Mom Fear

The world is a dangerous place.

My friend Audrey was over for coffee and as I walked her to the car, I grabbed my mail. There was an envelope I recognized immediately. It was a notice from the Warwick police department informing me that a sex offender had just moved into the neighborhood. We get one of these notices every year or so. Anyone with a child registered in the public school gets them.

Audrey was somewhat aghast.

'What do you do about it?' she asked.

Good question.

The police have no advice in the letter. They warn against harassing the guy. They give the street he lives on, and offer a hint as to the nature of his crime, but they don't say anything about what we are supposed to do with this information.

Do I keep the kids home, where I can watch them? Noah is at the age now where he wants to ride his bike around the neighborhood to visit his friends. Every day after school, the pack of them migrate like cape buffalo, eating their way from one house to the next. Am I supposed to keep them home?

Do I show him the letter and tell him to avoid this guy if he sees him somewhere? Do I tell him to run in the opposite direction? Do I plant little seeds of fear in his heart?

So far, I haven't done any of those things.

Here's what I do do. I talk to the kids. I tell them what to do to stay safe. I remind them that they should always tell me if something scary or uncomfortable happens to them, even if they are warned not to tell. Especially if they are warned not to tell. I tell them about my own close encounters with dangerous people when I was a kid. I pray for my boys that they will be safe. And maybe I will pray for healing for the offender, too.

But somehow, I don't feel that letting fear get the best of us is a healthy way to be in the world.


Urban Mermaid responded on October 30, 2008 at 8:33 AM #

Amen! I remember my mother telling me to walk in the middle of the street on the double yellow line if I thought I was being followed. And sadly as a kid I always thought I was being followed but that's another story. I was also a new Yorker and rode the subway alone a lot as a kid so any encouragement for trusting ones intuition and not needing to explain why you suddenly need to change cars or get out was fine! I was also told to pretend I was going to vomit if I was accosted in an elevator. It's funny but good empowerment tools. You could do a whole night of theater games with your kids about how to avoid unnecessary advanced by a creep.