I got lost this morning. On my way from dropping Aisha at preschool, I decided to take a scenic route home across a local nature reserve. My theory was I would test it out as a potential non-road route back. I often get lost, either on foot or in the car. I don’t seem to have a built-in sense of direction and I’m very stubborn when it comes to heeding advice to check a map or look at a sat nav. The draw back to this morning’s misadventure was that the nature reserve was adjacent to the local landfill and I ended up walking right alongside the landfill. In the fog, in the early morning, this looked a bit like the end of time had come and I was about to enter an alternate reality. Needless to say, I turned back and scurried back to familiar territory and eventually the right path to my house.
The whole trip took me about forty minutes. Forty minutes is a lot of time to think. And I do tend to think a lot when I’m walking. Either proper, coherent thoughts, or a day dream (usually involving some dashing sleb who loves me dearly), or if I’m feeling tired I will indulge in an ear worm.
This morning’s thoughts were all about safety. My safety and my kids’ safety. Whilst I was walking I felt a little bit scared. I felt scared because I had a very clear realisation that I was a) completely alone, b) in a strange place, and c) nobody knew I was there. All of my former years I have been taught that those three together are bad. And if you add d) I’m a woman, it’s safe to say I’m toast.
Where do these perceptions come from? Why do we believe that by ‘allowing’ or ‘putting’ ourselves into a situation like this, we are completely opening ourselves up to the possibility that the big bad wolf/axe murderer is going to jump out and get us?
Is it media fear? Is it society not yet coming to terms with the fact that the only person responsible in an attack is the attacker?
I remember being taught in school about ‘stranger danger’; the man in the silver car hanging about outside schools and offering sweets to kids. As if by saying no to those sweets, I would be safe.
I remember having the ‘rape alarm’, which I carried around with me and never thought much beyond that it was supposed to save me if I was being attacked.
I have a daughter and a son and I want to teach them both the right things in life and I want to teach them to respect people and not to hurt people. I hope for the most part that is ‘built in’ to their personalities. But how do I teach them about the dangers of people around them without making them fear situations and strangers?
How do I teach them that they should be free to live as they wish, but also to safeguard themselves. And is it right to teach them they have to safeguard themselves?
I don’t have these answers, just a lot of thoughts. I would welcome any thoughts from readers about this because I know the thoughts are going to come again and get stronger as the dangers around us evolve and as my children become more wordly and less inclined to want me to hold their hands.
Answers on a postcard (or a comment box)