Ever since I moved from a small town in Iowa to the Orlando, Florida area, I have come to hate watching the news. It seems like every day there is a new story about horrible things happening to innocent people.
The worst are the stories about crimes against children. As a mother, I have an instant need to find my babies and wrap my arms around them, keeping them safe from anything that would hurt them.
I was reminded of this feeling earlier this week when I was reading the Orlando Sentinel’s Moms At Work blog about a little girl who was raped and murdered, allegedly by her Sunday school teacher. As Lisa pointed out, hearing about strangers who hurt children is terrifying. But reading the story of Sandra Cantu, an 8-year old thought to have been victimized by her best friend’s mother, is beyond unthinkable. This isn’t a random stranger being accused of heinous crimes. This is a woman that the little girl - and undoubtedly her parents - trusted.
It begs the question, who do you trust with your kids?
Stories like this really hit home for me because I don’t have the luxury of watching either of my children 24 hours a day. Both my husband and I work full time and we don’t have retired family members in the area who can share the child care responsibilities. If the mortgage is going to get paid, we have no choice but to entrust someone else with the care and safety of our children.
But what if we’re doing it wrong?
What if our judgments and characterizations of our child care providers are completely off base?
It’s unnerving to think about the consequences of those kind of mistakes. And yet, for my children’s sake, I have to. I can’t put my head in the sand and hope for the best. I have to face the realities that there are bad people out there who do bad things - and that you can’t always tell by looking at someone if they are bad or not.
The only thing I know to do to protect my children is to prepare them. Unfortunately, that means making them aware of the dangers that lurk outside our home. That means having to explain to my son that bad things happen to children - and that someone, some day, might try to hurt him.
It breaks my heart to have to be the one to shatter his innocence.
But better me than anyone else.
Of course, it isn’t enough to scare him. The point of having these talks with him (and later with his sister) is to teach him what to do if the situation arises. The point is to arm him with the knowledge and tools necessary to protect himself.
And pray to God that he never has to use them.