Wednesday, March 08, 2006

And now your lovely comments.

With responses that are way too long....

Tink said...
You can't protect her. PREPARE her. You're a wonderful Mom. Your love and fear for her shows that.

mama_tulip said... Wow. I was *just* thinking about this the other day. I used to be totally fearless and now...not so much. For me, a lot of it had to do with my mom's death. I felt so vulnerable after that. Before I felt like nothing could pierce me, and after she died I felt almost like a sitting duck. And after I had Julia I really felt it.But, to echo Tink, I feel like all I can do is prepare Julia, and Olvier. And myself. I try to love every second of the day with them and to live in the 'now', although it is hard sometimes.

Peevish said... I don't have kids (not sure about that whole thing yet) but I have an idea how you're feeling. When I started going out with my husband, he was still recovering from a nasty relationship years earlier. When he first told me he loved me, I freaked. I suddenly realized how much his happiness depended on me, and how much I could hurt him if I did something wrong. Eleven years later, we're still here and going strong. You can do this - and I agree with Tink - prepare, because you can't protect.

Rationally, I totally agree. Emotionally, I get a little worked up about the whole preparation issue. So far, the prep work has been in the way of "Don't leave my sight, and if you can't see mommy, or daddy, or someone you know...stay put and find a woman to help you find us." The die-hard I'm-feel-like-I-am-scarring-you is imminent.

A lot of this was precipitated by a conversation that I had with Little A last Saturday morning. We were taking a speedy trip to Target to get her little friend a birthday gift. I had to drop her off at her dad's early to get to Roo's on time, and I wanted also to pick up something for Roo's mom, so I kept pressing upon Little A about how we must be really quick in the store. (We all know of the Target black-hole, right? I'll just get one little forward...3 hours and $234.56) What comes next?

Little A: Well mommy, I know where the toy part is, and you know where to go to get your thing, so I'll just meet you back at the front of the store.

Mom: (Deep breath) Umm, nooooooo. Thanks for being so thoughtful honey, but you're a little too young to go off in a big place like Target alone. We'll be fine, we'll just walk fast.

Little A: But I know where it is. I can do it.

Mom: (Inhale starting to freak out here). That might be true, but it's not just about you.

Little A: Mommy, I can do it.

Mom: Listen Little A, it's not safe for you to go wandering around a big place like that alone because sometimes there are other grown-ups who aren't really that nice hanging around, and if they saw a sweet little girl like you, they might try to do something that's not nice.

Little A: Everybody is nice to me.

Mom: I know it seems like that, and most people are really nice, but sometimes they aren't and it's hard to tell and that's why you need to hang around with a grown-up like me or daddy or N, etc...

Little A: But everybody is nice to me. And if somebody tried to do something mean, I'd just kick them.

Mom: (feeling somewhat panicked at the thought of Little A's scenario) Little A, this is not the Powerpuff girls. If a grown-up wanted to do something bad to you, they could, if you were alone. They could take you, kidnap you, and there really wouldn't be much you could do about it. End of story. You are not old enough to go off alone in a store. I'm not trying to be mean, I'm just trying to keep you safe because I love you.

(This conversation went on like this for quite a while, but I'm giving you the abridged version.)

Little A: (grumbles) I could still do it.

Mom: But you WON'T. EVER. Until you are older and I say it's ok, right???

Little A: Fine....I won't.

So it freaked me out a LITTLE. She's SO trusting and so fearless. Which emotionally, I'm happy about. I want her to feel safe and trusting. It's one of the saddest things to me that Little A (and kids in general) don't feel the kind of safety I felt when I was little. I could run through the neighborhood with very little care.

"Don't cross streets." That was my mom's biggest concern about me playing with my little friends out and about. Cars. Not pedofiles, kidnappers, and murderers. Cars. Pretty easy to avoid those cars when compared with what we've got now. I even remember this sort of public/family safety you? A kid runs into the street after a bouncing ball and gets run over and the announcer peals a flattened rubber picture off the pavement and advises you to not let this kid be yours. I can't imagine even what an equivalent commercial would be like now.

