It’s been one of those “one for the record books” weeks. I won’t trouble you with all the details, except to say that if your loved ones surround you in one piece, remember to hug them tight tonight.
As for me, this week I got to see exactly how much I’ve been living in LaLa Land. (This is the part where I’d really appreciate your feedback.)
I’ve mentioned previously about how I’ve always felt very comfortable leaving Cait alone in the house if I needed to run out for a quick errand. One, because Cait and I have had dozens of very pointed conversations about “stranger danger” over the years. And we’d participated in a school program about how to keep yourself safe, both on the internet, and out and about the town. We’d even practiced what she’d do if someone she didn’t know tried to approach her for “help,” etc. And, two, because I knew that with Kiera by her side, no one would ever be able to get into the house, never mind near her person. Of that I was absolutely certain. And, three, because I never leave the house without reminding her not to answer the phone or the door when I’m not home.
Lest you think me a tad paranoid, let me share a few wonderful tales from my days of living in New York City. First, there was the time I was minding my own business walking down 57th St in broad daylight, when I noticed people running away from me. Before I really had time to process the oddness of that, I heard a pop–like a flat tire blowout. I turned around to see that the police had just shot an escaped criminal, who was running to grab me. There was also the time I had my house broken into — when I was in the house, alone. And then there was the time that a guy with a knife tried to jump me in a parking garage. I turn into a world class sprinter when I get scared, which is what saved me that time.
There are more stories I could share, but the point is that “stranger danger” and I have been on an intimate first name basis going way back. That’s why it has been so important for me to educate my daughter (without trying to scare the begeezus out of her).
So, imagine my surprise when Andrew and I had to run out (literally, only for ten minutes) to go vote, only to return home to hear that a stranger had stopped at our house. Our house, which has no nearby neighbors. Our house, at night. Our house, with no adults home.
Seeing that Cait was none the worse for wear, I assumed that she’d handled the matter as she’d been instructed a hundred times. But just to be sure, I asked her what she did.
Are you ready…?
She locked Kiera in the kitchen!!!! And went and answered the door!!!!!!!!! Even after seeing that it was a strange man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
After I picked the blown pieces of my mind back up off the floor, I learned that the guy turned out to be someone who was going door-to-door to ask people to get out and vote in a very close Congressional race.
So, no big deal, right? All’s well that end’s well and all that good stuff, right?
Since that night, I’ve been turning it all over in my mind. And my thinking goes something like this: I hate that we live in a world where I feel I have to teach my daughter to fear anything. Yes, I can rationalize it and couch it in less awful terms — like I’m just teaching her to be smart, to be aware, to pay attention, to be alert. Blah-bity-blah-blah-blah. But, when you boil it down, I’m teaching her to be afraid.
I hate that.
And what good does it do? For all my efforts, she STILL opened the damned door! AFTER LOCKING KIERA IN THE KITCHEN!!!
Sorry, it’s going to take me a while to get over that.
So back to the fear thing. I’m about as street smart a person as you’ll meet. You want to go uptown to Harlem? I’m the girl you want to have with you. Down to Chinatown or the Lower East Side– yep, you want me along. But all those street smarts did nothing for me in the circumstances I mentioned above. Because, no matter how well we think we’re prepared, sometimes life just happens.
That, taken with the fact that we now live in about low-crime a community as you can find, do I want to keep reinforcing the message of “stranger danger?” Is there a better, “healthier” tact to be taken? How can I also teach my daughter to be her brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, if most of those “brothers and sisters” are strangers? These are the questions I’m asking myself.
These are the questions I’d like to ask you.
What has been your approach to this subject? What has worked and not worked for you?