Considering how Type A I am, I was surprised when I had my daughter and was not one of those “crazy” mothers. I didn’t freak out about everything that touched her skin being organic. I pretty much let everyone hold her as an infant (plus, that allowed me to pee or shower without a bouncy seat in the bathroom). I didn’t get into a sweaty panic when she spiked a fever out of nowhere or came down with a stomach bug resulting in hours of laundry and Gatorade consumption.
While I cried going back to work after maternity leave, I was comfortable with the childcare we arranged and did not check up on her every hour to make sure she was still breathing and had all of her limbs. All in all, given my genetic disposition to neuroses from being raised by a typical Jewish mother, I was shockingly calm 99 percent of the time.
However, I recently developed a major Achilles heel. As my child has grown and entered elementary school (and summer camp), I’m now faced with the horror of field trips. I. HATE. THEM.
But this hatred is fairly recent and directly correlated to the abnormal level of crazy brewing in our world. I am kept up at night by visions burned in my brain of attempted abductions I see on the news, some just feet away from the parents. I struggle between creating an environment where my own child lives in fear and just keeping it to myself to let her stay naïve as long as possible. How do you teach a 7-yr-old the importance of being aware and vigilant without scaring the crap out of them? Is it even possible?
Last summer was the first taste of this fear I didn’t even know I had. She went on her first field trip and came home to tell me she played by herself (at 6 yrs old) in a giant, public game/playspace. The counselors were congregated in the food court, too busy eating fries and not watching my child. This is a public establishment, with random strangers all over and it’s big so you can’t see anything from the food court except the immediate area in front of you. I called camp to confirm this was the scenario to which they replied, “Well, we can’t possibly watch all kids all the time.” That’s when I said, “Well, then frankly you shouldn’t be going on field trips.” Forget about “all kids all the time”, the counselors weren’t watching ANY kids. They were kibitzing about what 17 yr- olds kibitz about.
I should also note that this was the same camp that thought it was acceptable to give my 6-yr-old a Mountain Dew (the meth of soda). And when I called (again) and said that was unacceptable, they told me I needed to “put in writing anything she can’t have.” I subsequently asked them if I needed to put in writing that she cannot have crack…because she can’t.
So all of this just makes me feel beyond uncomfortable when the people making these dumb decisions are now responsible for watching my child outside the confines of camp. Can you really blame me?
Scarred from that summer, we tried a new camp this year. All was good until I got that first field trip notification and my PTSD started to kick-in. Plus it was at a bowling alley, which let’s be honest, can have a somewhat seedy clientele. I developed a two-pronged approach, because I really don’t want my kid to miss out on normal stuff...but I also want her to come home.
First, I had a talk with her. We talked about being aware of your surroundings; staying with your counselors; not ever going into a bathroom alone without an adult (sorry but the 7-yr-old buddy system is not enough muscle); we covered screaming bloody murder if a stranger did approach or put their hands anywhere near her and following that up with the hardest kick/punch you can muster. I was scared…she was not and told me not to worry because she “can punch really hard!”
Part two involved me being a little vulnerable and showing my crazy. I wrote a note to the counselor letting her know how freaked out we were (especially given the negative experiences from the previous summer) and asked her to please stick with my child and especially for bathroom visits if possible. I also told my child to follow her around like she follows me around the house to the point that I sometimes trip on her. The counselor willingly obliged and was so great about it (which is why she got a fat tip at the end of the session).
I hate that I feel this way. I hate that this is the world I am raising a child in. I mean for god’s sake I grew up in Miami and went on field trips to cigar rolling factories (not kidding) and don’t remember my parents ever having this level of fear.
As a parent, I just can’t ignore the reality of the sick people who are out there, and if it makes me more neurotic and protective, I’ll own the crazy around it 100% until there’s a little more peace, sanity and stability in our world.