But like I said, it kills me that she'll never feel that level of safety, and I think it's gonna have some baaaad repercussions on her generation. Innocence, to me, is so important in being able to develop trust. It may be the most important thing. Because if you can't even remember that feeling....that feeling of absolute ease, comfort and safety, how will you be able to recognize it and develop it when you are older and trying to navigate yourself through every different kind of relationship that you can imagine. I feel like scaring her too much is damning her to a life where she'll always feel sort of alone and not quite connected.

So, balancing all of that with the absolute need to prepare her gets tricky.

When I was relaying the whole story to Roo, she suggested some fairy tale therapy, pointing out that there is a reason that fairy takes are scary. I said, "Fairy tales aren't scary anymore. They've niced them all up. It sucks." And we concluded that it might be time to open up a can of Hans Christian Anderson on her ass. "Kids who wander off in the woods might get eaten by a witch....or a wolf..." Kids who take a treat from a seemingly kindly old woman might die.... Sure, its just a story, but wonder about that story the next time you want to wander Target, ok??? I don't want to tell her the real nuts and bolts. I don't want her to learn the word molester at the age of seven. I just want her to have the proper amount of fear, and a few choice tactics for if she's ever in danger.

TB said...
Whew. This is a tough one for me. Even though I don't have children yet, I think I see where you're coming from with this post. It's the thing I worry the most about when I think about having a child of my own - being always afraid for them and not being able to move past it. I think that there's a delicate balance we have to walk between healthy fear and neurosis. Because of the way you are examining it, looking at how motherhood has changed you in this way, I am positive that you are beautifully posisitioned on that tightrope and that you will teach your daughter to be as fearless as you were and as you are now.

Iamadesigner said... I don't have kids either although I can relate to fear in a big way. For me it comes in waves that are sometimes overwhelming in such a way that I can't see how I will ever live any differently. I think it is courageous of you to acknowledge your fears-hang in there.

Thanks Teebs and Iamadesigner (I always see your name as Lama know that's not how you spell Llama, but it still makes me giggle :) ). That damn balance, always coming to bite me in the arse! But you will move past it, or at least function within it. He/she will make sure you function with it. And I guess that's the best balance we can hope for.

Kristen said...
I was always a fearful thinker (I'll die young, never have kids, blabla) and now I'm still alive and I have kid. Not much has changed - honestly, I just now fear that she'll die or I'll die and not get to see her grow up.I can't really think about it - or about if anything would happen to her (like the poor parents of Natalee Hollaway, and others like her) - because I'm not sure I could go on living - at least in the emotional sense, anyway.

Nancy said... I think you are absolutely a brave person to look at your fear this way, V. And I can understand -- I feel like I could live through almost anything, but if something were to happen to one of my kids, I don't know if I could continue on in life. It's amazing that parenthood requires such a level of trust and letting go, every day -- when I drop my kids off at day care every morning, I have to trust that they will be safe and secure without me, that they will be protected. It is a major leap of faith and sometimes it's terrifying.You are an amazing mom because you care. That fear represents your deep love for Little A. Also, I am jealous that you and Roo got to hang. But I'm happy for both of you that you did.

It's amazing what they do for self-preservation, isn't it? I mean I was never all out suicidal, but questioning defintely. Now it's just nonsense. I could never do anything that might leave Little A motherless. And yeah, if something ever happened to her.... That's where that sentence always ends for me. There's just nothing after it.

Brooke said...
I feel like a fraud to say I understand. But can I say I care?

You bet. And you are NO fraud. You're so caring and ready...don't sell yourself short.

Dawn said...
I think you have defined what is at the heart of parenting. Fear and Love. Back to Back, Day in and Day out. And yes, People will hurt her, and she will come back to you for healing. You will patch her up and send her back out- cause that is what Mom's do.Then we take hot bath and cry.

Word. I've got me some pretty free flowing tear ducts over here. I feel like it's really my only hope...showing her that she can always and should always come to me. I'm so trying to get her in the habit of talking to me before she hits sullen teenagerville. Crossing my fingers everyday that it will work/help.

Brooke said...
Sending hugs, V. Examining your fears is very brave.

Chris said...

Thanks. Endless support is always welcome. ;)

roo said...
V, I love little A, and you. And my faith in your parenting abilities is unshakeable.

Thanks roo. We love you too. :) Could I have a toke on that unshakeable faith?


Blogger JayneSays said...

