The other day, my daughter came home. She was upset. She’d worn a new shirt that day- the one she bought in Costa Rica over the summer. When she had been out after school, someone walked past her on the street, burning a hole in the arm, probably an inch in diameter. She was upset because this shirt was special to her- it signified a trip where she learned about how people in different parts of the world lived, where she had to help pour a concrete floor for someone, because there had only been dirt under their feet, where she ziplined for the first time. While she was part of a group, it was her first big trip without parental supervision. I comforted her, gave her a hug, went into Mom mode- I looked at the shirt, figured out if I could fix it, put it in the pile to take to my miraculous dry cleaner. I did the practical stuff. In front of my daughter.
When I left her, I was angry and pissed off and sad and frightened. First off- my baby could have been hurt much worse. I know this is minor, but she said she felt the burn a little. How dare someone hurt her!!!!! How dare someone make her cry out of sheer selfishness?
I went into Person of Interest mode. I thought about figuring out where the security cameras are on this particular part of 14th Street, and scouring all the photos till I found the perpetrator. Then I would hunt them down- then I would show them the full force of a Mother when her child has been wronged. And for 10 minutes- I seriously thought about this.
I want to protect my daughter from harm. I know I can’t do this- I can’t protect her. This kills me- the inability to keep her from getting hurt. But you can’t predict the future….
So what do you do? Well, I’ve spent my life trying to be honest with her about the dangers in the world, trying to teach her to protect herself. Do you know how hard this is, explaining danger, but also pushing your kid to be a active participant in life? Like all things parental, this is a fine line.
As soon as she could read the signs on the bus, my daughter knew “If you see something, say something.” I had to explain to her what this meant, when she was 4 years old. At 4 years old she started to learn the tenets of, something left unattended could be a bomb. She has spent her entire life going through metal detectors at many public buildings and bag checks. When we are going to an event, we thoroughly read to see if we are able to take in bags, and what sizes are allowed. She knows to carry anything valuable in front of her, never in the backpack. She knows to walk down well lit streets, to do things in groups, to call me if she ever feels unsafe. If she takes a cab I make her send me a picture of the license plate and the driver id card. Every new step in her life requires me to give her an additional rule, an additional warning, an additional explanation of what danger lies ahead.
But I can’t predict everything. I can’t give her warnings for every single thing, because I don’t know everything that can happen. There’s always going to be the unimaginable.
I can’t protect her.
This crushes me.
I teach, I explain, I tell her I love her, and I pick up the pieces. This is all I can do.
It will never be enough.