Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ostrich

Being a parent is hard. Really hard. It's especially hard when something bad happens and you find yourself entrenched in an inner struggle. What kind of parent am I? What kind of parent do I want to be? Should I be?

Bad things happen. Terrible ones too. And even some unimaginable ones. These things don't happen only to adults. They happen to children. There are sides of our world that are dark and evil. Places that no person should ever find themselves in, that no child should ever be subjected to. Sometimes these things can happen truly with no warning. Sometimes there are pure tragedies, wholly unpreventable. But how many of the tragedies that occur were truly without warning?

A convicted sex offender was just released in an adjacent neighborhood. A violent one. One that has already been judged likely to reoffend. He's served his time, and he's out. No restrictions on his activities. No prohibitions. He can hang out in school parking lots, in parks, wherever he wants to go.

The police department held an information meeting for parents here, and though I was unable to go, I wanted to. I would like to know what he did, and to whom. How much of a threat he poses in my life, and in the lives of my children. I know what he looks like. I know where he lives. I know what his usual victim is like. But do I really know? Of course not. I won't kid myself into thinking that I can really know anything about this guy. I can't. And I'd rather not, to be honest.

Instead, I will teach my children how to stay safe. I will know their friends, and the families of their friends. I will know their teachers and coaches and other adults in their lives. I will teach them to recognize times when that safety might be in jeopardy. And as much as is possible, I will protect them from harm. However I need to do that, I will.

I didn't go to that meeting, but not because it wasn't important to me. Far more parents chose not to go for another reason. They assumed that he was a boyfriend, and the charges were pressed by a reluctant girlfriend at the behest of her parents. It's easier to think that. It's easier to want to believe that this man was forced to pay the price for a stupid, but consensual, choice. Because when you believe that, you can sleep easier at night. You can let your children roam the neighborhood without limitations. You can let them walk home from school, assuming that they will get home unscathed. You can send your children to slumber parties at the homes of their friends. Because they will be fine. Too bad one of his victims was a friend of his sister, and was at one of those slumber parties. She wasn't safe. And he's out.

There are scary people in this world, in my town. People like him.

Finding a balance between being too relaxed and too paranoid is a hard one. Finding some place in between, some place where concerns are legitimate, limits are reasonable, freedoms permitted. You can't live your life in fear of what might happen. But you can't stick your head in the sand either. It may be easier to believe that danger doesn't lurk out there, but it does. And living in denial of it only places your children at risk.

One of the things we are charged with as parents is the safety of our children. Even if it puts you on edge. Even if it makes you uncomfortable. Even if you don't want to think that these things could happen to you, to your kids, they can. Give them the tools to be safe. Protect them. And don't kid yourself. He's out there.

1 comment:

  1. Kelly- Growing up, my next door neighbor was convicted of molesting his son's teenage friends. My mom used to have the guy watch us girls...It seems he was only interested in boys, and the boys in the neighborhood had told my sister to stay away from him. Let's hope that as parents we can teach the kids to tell us these things, and to trust our instincts about people.

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