Before any of us leave the house, whether for a hour, a day or a week, we tell each other to "PLEASE BE SAFE". You see, Safety is job one at our house. Lots and lots and lots of things can go wrong and still be fixed ... except for being seriously maimed, or worse. Especially if it is preventable. So we make being safe a big deal. We like coming home to each other.
Where does that policy come from?
Well, I can be
The other, seemingly hypocritical piece of that policy is one of using perspective and being proportionate. There is after all, a problem with being too safe and too fearful also.
Emily tells the story of being afraid of sharks as a much younger child. She was living with her mom at the time near a lake, where she frequently swam. It happened to be the same summer that the media showed shark attack after shark attack on the news. Of course, there were not any more sharks attacks that summer worldwide than any other year, it was just that the news covered more of them. And nothing grabs our rubber-necking viewership like "video of a shark attack at 5p, 6p and 10p!"
So it prompted the first of many, uh, lessons on perspective and disproportional fear. And yes, I know what you're thinking. My early step parenting skills were very much a round peg and a square hole so of course little 5 year old Emily did not quite understand those terms. (Really? You Think, Mike?) She did however come to understand that since there were no sharks in her lake, then there were therefore no sharks available to actually bite her. Aha! She was then able to come up with her own example of being afraid of not hitting your head on a star while jumping on the bed when the stars are so far up in the sky. Smart kiddo. Class dismissed.
But I digress....
When dropping Thunder Pants off at his baby camp today, I noticed that there was a little girl that we hadn't met yet that was so terrified by the presence of a new person - and a new man no less - that she stood against the wall, thumb in mouth, tear in eye and pee in drawers. The Head Duck said that she acted that way with other newcomers too (male and female) and even offered her the credential that I was "the baby's" Daddy. After the 15 or so minutes that I was there and didn't draw a sword, breath fire or make her eat broccoli, she eventually gave me a weak grin before I left.
This little girl was not well versed in our aforementioned logic and was - I assume - a product of her parents disproportionate desire for her to be fearful of people, men in particular, that she doesn't know. Not a bad lesson in general...but one lacking perspective. And since she was just a little whippersnapper, the responsibility to prepare her to actually function on her own falls to the parents.
Fear-mongering aside, let me add a some perspective: Strangers are not the problem. Bad Strangers are the problem.
Sound familiar? We talked about this regarding the evil step parent label too. Now again, I am not going deeply into this topic for several reasons and in fact I already deleted a collection of facts because it changes the whole tenor around around here. Suffice to say, bad things can can happen to innocent kids. And as parents we have to arm them with perspective so they learn the difference between those people and situations that are safe and those that are not. Back in the 1950's and 1960's the US government developed the Stranger Danger campaign using a picture of a wrinkled trench coated old man behind a tree with a bag of candy spying on children. "Yell and tell!" they were told. And in fact that probably worked if the threat was dressed in a wrinkled trench coat, etc. But not on the school cafeteria worker with the big smile, fake ID and criminal history of child sexual assault, huh?
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We have established that loving moms, dads, aunts and other caregivers, (regardless of size!) can be like a Subaru-sized, pissed off, Mother Bear when someone threatens their kids. So I would venture to say that when our kids are with us, that it is unlikely that any hump would survive through an encounter of trying to bring harm to our precious 'jewels'. Am I right?
So our challenge then is to help our children understand the difference between other bears that can protect them and the wolves (including those in sheep's clothes!) that won't ... all while not developing a fear of the entire wilderness.