At the height of the media frenzy surrounding the discovery of Jaycee Dugard and her two children living in backyard of her abductor, my own then 4-year-old daughter went missing. Sure, it was only for 20 minutes and it was inside of the local Target. But as my privately frantic search for her escalated into one involving Target employees, their walkie-talkies and a kind mother who volunteered to go “watch the doors,” I was already imagining my future 14-year-old living in a tent raising my grandkids.
Dugard’s story, and other accounts of child abductions, get in our brains and sometimes they inform how we parent.
Even when my rational side knew that there was a slim-to -none chance that my daughter was gone forever, that stranger abductions are rare, that the world is, generally, a safe, safe place, the emotional side of me sometimes can’t help but think, if even for just a microsecond: I’m next. It’s that attitude that I sometimes am parenting against. In the short term, it might make me feel better to leash the kids and pad them in bubble wrap. But then some day they’d go out in the world and I’d never know if they could handle it. Even worse, they wouldn’t either.
What I find interesting, is that Jaycee Dugard herself understands that. If there’s a mother anywhere that the anti-helicopter, free-range kids advocates might cut some slack, it would be Dugard. She experienced the darkest side of humanity; she was next. And yet, even she knows holding her kids too close isn’t in their interest.
A post over at Free Range Kids excerpts a paragraph from Dugard’s memoir, A Stolen Life, and she gets this push and pull between the logical and emotional side of raising kids to be in the world:
It still scares me, the fact that I can’t protect my daughters from everything. What mother wouldn’t want to protect their child from the dangers of the world? But I have to choose to believe they will both be okay and realize that sometimes when we shelter our children too much, we are really protecting ourselves.
A Target employee who was pulled into the search found my own missing daughter in party supplies. We were both shaken and a little teary and frazzled and relieved. Now, when we talk about the incident, it’s not in terms of how awful it might have turned out, but how helpful everyone was, how concerned. How so many people stopped what they were doing to search and protect. How complete strangers cared about us. How good and safe the world can be. How good and safe the world was that day and how good and safe it usually is.