This morning a body was found in my county, on a secluded area of a local farm.  At 5pm the police reported that it appears to be the body of an undergraduate who went missing several months ago.  This is so scary, that something like this could happen right where I live.  I have to admit, I tend to think of newsworthy events only happening far away in other people’s towns.  I assume that I’m safe, because I don’t live in a big city/the inner city/fill in the blank (you know the drill).  Or that scary things like this only happen to people who are fundamentally different from me in some way– say, they live in a bad neighborhood, or are involved with the “wrong” people.  I know that’s not true, but I think it’s a lie that I tell myself so that I’ll feel safe.  But the discovery of the body today flies in the face of all of that…

This young woman went missing several months ago.  She was an education major at a well-known state university and was in town for a concert.  Because she was last seen in town (not far from where I work, actually), the search for her has been very visible locally.  Her picture has been posted everywhere, and her disappearance has been a frequent topic in the local news.  A large search party was formed after she disappeared, and there’s a memorial at the place where she was last seen (I’ve driven by it a number of times, although admittedly I try to avoid it– it’s just too scary).  What scares me about this, besides the fact that this happened locally, is that she seems so… normal?  Harmless?  I was an education major myself.  When you think “risk taker,” teacher isn’t exactly the first profession that comes to mind.  And she wasn’t engaged in a drug deal, or doing something equally dangerous and illegal… no, she just went to a concert with some friends.  Like I said, it just seems so… harmless.  If someone like her can’t protect herself, and isn’t safe, how can any of us be safe?

I know that being pregnant makes me extra emotional.  But I think that being a mommy is part of what makes this scare me so much.  I can’t watch the news– it seems like everything I hear about is something that could happen to Paulie.  When my husband turned on the TV the other day, there was coverage of the earthquake aftermath in Haiti, with footage of a child being rescued from the rubble– and I had to have Sweetie change the channel.  I just couldn’t bare to see it.  And this is something that happened very far away from here– not right in town!  The murdered young woman could be anybody’s daughter.  And the police don’t even have any suspects, as far as I know.  Her disappearance has been a complete mystery for months.  But I can’t even think about the fact that the person who did this is still out there.  That’s just too much to handle.

I’d love to hear how other people keep their children safe, especially their elementary-school aged children.  When Paulie’s a teenager, I’ll feel more comfortable talking to him bluntly about the risks in the world.  And when he’s little, a baby or a preschooler, he’ll always be near me, or being watched over by someone I trust.  It’s that in-between time that I worry about.  I want to be able to give him a reasonable measure of independence and freedom, appropriate to his age and maturity level.  But how do I warn him about potential dangers without scaring him?  How do I keep him safe without smothering him?  I would really love to hear about how other people talk to their children about being safe, and what others do to keep their kids safe while allowing them some independence.

I have to admit, I feel less afraid for my baby knowing that he is a boy.  It’s awful, but it’s true.  The thought of having a daughter scares me to death.  Girls and young women are just so vulnerable, vulnerable to types of attacks that are much less commonly perpetrated against men.  I think that we’re socialized to think of women as being weaker, and therefore easier targets for crime.  As women, I think we’re brainwashed into thinking that we’re not strong, and as a result we might not even try to fight back.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a feminist, through and through.  I certainly don’t think of myself as being inherently weaker than a man or inferior in any way.  However, I do have to admit that I feel vulnerable, in a way that men my age just don’t seem to feel.

Phew.  Thanks for listening 🙂  I’d love to hear about any approaches or resources you use to keep your children safe.  In the meantime, I’ll be rereading The Gift of Fear and Protecting the Gift, both by Gavin de Becker.  The first book is about keeping yourself and your children safe in general; the second book talks about protecting your children is specific situations, such as with a babysitter or at school.  I’ve found both books to be very level-headed and affirming of my ability to keep myself safe.  Rather than feeling scared when I read these books (okay, I feel a little unnerved), I put down these books feeling empowered by having learned practical, reasonable ways to keep myself safe.  I highly recommend both books.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions!