About that helicopter...
Woof. I've been off the grid. The holidays occurred. They were delightful. All sorts of great times that I was too busy living to consider blogging. Perhaps I'll recap some of it at some point or post some pictures of my kids covered in frosting.
But for now, let's discuss the old helicopter again. The one I referred to in my last post about trying to prevent myself from pouring some kind of gelatinous overprotective goo all over my children's bodies.
The chopper is ready to fly into action again. I would like some sedatives. Let's discuss.
So Phook received an invitation to a sleepover for this coming Friday nite. It arrived in her school folder. It was typed, written from the person of the inviting child, but obviously actually written by mom. It did not specify if it was a birthday party or if other kids were invited. It suggested a pick-up time and all that. It gave a home phone number for me to call.
I've never met these other parents. I do know that Phook and this girl are BFFs. The reasons I know this are myriad, and include the facts that a) Phook talks about her constantly and b) Phook frequently draws pictures of the two of them holding hands with their initials in an equation that = BFFs.
My first thought was to panic. Phook knew about the invitation so I didn't have the option of hiding it and then calling the mom and coming up with an excuse. Phook wants to go. Very badly. My husband and my sister say (essentially) that I'm on crack for freaking about this.
Here's the thing. I have too much education on matters of sexual assault prevention to think that my kid is automatically safe in someone else's home just because their kid seems nice. I am just gonna say that. I'm terrified my kid is going to get perped.
I stalked the family online. Mom and Dad have very recently filed for divorce after living separately for a long time.Their home is worth approximately $350K, which in my area qualifies their place as an actual mansion. Mom is an executive level person for a local company. Mom and Dad are slightly older - she is 38 and he is 47. They have no criminal background that I can find. There is another daughter in the 3rd grade and no other kids. I called the school and bugged the secretary for info on the family, and found out that Dad works in South Carolina and is not around much, but Mom & Dad's situation is amicable. She stated that she would feel safe sending her own child to the home and could not think of any cause for concern with the family.
Do you think I'm a psycho for obtaining this information? Pretty sure I don't care. Not to be a dick, but really, I don't.
These people appear to have a pretty high SES, and to be frank, that gives me some comfort. Even if it does make me a big asshole for admitting that. It just seems more likely that there won't be a creepy drug-addled cousin holing up in the spare room in this type of situation than in others I could imagine. Of course even pretending that matters gives me nothing more than a false sense of security, but it helps a little on the blood pressure.
I just wish it were good enough. Good enough to calm me down and to assure me my kid would be totally safe there.
But here's the rub. The real rub. There is no assurance my kid would be totally safe anywhere.
I don't know about you, but the Newtown shootings totally rocked me. Rocked me harder than I have ever been rocked by some random act that occurred out in a world full of random acts. I've actually written several blog posts about Newtown, but I can't bring myself to post them, because they feel too raw to share, right now at least. Suffice it to say that I think about Newtown and those kids and families every single day for a not insignificant period of time. I take my kid to a little basketball practice at a youth center and I'm watching how she never walks anywhere...she always skips from point A to point B. But instead of just noticing how cute it is that my kid skips, I think about 20 kids who will never skip again, and I have to choke back tears sitting on some bleachers in front of a bunch of other parents. I think it is something about having a 6-year-old, and knowing so very exactly what a 6-year-old is that has made the Newtown tragedy something I just cannot shake off. It is my personal 9/11, the thing out in the world that tore me down in a whole new and horrible way. My husband says--in earnest--that I may need therapy to work through this. He's probably not wrong.
I'm telling you that not because I think I am especially special in caring about the tragedy--obviously everyone cares about it--but as an indicator of the emotional landscape I'm operating in as I experience this sleepover thing. I am more terrified about everything than I have ever been before, and the helicopter just wants to hover, hover, hover.
I've done my thing in terms of educating my children about how everyone--everyone--needs to respect their bodies. How if they say no to something that is just it, regardless of what the other party may be saying. How even if someone tells you their name, they can still be a stranger. I've talked and talked to Phook about safety of all kinds. She knows how to call 9-1-1. She knows about fire safety. She knows about every kind of safety you can educate a kid on.
