Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Flipside of Safety

Watching over my daughter as she grew up gave me such great pleasure. Keeping her safe came automatically, it was never an issue or a bother to me. I didn't tidy up the world and prevent my daughter from experiencing life, I just made sure no person got the chance to blemish her innocence.

Like every other child, my daughter was destined to learn many lessons as she tested her space, but we sometimes "set up" experiences for her. For
example: When Kaylie was old enough to pedal her tricycle helter-skelter down the sidewalk, I warned her to slow down so she wouldn’t fly off the curb and into the street, but I always had to run up and grab her trike so she wouldn't go off the curb. I knew part of the fun for her was having me stop her and I didn't want to stifle her fun, but I wouldn't be able to be with her every time and she didn’t seem to understand my warnings. I grew fearful she would get seriously hurt.

I thought about it for days before I figured out a way to let Kaylie experience the lesson of momentum and gravity of going off the curb. One day, as 3 year old Kaylie napped, I “borrowed” the neighbor’s fallen leaves and along with my leaves, I spread them like a blanket just off the end of the sidewalk.
The next time we went outside, I explained that I wouldn't be running up to stop her from going over the curb.

I watched as she sped along, her little trike hurtling down the walk, Thelma and Louise style. I hollered to her that she should slow down before she went over the curb (hoping she would realize I wasn't behind her as she probably thot I was). As usual, she didn't even attempt to slow down and went head over heals off the curb. She got a scraped knee from the pedal and a bruised surprise, but forever after that, she was careful. I had hoped she'd gained some independence as well as learning that warnings should be taken seriously.
I filled her small years with "experiences" like this, especially when I saw one that might become a dangerous issue. I kept her safe. I think the lessons were okay and the method was okay. I'm sure she learned enough to keep herself safe enough as she grew up.

When Kaylie was small, I also talked to her - a lot. She never talked baby talk, she always talked in sentences (I would have been fine with baby talk). When we were in the city at the mall, we shared the love of people watching. At age 3, she would ask me about things she saw people wearing, like head bands, or earrings and I always took the time to explain. As she grew older, her questions reflected her knowledge of the world around her, which never ceased to amaze me.

My daughter loved people, any people, and all people. But there came a time when I realised she might need some help to distinquish between "the world is my playground" and "some people are bullies." So, as we people-watched, if she took interest in a particular person who was someone she should not be so friendly with, I would discuss him or her with her. I would point out the person might not be "feeling well in the head" (I didn't begin by trying to explain they may be drunk or on drugs), and would not be someone she should be around by herself. She always studied those people most as if her little 3 year old mind was snapping photos for later inspection, to be filed under "Mommy's warnings."
From my previous post, you already know I have been wondering about the wisdom of my vigilance to her safety. Now, I'm wondering if by keeping her safe, I may have done her an injustice, as well. Here's why: Since she's become a young adult, Kaylie and I have argued about what I think is her disregard for her own safety. Example: when she lived in Westminster, she had a car that broke down. Instead of calling me and letting me help her fix it or rent a car to get to work, she walked a mile to the bus stop - at 4:30 in the morning, by herself. At that very time, there was a rapist on the loose in that area. I couldn't convince her to stop putting herself out there like that.

A few days ago, as I read the post I sited earlier, I realized the care I took when Kaylie was a child did indeed keep her safe - as a child. She was never hurt very badly, but is that why she didn't learn the "hard" lessons that would keep her safe as an adult? (did I mention she will go hiking in the mountains even when there are mountain lion warnings?) Darn, I feel responsible.

Those afore mentioned things will eventually iron themselves out, but what if my paranoia over pedophiles has prevented her from learning for herself how to determine a predator from a possible friend? I know all predators don’t LOOK like bad guys, but I pretty much through out a red flag on everyone for her. She still made friends, had the normal problems in school, and is successful at whatever she attempts, but - it's kind of like crying wolf - don't you think?

