Parenting Risk

What is dangerous is arguing it’s not..

Written by Kirstie Pelling
King size bunk beds

Ever tried king size bunks?

What is dangerous is arguing it’s not..

I am in bed with a fisherman. Well, not literally, the fisherman is on top of me. Well, not literally, he’s hovering over my head. Let me just clarify. I am in a set of kids bunk beds, double kids bunk beds. Yes, literally. Two king size beds, one on top of the other, scaffolded together with what I hope are strong steel pillars. Because my husband is in the bed above, without a fisherman but with three kids.

I am staring at a picture of an Icelandic fisherman who is staring out at a fishing boat on a cold grey sea. The picture is underneath the top bunk, or is that on the roof of the bottom bunk. I don’t know and I don’t care. I’m warm and about to dream of cod wars, as soon as the giggling and wriggling on top stops. And I don’t mean the fisherman.

“Why can’t we have beds like this at home?” asks Hannah, peering down at me over the upstairs rails, to a chorus of approval from her bed mates. Well, mostly Stuart. He’s such a kid.

“Be careful Hannah, get back from the edge,” I scold. “Bunk beds are dangerous.”

Bunk beds are dangerous??

There’s more laughter upstairs. But I’m serious.

“Don’t you remember the time Cameron fell out of the top bunk and smashed his head on the floor?” I remind them all.

Sugar coated cabin

The “sugar coated roof! cabin – scene of a serious bunk bed incident

“He was only trying to lick the roof to see if it was made out of sugar,” says Matthew.

“It wasn’t. He fell out, hit his head and was sick,” I retort.

“The sugar goblin pushed me out,“ cries Cameron who is now hanging over the edge too.

“You were asleep and rolled over. Get back from the sides all of you.”

Am I cotton wool parenting again?

Our family does this, creates sugar coated legends out of what to me are very real and dangerous incidents. Why is it only me that sees the danger?

“We should have beds like this at home,” says Stuart. Now they’re all peering over the side and I’m sure it’s going to topple. “Why do we all have separate beds and separate rooms?”

“That’s a great idea Dad. We could have a five singles tower bed,” says Matthew.

“We’d be one happy tiered family.”

“Yay,” they all cheer.

Crossing a river on a log - cotton wool parenting

Crossing a river on a log… dangerous??

Twenty years of arguing and I still get it wrong

It’s not a great idea. But there’s no point arguing. Twenty years of arguing and you’d think I’d know that riding a bike on ice is not dangerous, trying to cross a border illegally is not dangerous, crossing a fast flowing river on a fallen tree is not dangerous, kids bunk beds with or without rails are not dangerous. What is dangerous is arguing it’s not dangerous. I’m fed up being cast as Cassandra, always having to remind people of the very real dangers of living.

I try a different tack. “Anyone want to come down for a cuddle with mum? It’s so nice and warm down here. And I’ve got my own fisherman.”

They respond with a pillow fight. One of the pillows flies over the edge and lands with a thump on the floor. Stuart just laughs it off. The fisherman is the only man getting anywhere near my bed tonight.

Do you disagree with others about risk?


About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.


  • You are so right, Kirstie. And you are so wrong. Bunk beds are potentially dangerous, but usually harmless. Plus they have rails for a reason. BUT you can fall through the opening by the ladder. Our daughter sleeps in one, she has an otherwise tiny room which can now house a desk and a chest of drawers in the extra room under the bed. She slept in a (lower) bunk bed since the age of four. Never fell out of it. Our son sleeps in an ordinary bed, and fell out of it repeatedly. No rails, see?

    Bunk beds are not the point. Crossing a river on a log is not the point, nor is climbing Mt Everest. The point is you’re only wiser after the fall, or absence of it. And since most of the time most of us don’t fall, an optimist’s life is just so much easier. His giddy head need not bother with all the worries and doubts. The rare cases that prove him wrong do not hit him harder than the pessimist, but are still easier tolerated.

    Which is all not meant to be in favour of total lightheadedness or open madness, like not taking a rope to Mt Everest, or spare clothes to an icy beach, or refusing to wear a helmet when cycling or to give vaccination shots to a baby.

    There is a healthy level of basic precaution, one that in most cases, after some consideration, the optimist and the pessimist can agree upon. And there are events where all precaution wouldn’t have helped you anyway. So relax, sit back and enjoy the show.

    • Oh Thomas I am right and wrong! Stuart always says this. Well sometimes, mostly he says I’m wrong. In our relationship Stuart plays the optimist and I tend to play the pessimist so perhaps we balance each other out. I do my best to sit back and relax, just not near bunk beds or water.

  • In our family, my husband is the one who is more cautious. It cracks me up with the things he worries about! I always tell him, “The girls are lucky that I am the one who homeschools them!

    However…..I agree, bunkbeds are dangerous!

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