I’ve been reading a lot lately about the fear we have for our children, particularly those of us living in South Africa, although not exclusively. I don’t know if I have been seeing these posts more because of my own anxiety or if there has just been an increase in our levels of awareness of all the things happening around us.
A part of my working through my anxiety is trying to identify fear of very real threats in amongst irrational fears. How do you do that when the world around you seems to have gone mad?
I consciously try to avoid the news at the moment; not because I am trying to stick my head in the sand, but because I know my filter is a little off and I don’t need anything to exacerbate my current state.
But things still sneak through, in a blog post from one of my favourite bloggers or as a question in an online forum I frequent or on social media.
Men with crowbars, armed robbery in shopping malls, so many children disappearing or even worse, carjackings with children still in the car, nannies neglecting and abusing kids, people not strapping their kids in and getting into car crashes, drunk fathers collecting their kids from ex-wives for their “weekend time”; and that’s the external stuff. Then there are the kids contracting terminal diseases, otherwise healthy kids in and out of hospital, children drowning in baths or pools. It never seems to end.
I don’t read up on these things, I don’t click on the links, but I see the commentary and viscerally feel the fear of those commenting. I literally feel like my chest is going to explode just thinking about it.
So when I feel panicked going shopping with my baby girl, or anxious to drive anywhere with her, or don’t want to leave her alone with anyone but me, or hear a noise in the house at night and fight the urge to throw my body over hers to protect her… Am I being irrational or just practical? Is my preferring to stay in my home rather than venture out, particularly into unknown places with unknown people, really that hard to understand?
I think we all do what we genuinely believe is right for our children. In this case, for me, the line is a little blurred sometimes.
I don’t want her to feel my fear, to watch me and see me hide from the world around me; and so I am working really hard at overcoming it.
I DO go out; I DO take her to shops and for walks; I smile at strangers who stop and comment on how gorgeous she is even when my brain is screaming stranger-danger; I am starting to take her to a class full of strangers, and want to organise to meet ups with other stranger mommies and their stranger babies who might not have been vaccinated or may be sick or may be mean and may be dangerous to my child.
And there’s the rub… At what point is my wanting to protect my child from fear, exposing her to real danger?
My child is so gorgeous, so full of life and love and joy, her gorgeous rounded rosy cheeks and huge dimpled smile make the world a better place, people adore her everywhere we go. She runs towards life in a way that both inspires me and terrified me.
I do not want my child growing up afraid of everything, but at some point I am going to need her to be aware of how dangerous the world can be – how do you find that balance?
Has the world always been this terrifying? Is it the massive availability of every single piece of ugly news from all over the world that makes it feel like it is everywhere all the time, or was it always this way and we were just blissfully unaware of it? Has parenthood made me even more hyper-aware of any and all threats or have those threats really multiplied to an almost all-encompassing state?
Some heavy thoughts for a Saturday; but I would really like your input on this. How do you manage your fear for your children? How do you prepare them for the world without making them afraid of it?
Sending all the love xx