Friday, May 18, 2007

From fearlessness to paranoia

I'm a paranoid mother. I wrote about my paranoia recently on my blog. And there was that story I wrote for the Blog Short Story Project this year. Which was why the latest MotherTalk Blog Bonanza is so interesting: we're buzzing "The Dangerous Book for Boys."

True, our kids are more protected now than ever before. But I tend to think that's in response to the more we know, and the more we have. Fifty years ago, sneakers were enough to play. Now we know the kind of shoes, their fit, and how they wear all affect a person's athletic prowess - no matter how young or old. Why else do pediatricians recommend a baby's first set of walking shoes come from Stride Rite, or orthotics for a teenager's shinsplints?

Maybe we do go a bit overboard. For instance, just this morning, Hamlet fell down on his way in to preschool. Tripped over a bit of sidewalk and sprawled in the doorway. "I want to go home!" he screamed. Now, another mother may have let him do just that. But I knew he wasn't hurt - simply embarrassed. And I knew he'd get over it as soon as someone distracted him. Sure enough, the preschool teacher pulled out the Play-Dough - and off he went.

Meanwhile, Boris was still in the car, which I remembered I'd left unlocked. Because 1) it takes but seconds to walk from car to preschool. And 2) I hadn't anticipated I'd need to take more time with Hamlet. And 3) it was pouring rain out. And 4) all the other parents leave their babies in their cars. And 5) the preschool is on a private road. In the trees. In a very rural area.

Never mind all that; my paranoia kicked in. All I wanted was to get out the door and make sure no one had grabbed him. Irrational as hell? Yes, absolutely. But things happen. No matter that they are "isolated"; they still happen. Unbalanced women desperately want children. Pedophiles lurk everywhere, even in my secluded little corner of the woods. These things have been true for generations, giving rise to better security systems on maternity wards and state sex offender registries.

What has not been true for generations, however, is the fact that families and friends are more spread out than ever before, denying people of critical support systems. A "maiden aunt" had plenty of nieces and nephews to care for, and everyone knew - and told their kids to avoid - the "strange man" down the street. These days, the Internet has replaced those support systems - not just for family members, but for pedophiles too. It's so much easier to decide to assault a child when 1) no one knows who you really are*; 2) the chat room you're on effectively depersonalizes that child and 3) you've got other pedophiles telling you that you're normal and okay!

While it's a sad fact that those bygone family support systems often covered up and glossed over in-family sexual and domestic violence, we do know so much more about those problems now that it is simply prudent to be vigilant. As for the rest of it? Well, I probably won't put knee pads on my boys every time they play outside. But I sure won't leave them alone, not until they are old enough to understand "stranger danger." A little paranoia, in my opinion, is worth it.

*This is why I am not in favor of laws that keep sex offenders out of towns altogether. Away from daycare centers and schools, certainly. But I'd much rather know who and where they are, than have them driven underground.



Anonymous norby said...

Get ready Christa because those paranoid feelings won't end either. I'm in my mid-thirties and my mother is panicking because she won't know what I'm doing while I'm in Ireland next month. She almost hyperventilated when I told her I was spending a weekend with two women I've been friends with online for over a year now. Never mind that she's going off to Italy and Greece while I'm gone-i mean, anything could happen to her there, what's a daughter to think? Like you say, eventually it goes both ways.

21/5/07 11:28 AM  
Blogger Christa M. Miller said...

Norby, that's too funny! I don't think parents look at us as able to be worried, at least not in the same way. Or they think they have to be strong for us forever and ever. Or they simply don't care what we think because they are finally free to do whatever they want. ROFL

Have a great time in Ireland, and hope your mom's time away is likewise fulfilling - and safe!!

23/5/07 10:07 AM  
Anonymous norby said...

When my mom and I went to London together I really saw a different side to my mother. I'm fairly certain that if I hadn't been there she might still be wandering Gatwick Airport looking for her luggage. My only consolation about Italy and Greece is that my dad and two of their friends will be with her. I know she'll have fun, she's just not happy if she's not worried about something.

23/5/07 10:53 AM  
Blogger Christa M. Miller said...

My mother-in-law is the same way - not happy unless worried. What a conundrum. I'm glad she's going with family and friends. Hope she forgets to be worried. And you, too.

23/5/07 9:01 PM  
Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

having just endured the agony of the Madeleine McCann kidnapping on British TV, paranoia is just being sensible. Let it rip.

25/5/07 5:28 PM  

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