Do you feel safe?

safetyPIN IT

When I think about what I classify as the most important things in life three things come to mind. Health, the freedom of choice and safety. Now that I am a parent these three things are more important to me than they ever were before.

We all live in a bubble, I think. We go about our days mostly living alongside each other. We are mostly without strong community. Many of us don’t know our neighbours. We are so connected and yet so removed. We are taught to keep to ourselves, to keep our mouths shut, to not cause trouble. All you have to do is turn on the news to hear stories of thefts and attacks and domestic violence and abuse and pain and war. But when they aren’t happening to us, they don’t seem to cause us such great personal upheaval. When we aren’t the vulnerable, it’s easier to turn a blind eye, to stay in our bubble. When we aren’t the vulnerable, it’s easier to feel safe. Isn’t it?

Last year when Bo was very little we were visiting from Indonesia and our rental car was broken into outside my dad’s place. My handbag was stolen and in it was my external hard drive. It had no monetary value. But it had ten years worth of photographs and documents and the first draft of the novel I was writing and have never been able to reproduce… it was worth nothing to someone else and everything to me. I still think about it often, almost daily, the things that were lost that day. Sure I lost other things. An expensive pair of sunglasses, a wallet with some cash and cards, a good set of earphones… but those things are just stuff. They don’t really mean anything. They can be replaced. It was a very difficult thing to recover from emotionally. I still kick myself for leaving my bag in the car, for thinking it would be easier to just take the nappy bag inside and tuck my handbag under a jacket. I still regret little spur of the moment decisions I made that lead to a large loss in my life, material, sure, but a loss all the same. I think the difficulty comes from having someone encroach on your space, from being made vulnerable, having things stolen from you is a terrible feeling. When I thought of someone going through my things and discarding things that had such meaning to me, I felt violated.

But it has nothing on the feeling that comes from having your personal safety compromised.

On the weekend I went out with some friends. We were out late and had a lot to drink complete with the obligatory post bar kebab stop. We caught a taxi home. The night was as most nights out are… a little seedy, funny, creepy (cue the random guy stroking my face repeatedly as I walked through the crowd) and full of hilarious stories that we will probably tell each other time and time again over the next few months. We never expected the night to end the way it did. No one would have. We shared a cab, three of us heading back to one address and me staying in the cab to head home alone to my little Bo who was tucked up in her grandmas bed waiting for me. When the others got out of the taxi, the taxi was accosted and people tried to force their way inside. The taxi driver locked the door. My friend protected me, and put himself (and our other friends) in danger. When the taxi driver was able to, he drove off with me safely inside the car. My friends who were left behind outside their home were put in serious danger. They were threatened with a large knife and assaulted. The police think that these people where planning to jump the taxi driver for his cash. We were all just in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were very lucky that no one was seriously injured, my friends were very brave and one escaped and called the police and the offending party escaped before causing any serious harm to anyone.

Or did they? What sort of harm lasts longer than a hangover and a couple of bruises? What sort of harm comes from having your personal safety compromised? What sort of lasting harm comes from being threatened? What sort of lasting harm comes from knowing that if things had played out slightly differently, we may not have been that lucky. If those people had got into the taxi with me inside. If my friend hadn’t been able to get away and call the police, if she hadn’t kicked her shoes off and run… if the boys had tried to fight back… if… if… things could have ended very, very badly for one or more of us. But for all of us, shaken a little from being faced with the realities of danger… what are the consequences? We are all parents. We have children we love and we would do anything to protect. We have children who rely on us. We have children who need us.

I’ve always been a big believer in living life without fear. I have felt fear and trusted my gut and changed my situation and navigated the world alone. I have backpacked through the areas of the world where people worried about me, advised me not to go, talk of terrorism and bombings and fear stunted so many from going on adventures. But it never stopped me. But now I’m a parent, I feel like I’m more fearless and more fearful all at once. It’s so much bigger than me now. It’s not just my life and my future. My life is so paramount to the future of my child. My safety and my health is her safety too. I am her protector and her family. I am her world.

The very idea of Bo feeling true fear crushes me. I don’t want her to ever feel scared or in danger. I don’t want her to hurt like that. I know I can’t protect her from that forever. But I will protect her from it for as long as I can, in as many ways as I can. Fear is a very powerful emotion. It can take hold of a person. It can change them. It can change the world, and it has, many times over.

