Monday, December 5, 2011
Fear or Caution?
So, it was something no parent likes to hear.
I was standing at the sink, washing veggies, and I have the TV on in the background. "A Lake County school employee was arrested for child pornography on his home computer." I say to myself, "Of course he was. What's new?" Then, the moment when my stomach dropped.
The reporter said he was reporting from my daughter's school.
The place where we entrust her for nine months of the year, seven hours a day. Where she makes friends and trusts teachers.
One of my daughter's safe places.
Let me say this right off the bat. I love- LOVE- our school. It is organized, it is cheery, it is friendly, it is loving. I have never one time felt uneasy or insecure leaving her there. The staff is attentive, they are innovative, and they are serious about loving and educating kids. In fact, the teacher turnaround rate is really low because the teachers love being there so much. There are teachers and staff there now that have been there since my sister was in school there, some 13 years or so ago.
We love our school.
And let me interject here, this is not a pro-school/anti-homeschool post. One thing I love about this great nation is we each have the prerogative to educate our children as it best suits them. Just a disclaimer. Let's move on.
Upon hearing the news that this man, who has immersed himself into a place that in my opinion, is sacred and precious, I was furious. FURIOUS. How did he fall through the cracks? How did they let this parasite, this monster into my child's bubble?
Immediately, our principal sends home a letter. She's on the ball. The records show that he has passed every background check with flying colors and has never had a record of child molestation of any kind. Obviously, this makes me feel better. My next step is to interrogate Abi as gently as possible. I did- she didn't know him. Again, reassurance.
However, news was released a couple of days later that two girls confess he actually molested them at his home.
Fact remains that while MY daughter is safe and was shielded from this man's sickness, there are at LEAST two families whose lives have been torn apart by this news. And that's not even counting the endless stream of children who were exploited in those images and movies.
When you hear news like this, especially when it literally hits close to home, your first instinct as a parent is to smother and bubble wrap. Meaning, "I will keep you here with me, and when I do send you out, I will wrap you in layers of protection and teach you to trust no one, ever." And while there's elements of truth and valor in both of those methods, we cannot- CANNOT- afford to parent our kids out of fear.
Here's the deal.
The world is a beautiful place. There are beautiful, wonderful people who prove to be key instruments of God's love all through our lives. And just like there are beautiful people, there are ugly ones. Who are dark, have unconquered battles of perversion and shame, and want to prey on the weak in futile efforts to reclaim their own power.
They both exist. Side by side. On this same rotating ball.
Let me be clear on one thing. Fear is NEVER a friend. Ever. It is paralyzing, it is cunning, it is deceptive, and it is controlling. It cannot help us, cannot assist us, and only makes us paranoid of even the good things in life. Once we look through the lenses of fear, we only see the world in jaded colors, failing to see reality as it exists. Every stranger is an enemy through those glasses. And in the process of seeing through the eyes of fear, we miss lifetime opportunities that could have changed our lives for the better.
Now, CAUTION is a different story. It is the awareness of the negative around our children, and our ability to navigate through those dark forests appropriately. It is not sticking our heads in the sand, but looking at issues square in the eye and judging boundaries and guidelines accordingly. Caution means that I am not letting the fear of what may or may not happen dictate my decisions, but I AM aware that as I parent my kids, they are dependent upon my ability to forecast ahead. In fact, caution means being frank and real with our children about world information they need to be aware of on their age level. We sat down and explained the accusations and the confession of this school worker to Abi. It wasn't fun to do, but part of our job as her parents is to educate her on truth, not shield her from it. In giving her the truth, we are giving her tools to handle any situation she may face in her future. We are giving her power.
So how then? How do we know if we are parenting out of fear instead of caution? How do we know which line we're on?
Fear says, "If I keep you chained to me, then and only then will you be safe."
Caution says, "I will set appropriate boundaries to give you the chance to meet new people and experience new things, but it will be at my discretion."
Fear says, "There are people waiting in the shadows to hurt you and take advantage of you."
Caution says, "You're going to be hurt and disappointed in life. But my job is to make those opportunities as few as possible by navigating you around hurtful situations."
Fear says, "I have to be the voice for every decision you need to make... after all, I'm the only one who knows what's good for you."
Caution says, "My job is to teach you to recognize and rely on the voice of the Holy Spirit inside of you, who will never fail to lead you in the right path for your life- because it's not healthy nor possible for me to be with you your every waking moment."
Fear says, "It happened to me, and it will mostly likely happen to you."
Caution says, "It happened to me, and I choose to use my experience to gain the proper tools so to equip you to know what to do in similar situations."
Fear says, "The moment you're out of my control, you will get hurt."
Caution says, "Your safety doesn't solely hinge on my presence, but also in the facts that God cares about you, you know right from wrong, and you have the power to say NO to ANYONE you choose."
Just the other day at lunch, Abi said she gets "really nervous when Daddy swims in the ocean because a Great White Shark may come and eat him." She cried and cried. Rod said something so simple, and so profound.
"Abi, I will not let fear of 'what if a shark comes' stop me from swimming in the ocean, because swimming in the ocean is something I like to do."
Parents, it's important to be attentive ourselves to the voice of the Holy Spirit concerning our children, and equally important to teach them how to heed His nudges themselves. But we cannot hear Him if the loudest voices in our heads are the voices of past hurts, present panic, and future fears. Live in the now.
And rely on the fact that HE loves those kids more than we can.
There's something to be said about that fact.