...] Honestly, how we were able to survive that meal, I really don’t know. As I was clearing the dishes, I said, “I’m going to have to toss the bag. I can’t eat those. Nobody should eat those. In fact, they’re so bad they could be used as a CIA torture device.” [...]

  2. [...] Well… maybe not as safe as we might have hoped. [...]

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