Covering parenting and child development issues
"The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears." (Ellen Goodman)
Yesterday, I got a phone call informing me that a “suspicious incident” had occurred a few blocks from my house on Monday. A man in a car had attempted to engage a female high school student in conversation, at one point getting out of his car. As far as I could tell from the information provided, no harm had come to the student. Still, parents were being asked to call the police if they had any further information.
My stomach dropped. The timing of the incident coincided directly with the time my own female high school student would have been walking home from school. Hanging up the phone, I checked my watch. My daughter would be coming home in a little over an hour, traveling a path very close to the one the other young woman had traveled.
The urge to pick her up from school and drive her the tenth of a mile home was overwhelming. But, she’s no longer a baby, and would be mortified if I showed up to drive her home.
And rightfully so. I’ve raised her to be independent. I married at thirty-one and was thirty-six when she was born, and a quick calculation made me realize that while I might live to a ripe old age, I also might not be around for as much of her life as I would like. And, having been on my own for nearly a decade between college life and family life, I wanted to know that she’d be able to manage confidently in the same fashion.
Still, from the time she was small, she knew that safety trumped everything - a lesson I also taught my elementary school students. Would she know what to do if this man approached her? Had we talked about these types of incidents? And if we had, how long had it been? In just a few years, she would be on a college campus. Was I going to follow her there and make sure she was safe? Of course not.
I called my husband, who responded with decidedly less anxiety, then finally settled on texting her, asking her to call me if she was walking home alone.
This parenting gig is tough; there are no easy answers. When our kids are toddlers and they fall down, we quickly learn not to make a fuss, lest they become frightened of falling and underestimate their own ability to bounce back. We reassure them that they’re okay while checking for bumps and bruises, talking in soothing tones that mask our own anxieties.
As they get older, they reassure us, brushing off our concerns with a bravado they may or may not actually feel. In preparation for the independence that comes with adulthood, they push us away, establishing their own space and daring us to enter while still - like the toddler who has fallen down - wanting us within their reach if they need us.
In the end, the weather saved me. About an hour after I received the first phone call, my daughter texted me, wanting a ride home. I wondered if the students at the high school had been informed of the “suspicious incident,” but as it turned out, the weather had prompted her call, as well as a cancellation of all evening activities.
I never thought I’d be grateful for torrential rain and severe weather warnings. But yesterday, I was.