There are so many places in the world that I probably won’t travel to now until Bo is big enough to take care of herself… because my life isn’t just my own anymore. It belongs to her and she needs me. Her future relies on me. But at the same time I don’t want to live my life in fear. I will never let go of the firm belief that there are more good people in this world than there are bad. That our world is not a sad and evil place. This is a beautiful (albeit challenging) world to raise my daughter in and I will not do that with fear in my heart.

But what if it’s there. Just niggling in the back of your mind. That little voice reminding you that things can happen. Random turns of events that can change your life in a split second. That little voice that makes me fear living alone with my child with nobody else to keep us safe? With the full responsibility of our lives and our livelihood falling squarely on my shoulders alone. The voice is only little, and my logic and reason and faith in humanity is much bigger and stronger… but right now, that little voice is sitting on my shoulder, whispering into the shell of my ear and causing me to doubt. To doubt myself. To doubt my fellow (wo)man. To doubt even when I know that doubt is not necessary nor is it helpful.

So tell me, what do you do to make sure you feel safe? When your safety is compromised, what do you do to come back from that? How do you protect yourself without losing yourself to fear and paranoia?

Has your attitude towards personal safety changed since becoming a parent?

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  • July 1, 2013 - 6:08 am

    beck - Absolutely 100% more concerned with safety than before kids. I obsess over scenarios daily and work out escape routes or self defence moves ”just in case”.

    Glad you and your friends are ok.ReplyCancel

  • July 1, 2013 - 7:14 am

    Lila - I’m so sorry you and your friends went through that.
    I think the fear is what sticks to you from any kind of assault or invasion. We’ve been robbed multiple times and had our car stolen, I’ve also dealt with an abusive ex. In some ways though those things have made me less fearful of the bigger things like traveling because all of these incidents have occurred in the home for me I’ve realised that the security of my home is a false one and I should just get out there and enjoy myself.
    But being a parent definitely tempers that getting out there with planning to minimise the risk.ReplyCancel

  • July 1, 2013 - 11:43 pm

    Mother Down Under - That is so awful…I hate moments when your fellow humans make you feel scared and then disappointed.
    I work in the trauma theatres at a major hospital and so see a lot of bad. I think I live with a low level of fear about one of those bad things happening to me or someone I love.
    I am back in the States for a holiday. This is the second time I have been back with my son and I am surprised at how fearful I am. I suppose it probably has to do with the Boston marathon bombings and the Newtown elementary school massacre but when I walk into a store I find myself thinking about how much I trust all of these people not to harm me and my son. I am looking forward to heading back to Brisbane where I feel more secure.ReplyCancel

  • July 2, 2013 - 3:35 am

    Rebecca - I’m sorry you had to experience that, but glad you are safe. I do not leave in fear, but I understand things can happen at any moment. I think its really a balance – you need to live a fulfilling life, but not take your safety lightly. I lost my mother at a young age, so death is something I think about. I want to be around for my daughter as long as possible. I recently took a self defense class.ReplyCancel

    • July 4, 2013 - 8:59 pm

      Sash - I talked with a friend about this today. I think a self defense class might be on my radar in the near future. Thanks for the inspiration. xReplyCancel

  • July 3, 2013 - 5:44 pm

    Edda - I believe in the goodness of people too and try to treat people with love and trust, but at the same time I think that feeling safe is just an illusion. An illusion I love and I didn’t feel often enough in my life.
    I was brave a lot and was doing things other people feared… Doing “crazy” things, and trusting people others would’t trust. I could really trust my gut! Always!
    Now that I am a parent everything is different. I don’t have a gut anymore… I am confused and try to control everything I can to protect my baby. I don’t like the new me… She is annoying and suspicious. I hope some day I will have my old self back or at least find the middle way! Maybe it just needs more time to get used to “my heart walking outside of my body”. (remembered the quote :)ReplyCancel

  • July 4, 2013 - 4:54 am

    Veggie mama - So much this. How do we live fearlessly when there is so much to fear for our children? I struggle too.ReplyCancel

    • July 4, 2013 - 8:58 pm

      Sash - It’s a balance that I think I will forever be attempting to master. It’s hard. Really hard.ReplyCancel

  • July 8, 2013 - 7:28 pm

    Baby keepsakes - you do have to be quite trusting and its a nice thing to do, however it can often backfire
    as a parent, i would have to agree that you become more self conscious, its ones natural instinct to protect their own as wellReplyCancel

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