I could not be more confident in Phook herself. I really couldn't. I did not know 6-year-olds could be as mature and smart and just downright able as Phook is. If Phook had evacuated the Titanic, there would have been more survivors. Really. The kid is able.
But she's still 6. I don't have to explain that anymore than to just say it.
So here's where I'm at. I have called the mom and left a message and I'm planning on getting myself into an awkward conversation with her in which I ask a lot of awkward questions. They will include fun stuff like, "Do you keep guns in your home? If so, how do you secure them?" and "Who will have access to my kid while she's in your home?" and, well, you get the idea. Really looking forward to it.
I remember when Big K and I were taking childbirth education classes prior to Phook's birth. There was this old battle axe of a nurse who was talking about the importance of keeping a baby's environment smoke-free. Not a young hippie nurse with newfangled notions about raising your child naturally, but a nearly retirement-age hardcore nurse who went close to 3 bills, was married to a trucker, and looked like she would be perfectly comfortable doing a trach with a ballpoint pen. She of course told us that home and daycare should be smoke-free, but took it a step further and said that no one who has smoked recently should be allowed to hold the baby unless they've changed their clothes, because the harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke cling to clothing. It does not take a medical degree to acknowledge that smokers always smell like smoke regardless of where they do their smoking, but Big K and I kind of balked at that idea, because we had several grandparent smokers at the time. Big K asked for advice on how to bring that up to a grandparent or other loved one, and asked for any words of wisdom on how to make a terribly awkward request like, "Will you change your shirt before you hold my baby?" The nurse wasn't having it. She cut right through the question. She said, "It doesn't matter if it's an awkward question. You are about to become a parent. If you are not advocating for your child, who will? Awkward doesn't matter." Boom.
I never did ask a grandparent to change a shirt.
I failed. I let avoiding awkward win over advocating for my kids. And I have an asthma kid. I'm not saying I have an asthma kid because I let smoky-shirted people hold my baby - I'm saying that I could never get over the awkward to advocate even for a kid with lung issues. That's how powerful the awkward is. I cannot do that if I am even considering sending my kid to this sleepover, which I am. Nor can I let my own anxiety over the dangers in the world impair my child's ability to live in it. I was bawling to Big K the other nite, saying, "I just don't want her to get hurt. I just don't want her to get hurt." His response was to say, "I know. I don't either. But she will get hurt. She is a person living in the world and that means she will get hurt. Save this emotion for when she is actually hurt and be grateful now that she never has been." The pragmatic bastard. Who is always right. To be clear, he wasn't saying that we shouldn't take precautions to keep her safe, he was just giving me a reality check on the limits of those precautions, and the cold hard truth that no precaution we could ever dream up would allow her to live out her life entirely unscathed. Ugh.
Later I was talking to my sister about this and I was saying how I was going to give Phook a refresher course on people respecting her body, etc., and my sister said, "Dude, then she's going to be sitting at their kitchen table and say, 'My mom said no one can touch me in any way I don't like.' That'll be really awkward." Yup, it will be. But you know what? It shouldn't be. We need to educate our children and advocate for them and teach them how to advocate for themselves without so much fear of social retribution. It should not have to be awkward if a child makes a statement about protecting themselves. It should not have to be awkward if a parent makes well-intentioned inquiries about an environment in which they are considering leaving their child. It just should not be awkward. Awkward should have nothing to do with it. If we are hosting other people's children in our homes, we should be open to any question they want to ask that pertains to the safety of their kid.
I am on a soapbox. I know it. But, whatever. The chopper is in the air, it is circling, it has spotlights shining all over town. It has to. Right now, it has to. Just as I felt compelled to push my child to go to school when she was afraid of other student's teasing her for limping, I now feel compelled to suck up my fear of awkward and (nicely) grill this mom before I decide if Phook can stay overnite there. And even then, I may pull the plug just because. Just because.
The chopper is deployed.
If I am not advocating for my child, who will?