Oh, oh, oh, this topic breaks my heart a little (and why I don't think I will be having kids any time soon.) My mom left us alone a LOT (I'm talking months at times, with grandma, etc.) and yeah, I got molested when I was 5. (By my uncle, living in my grandmother's house, not a stranger.)

If she had been around more, or had prepared me and had frank discussions about how if anyone ever touched me I was to tell her no matter what they said etc. this might not have happened. But it might have. Either way, I survived and I am a strong woman today. Maybe stronger than if it hadn't happened?

For all that, I DO believe the media hype up the fear factor when statistically most adults are safe and nice . . . I like the fairy tale idea. Also, most criminal justice organizations (like the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance) have good coloring books and simple stories on what to do around strangers, etc. that can be helpful. Lord, I didn't help at all, did I? I'll sign off now . . .

2:04 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

Excellent synthesis. It's nice to know that maybe in some small way I helped :o)

8:48 PM  
Anonymous roo said...

Anytime, V.

9:40 PM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

For the first time in like, years, seriously, I turned on Oprah yesterday and rolled around on the floor with Oliver while Julia was asleep. I wasn't paying much attention to Oprah and when I realized when her show was on child predators -- ones that have been captured -- I had to turn it off, because I just couldn't stomach what had happened to those children.

Your conversation with Little A made me think of Julia. She is *so* open and outgoing with strangers. Dave and I have discussed this at length but she is too young to grasp the concept of "Don't go up to that man over there and tell him your name and your brother's name, because it's not exactly safe" yet.

I don't really know where I'm going with this...I just want you to know you're not alone in how you're feeling.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I make Emily walk next to me with her hand in the back pocket of my jeans when we are in stores.

I also had to have the "If an adult tries to tke you , you need to yell "THIS IS NOT MY MOMMY/DADDY" at the top of your lungs so the other adults know that you aren't just being naughty or pretending.

Raising a young woman today is hard. We, as adults, watch what could happen - know the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault - perhaps intimately - but also want our daughters to face the world with unafraid eyes. But much of the trick, I think, is teaching our daughters to listen to their "gut", their "inner voice" - their fear - and not ignore it, or let it overwhelm them, but give them pause and time to evaluate their situation.Our 'gut" is never wrong, but we learn to desensitize ourselves, perhaps to be nice or polite, but we do. And that is when we get into trouble.

When Em expresses her desire to go to the bathroom in restaurants by herself ( can you hear my screams of terror?) I vascillate between my need to protect her and her need to grow. I look for ways to accomodate both - I will walk with you to the bathroom, but I will stand outside. I also explain to her that it is My issue as a Mommy, and not my lack of confidence in her abilities.

I'll can it now, but you've given me a new post....

PS The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim - My fav on fairy tales and their psycho-social niche

9:51 PM  
Anonymous roo said...

Ditto on the Bettelheim.

12:18 AM  
Blogger V said...

Jayne - I'm so sorry you went through that, but you certainly are strong now. That's another whole catch on the whole thing, isn't it? The bad things that happened to me certainly shaped who I am, and that's not all so horrible.

Mama-Tulip - I think Little A and Julia might be some serious kindred spirits.

Dawn - I totally agree about the is totally the most important thing to develop. And I do the SAME thing with the bathroom...though a lot of times I sort of swing the door WAY open as I let her in to see who might be in there. I just hate letting go of her at all. :(

9:10 AM  
Blogger Mignon said...

I'm just catching up, but I really respect you for the first Fearful Post and the well-written follow up. How well you've articulated and encapsulated what it is to be a mom (and especially a mom to a little girl). I spent the first 6 months of my daughters life crying at the thought of the shit that happens to kids in their lifetime, and I think I could easily revert to that sentiment and bawl at any moment.

Like MamaT said, any time I read or see on tv a story about molestation I turn it off. I know it happens. I mean I know it happens. The reminder just makes me terribly sad and depressed.

And thank you Dawn - I've been searching for the appropriate way to tell Madeleine to act if a stranger were to touch or grab her. Screaming isn't enough, I know. I am going to talk to her about it first thing in the morning.

9:18 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I have had a barfing kid so I didn't get to check up on you. Wow. You've been really struggling with this. And I'm sure I will too very, very soon.

12:52 AM  
Blogger Brooke said...

You were so sweet to comment to everyone individually! I really appreciate your honesty and compelling words. Please keep writing and sharing.

10:59 PM  

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