On the same day, independent of one another, a couple of mom-friends of mine were surprised to find that I hadn't heard about the two tragedies that had recently occurred. In one instance, an otherwise trustworthy nanny had reportedly killed the two young children in her care, and in the other, a 12 year old girl was reportedly murdered by two boys she met on Facebook. Her body was found in a dumpster. Both of these friends of mine referred to the two incidents as fuel for their already nervous concern about the safety of their children. They were disturbed, as anyone would be, about these horrific events, and I shuddered to learn about them.
At first, I wondered how it was that I hadn't heard about these two incidents. Then I realized that because I avoid such news coverage, I'm spared the intrusion into my own sense of well being as I navigate the world as a mother. Especially as a mom who has endured a trauma with one of my own, I find this choice a particularly helpful strategy. I've come to see that the majority of parents worry about the possibility of their children coming into harm's way, but for those of us who have experienced the death of one of our children (my first child was stillborn at 41 weeks), we've come face to face with the personal devastation that the worst has happened and there's not a thing we can do to change it.
Without a doubt, I am committed to taking common sense precautions and doing all that I can to assist my four kids to develop their own good judgment. We talk about how to stay safe online and why, we as a family choose to comply with the Facebook account minimum age of 13 years old. My eldest is not quite 12, so this is something she can look forward to in another year. The fact that many of her peers at school are already ‘on Facebook' is not relevant to me. I tell her that's a matter for their parents to handle. Topics such as this give all family members an opportunity to talk about peer pressure. How will they respond in a situation in which their friends challenge them to experiment with something they feel uncomfortable with or they know is not right. Rather than telling them what I think they should do, I ask, "What would you do if / when…?" We run through their ideas and discuss likely outcomes.
When horrific events occur such as the two from a couple of weeks ago, every parent gets a chill, thinking, that could have been my kid. The agony of the grief-stricken parents is unimaginable. Yet, this sort of occurrence, when you consider the number of children in the U.S., is extremely rare. Far more common are fatal injuries from not wearing a seatbelt, being hit by a car or drowning. Such tragedies occur every day, in every state in the country. Although there's no guarantee I'll be able to foresee and safeguard against every possible threat, I choose to focus on the steps to help to accomplish avoiding such senseless tragedies.
We all know the boring old basics: washing hands is the best method to prevent the spread of germs that can cause illness, seatbelts on and stay on whenever in a moving vehicle, supervising children in the pool, and riding your bike wearing a helmet and wary of drivers who may not see you. These are acts that can help spare us the anguish of an unexpected tragedy.