Maybe I gave her a false sense of safety all those years ago and
now, when I try to warn her of danger, for instance the mountain lion thing, she really believes there is no true danger! She always listens patiently and most of the time, will gently dismiss my concerns, telling me she can take care of herself. She is a great child (oops, sorry Kaylie), she is a great young woman and she gives anything I say some consideration, yet, if I don’t have a valid point to make, I have to stop trying to make it.

Maybe now, though, I can show her the rational and logical reasoning why she doesn't recognize danger like she should.
I'm worried, tho, that I won't be able to 'undo' it or she won't be able to 'go back' and relearn it.

Did I make a mistake all those years ago? Did my good intentions really prevent her from experiencing reality? I'm not meaning that I think she should have been molested, I would kill to prevent that at all costs, but I mean I don't know if she had normal experiences with people that would allow her to form her own opinions and judge her own situations correctly.

Of course, there the chance she may have turned out with this small short-coming anyway, and everything I've just written is total and complete bunk! What do you all think?



bdreamer said...


It sounds to me that you did everything you knew to do to keep your child safe. You talked to her, you explained that some people weren't safe to be around by herself.

I guess while reading this post I couldn't help but compare it to how I was raised. My mother never warned me about a thing, except to say (when I was a teenager)"Make sure you marry a handsome man so your kids won't be ugly." Wow.

Anyway, I don't mean to make this about me. What I started to say is that, no matter how hard we mothers try, we will always look back and second guess our mothering skills. It's possible that rather than not believing she could ever be in danger, your daughter simply has a strong sense of being able to take care of herself because this is what you taught her. It's possible she doesn't doubt her ability to handle whatever comes her way, and this is not a bad thing!

We will always worry over our kids, no matter how old they get. We'll always be able to go, If only I'd done this or that differently. But my guess is that you're a better mother than your own (I know nothing about your mother, so I guess it's presumptuous of me to say this.) I know I'm a better mother to my kids than my mother was to me.

You raised a level-headed, capable adult who you say listens patiently to you. She takes your concerns seriously, it seems, but makes up her own mind as to how much weight to give them. So in addition to everything else she shows you respect. She may not agree with your assessments of different situations, but she listens to them.

It's hard for us mothers to give ourselves a break, isn't it? But I'm telling you, from the little you've said about your daughter in this post, it sounds like you did a great job raising her. Extend yourself some grace, would ya?

Ivory said...

Oh, Bdreamer, thank you so much for some insight I hadn't thot of! That is, maybe I raised her good enough to be sure of her own abilities. I hadn't even thot of that, tho, she has always been severely independent. Maybe I do need to give myself some grace, as you suggested.

Thanks, again.

VICKI IN AZ said...

So this is where I begin to read your words.
You are very thoughtful and I enjoyed your stories of raising your daughter very much.
I don't have any advice except to say, Trust Yourself! Knowing some of what you have shared about your growing up in your profile and having some experience with this, I just don't know how you could have done better!
Bravo Mom! Give yourself a high five and be proud of yourself.

Ivory said...


Thanks for your encouragement! My daughter is quick to tell me she is well adjusted and happy, but because of my past, I worry about having made too many comments about "men are pigs", or "it's because he's a MAN." I don't want to have turned her against men because I don't trust them.

Kate said...

Hi Ivory,

Here is the thing, from what you have shared, your mother was godawful to you. You never did that to your child. You have a lot to be proud of in raising her.

Young adults are notoriously naive and really don't understand the world as well as adults who have dealt and coped with it for some time. So even if she thinks she does and she makes decisions based on her own mind, that is her choice, and it is not because of anything that you did. Every girl hears that about men, all the time, it is pretty much normal through the ages. And you didn't do anything wrong.

Good and healing thoughts to you.


Ivory said...


I still worry about her, I know every woman worries about their adult children. I'm always wondering about the coulda, woulda, shouldas.

Thanks for coming by, I value your input!