I used to hate the Free Range Kids lady. When Scouty was little and I was reeling from having my entire world exploded by the new responsibility of being in charge of a life, the world was totally full of dangers. I just knew that there was a predator behind every bush, just waiting to snap up my gorgeous, strawberry blond child. I didn't dare take my eyes off of her for even a moment, not even in our own back yard, because... haven't you seen that show where Chris Hansen catches perverts? They were everywhere.
As Scouty got older and I started making more mommy friends, I was kind of shocked by their behavior as parents. They talked about letting their two year old stay with a friend for a few hours. They took their children to day care, and to the babysitting room at the gym. When we were at playgrounds together, they didn't hover around their child with arms extended, ready to catch her, should she fall. They seemed so relaxed and... I don't know. Normal. Like they were people, and not some kind of manic, terrified robot-mommy that was always on alert mode. I was shocked by them, but not in a negative way.
I would come home from a play date and talk to Kurt about it, all perplexed. "Heather said that she takes her son to the child care room at the gym," I would tell him.
"So...?" he would ask.
It was all shocking to me because secretly, I believed that every child care worker, especially those in a public place like a gym were just molesters and child abusers, and waiting for a chance to get alone with my girl. But really? Did that really even happen? Wouldn't I just be around the corner, practically within earshot, and weren't there multiple workers and didn't they pass background checks, and would the gym even hire a creepy molester man to work in their child care room? Have I ever heard of that situation, even?
When we signed Scout up for preschool, I asked the head of admissions whether or not there were any male teachers. She told me there was one, that he had children who attended the school, and that he'd been employed there for years. I was instantly nervous at the mention of him, but we went ahead with registration.
Now that she's been going there for almost a year, it's hard for me to remember how I used to feel about sending her out into the world, without me. After Scout's birth, I was a wreck. I spent every second of every day imagining every terrible scenario that could possibly harm my baby. I was obsessed with how dangerous the world was, and how many things could go wrong. I was paralyzed with worrying, so much so that I couldn't even sleep at night. I didn't think I had PPD because I wasn't really sad... I was just a wreck and convinced that the entire universe was full of bad people who wanted to harm my daughter.
I remember that when I was a child, my mother used to memorize what we were wearing before we left for school, so that... if we suddenly disappeared, she would be able to report what we were wearing to the authorities. We lived like that our whole lives. As a teenager, I would be due home at 11pm, and I'd show up early at 10:30pm to find my mother trembling and crying and peering out the front window, convinced that I was going to die in a car accident and never come home.
I refuse to live like that. Even better, I refuse to raise my kids like that. I got a grip on my fear and stopped letting it influence my decisions. Even though it was scary, I let go of my daughter so that she could have independent social experiences. The more I allow her to participate in the world that has nothing to do with me, the more I see that she carries me with her wherever she goes. I see that I've equipped her to be confident and brave out in the big, scary world... and I see that the world isn't actually big and scary. It's a place that's full of other uneasy, strong, brave mommies and their amazing kids.
I want my daughters to be able to ride their bikes around our neighborhood, someday. I want them to play with neighbor children. I want them to have sleepovers and to participate in activities and unfortunately, I won't be able to be there every single second of their lives. If I teach them that they are loved beyond measure, though, they'll be better prepared to navigate the world, and to learn from it.
I don't want them to be scared in living, so I have to be brave in mothering.
I even like the Free Range Kids lady, now.