I pulled into the bank parking lot the other day and moved to park in my usual spot on the side of the building. As I drove through the parking lot entrance, I noticed a man at the exit with a sign asking for help with a motel or food for his family. He was standing near a van where a woman and two kids sat outside.
I parked where I normally do, but I remained hyper-aware of this man as I unloaded my kids. Here I am, all by myself, strapping my baby into my baby carrier and hauling my toddler out of the car to walk inside with me. I kept glancing out the back window of my car to see if the man would approach me with a request for money. I was nervous and felt very at odds with myself as I hustled my sons around the corner of the building and into the bank.
That’s what I thought as I walked into the bank. I’m sure my own mother will laugh when she reads this because she spent many years of my life in fear for my safety as I walked blithely into rather unorthodox situations.
I’ve never been the person who worries about my own personal safety. My mom used to despair about me never realizing when I should just walk away from a situation. We have joking stories about the time I went out to help a homeless guy in downtown Nashville at midnight or the time I called her from Dallas asking if she could Google directions to the nearest Whataburger from wherever I’d walked. (It was before I had a smart phone, so no maps for me!) And let’s not get started on that time I got lost in Florence, Italy, and almost missed my train back to the dorms during study abroad in college.
Now, however, it’s a totally different thing.
I never expected I would become the person who worries about strangers on the street or where I park at the grocery store. I never believed I’d be reading articles about how to protect my children when I’m out alone with them. And yet, here we are.
Can you relate to this?
In the world of parenting, we all try to find our pace and figure out what parenting style works for us. Some of us are helicopter moms and some have free-range kids. Some of us worry when our kids get the sniffles and others remain unperturbed until their child has a raging fever and can’t breathe.
I have really struggled lately with the feeling that I am at odds with myself and my personality now that I’ve become a mom. Instead of being comfortable going wherever whenever, I have to consider what that means for my children. I have always been a fairly trusting, confident person and would go into situations with the assumption that as long as I look like I know what I’m doing, no one will bother me. For the most part, that assumption has rung true in my life, even when I lived abroad and didn’t speak the local language. I’ve never been especially concerned about being attacked on the streets or in my neighborhood, and we’ve never lived in a location where that was even on my radar. So this sudden protectiveness for my children’s safety is an actual struggle for me to work through.
Of course I want my kids to always be safe and sound. I want to protect them and I understand that’s a deep instinctual feeling that comes from being a parent. I want to make sure that they stay happy and healthy and I even want to make life easy for them. But I also want them to grow up understanding what the world is like. I want them to be well-adjusted, and I think that comes from not only experiencing the highs of life but also the lows. So I know I can’t protect them from everything, and I know they’ll be hurt both physically and emotionally as they grow up. Realistically it would be exhausting to even try to protect them from everything.
Finding a balance is going to be key in making my desired confidence and happy-go-lucky personality work with my caution for my kids’ safety. I haven’t quite figured out what that looks like, but I’m glad that I’ve identified this disconnect between my personality and my parenting instincts.