I seem to be referring a lot to experiences with my daughter Sylvana, but lately, they seem to be the ones that are most making me reflect on what I believe.
A few weeks ago, I received a call from Sylvana’s school telling me that she wasn’t feeling well and that I could pick her up at the office. Since the school is nearby, I unhurriedly finished whatever I was doing, and made my way there.
It was a cold, rainy day and as I approached the school, I noticed a girl standing in the rain on the sidewalk near the school. I thought it strange that a child would be waiting there by herself, but was downright horrified when I saw that it was Sylvana!
My entire body went cold with fear as I rushed her into the car, demanding to know what she was doing out there by herself. I didn’t think I was yelling, but her looks of confusion and fear told me I wasn’t handling this situation well. She explained that she went to her classroom to pick up her backpack and was waiting for me near the place where I would normally pick her up. I went to the office where they were just as shocked to hear that Sylvana had gone outside alone. It was all a big misunderstanding, which I explained to Sylvana, adding that there was nothing to worry about and that, in future, she should always wait for me in the office. I tried to tone down the severity in my tone but her serious expression told me she understood the gravity of the situation – and my fears.
For days, the feelings of relief traded places with the feelings of terror as scenes of what could have happened played out in my mind.
So here’s my dilemma…
We want to teach our daughter that she lives in a safe world, one that supports and uplifts her, and that people are there to help her, not hurt her. We believe that we get back from the world what we put into it because that has been our experience, and so are encouraging her to do the same.
But all that flies out the window when I hear about child abductions, or see posters for missing children, or learn about “Code Adam” where all shopping centre doors are closed until a missing child is found.
I feel a greater general fear for Sylvana’s safety here in North America than I ever did in Spain. In our home town of Cadiz, I felt that I belonged to a community where most people knew each other, or at the very least knew that you lived in the area and that your child went to the nearby school. We saw each other at the grocery store, the beach or the plazas. It felt as if we were all looking out for each others’ kids. If one got hurt, more than one parent was usually around to help – or a cousin, an aunt, a grandmother…
And the kids seemed to have a greater level of maturity about them, a sense of confidence from being outside all the time playing with friends, knowing that parents of all kinds were around and they could go to any of them.
I don’t feel that here.
At dinner one night with some girlfriends, I spoke about the incident. They all went on about how they reach out to help any child that they see alone on a bus or at a bus stop. Or they look out to make sure that a kid walking alone gets home all right.
If each person is doing that, if that inherent goodness is there, then why can’t I believe that these same invisible angels will be looking after my own daughter? Or all children out there?
That’s the battle waging within me. That’s the issue I’m trying to make peace with. I now question whether I really believe what I say – that people are inherently good and the world is a safe place - because if I truly did, wouldn’t I just ignore the ugly stuff and reinforce our vision of the world within her?
That’s my husband’s response btw - don’t give your attention to what you don’t want because you’re feeding it, giving it energy. Focus on what you do want and build that. I agree… but why am I having a hard time doing it?
At school, she is learning street safety - not to go with strangers, not to accept any kind of enticement from them, not to get into their cars. This is all great, but I worry that they are instilling fear of the world in her, the feeling that she is living in a dangerous world. If she believes that now, how will she ever believe in all the wondrous possibilities that this world has to offer her? How will she ever believe in the magical? How will she ever appreciate the small miracles which take place around her every day?
I guess what we’re ultimately trying to develop in her is discernment. But how the heck do I do that with a child if I, as an adult, still have a hard time with it?
These are difficult waters to navigate.
What do you all think?