The Parent Playbook: Better Safe Than Sorry

BETTER safe than sorry. Parents with such a mentality tend to be risk-averse, anti-adventure, possibly even paranoid. These are the sorts of parents who tend to encourage their children to spend less CCA or co-curricular hours in a week. Why don’t they support those grueling, six-hour or more CCAs, like sports or uniformed groups? No, too taxing, too time-consuming. No wonder the students who go for CCAs such as Media Resources and Astrology Club are considered wimps—losers, if you will. 

Then there are those who offer their services as librarians and bookshop helpers. Certainly, they hone their skills of organization, but as far as competitive skills go, that’s unlikely. The only upside seems to be this: they have more time to study—having saved three hours per week compared to their sporting counterparts—and hence they will “do better in their academics.”

This whole “academics” argument is one critical reason why parents go the safer route. They cannot bear to see their children break an arm or sprain their ankle in any kind of activities that has a flavor of those you find at the Outward Bound School.

Even when it comes to sex education and sexual responsibility studies, some parents adopt such a no-no attitude that you wonder when they would ever let their children grow up. What could be so bad and so wrong about understanding, at the age of 15, the importance of safe sex, or better yet, no sex? If not now, when would they ever learn about sexually transmitted diseases?

They are quick to tick “No” on the consent form, signing off with two other checked boxes: one, “I don’t want him/her to have sex education just yet, and two, “I would teach him/her myself.” Their clear sense of “No, thank you” is not only protective, but paranoid. Fifteen is not too early to learn about sex; in fact, it is a little late, in my mind.

So, the poor overprotected kids of overly protective parents, are left to live antiseptic lives, devoid of adventure and new learning. No sports, no sex education, and there’s more: no street food too. That’s the safe-rather-than-sorry rule that students have to contend with when they go on overseas trips. Granted, the edict may come from the teachers-in-charge, but the whole motivation of this ban are inspired by parents. No school wants to have to be responsible for a case of dysentery or diarrhea. Better safe than sorry.

It is the kind of mindset that embraces security over adventure, stability and certainty over risk. If the parents of Joseph Schooling were more concerned with Joseph’s academic future, following the conventional thinking that studies trumps sports, we wouldn’t have such a promising swimming star today. We wouldn’t have had the thrill of watching our very own swimmer beat Michael Phelps in a time trial.

Imagine if the Schoolings never listened to the possibility of their son’s talent blossoming, imagine if they simply brushed off their son’s speed in the pool as just some impressive extra-curricular feat, imagine if all they thought about was that training would disrupt his normal school life. That would have been sad, and sorry—sorry not just for Joseph himself, but his home country.

Safe may be smart and preventive, but no great achievement was ever forged without mistakes and missteps. What the safe folks see as sorry are merely failures that take adventurers and risk-takers closer to their dreams.

(590 words)

Nathaniel Soo, Secondary Three
July 2016

For more essays by Nathaniel, visit Nathaniel Writes

This essay was written in response to the ‘O’ Levels 2013 exam, Question #1:
Parents often believe that it is better to be safe than sorry. Do you consider young people to be too protected? 

You may also enjoy:
Strawberry Generation, Strawberry Parents

For more ‘O’ Level essays, visit:
Student Essays
2014 ‘O’ Levels Essays by Viv

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