I’m a bit of a scaredy cat, it has to be said. I don’t like flying, heights, caves, tunnels, enclosed spaces, spiders, big dogs; I don’t like being in the house alone overnight; I don’t like walking alone after dark; I don’t like horror films or gore (yes, I love 24 Hours in A&E but that’s different) – the list goes on. I try and keep the show of fear to a minimum, not always successfully, and have tried not to pass my irrational fears onto my kids.
A goes to a dance class at her old school once a week and she walks there and back with a friend. Since the winter has set in and it’s been getting dark earlier her friend’s mum and I have shared responsibility for picking them up and walking them home again. They are both OK with this. Tonight, after hearing of a couple of burglaries locally and an incident involving a couple of friends of mine being approached by a man in a car late at night, I was reluctant to let A walk alone to the place where she meets her friend. I asked T if he would walk her down to meet the friend and then the friend’s mum is walking them home. I didn’t tell A the reasons for my request – just that it is a lot darker now and it would make me happier. No big deal? No different to me and the other mum picking them up? It seems so. Totally unfair. Ridiculous. Treating her like a child (hello? 11 years old?). I was very tempted to respond with the real reasons. But, I spent a lot of my childhood being scared of shadows and strange men in cars and I don’t want the same thing for A. There’s enough horrible stuff out there that they have to be aware of – online weirdo’s mainly – that I don’t want to add to the fears.
I don’t suppose I handled it very well. I should perhaps have explained my concerns and asked her if she was happy going alone and let her decide for herself. I know deep down in my well covered rational bit that she is highly unlikely to be abducted /attacked/hurt/ assaulted on the street in our quiet little village at 5pm on a week night just as I know that incidents of this nature are few and far between across our whole county in general. In fact, she’s more likely to see someone she knows on the way there and will probably be seen by at least one person driving past her that knows her. But, my little scaredy cat self wanted her to be safe. Should I have worried about T then walking back on his own? Am i being sexist as well as overprotective? I try and make her feel empowered and strong enough to deal with anything. I encourage her to believe that her gender won’t stop her doing anything she wants to do (even though I know that it IS still an issue and she will come up against all sorts of obstacles). Am I undoing all that effort by asking her brother to see her safely to meet her friend? Probably. Would I ever forgive myself if anything happened to her just because I was worried I might make her feel less empowered? Absolutely.
I do need to try and stop being so scared of stuff that will probably never happen – planes crashing, caves collapsing, dogs biting, being burgled. But I will never stop being worried for my kids.