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Keep Calm and WTF

"It is big and it is frightening at times but on the whole the world is a wonderful place."
 Charlotte's Web

Maya and I have a new routine at the supermarket. Instead of her following me up and down the aisles, occasionally dropping a box of cereal in the cart or asking if we can buy Oreos, we split up. So while I am picking out chicken breasts for dinner, she is a few rows down grabbing milk. Or bread. Or whole wheat spaghetti. She loves it because it makes her feel independent. And I love it because it it genuinely helpful. Everyone wins!

Since I can't actually see her when she is running through the supermarket, we have talked about safety. We have talked about what she should do if someone she does not know ever grabs her. We had this conversation, not because I think that the Williamsburg Foodtown is a hotbed of child predators, but because it is important to me that my child knows what to do if anything bad should ever happen. We have also discussed how to cross streets safely, what she should do if we ever get separated on the subway, and how to call 911. 


In the simple way that a five year old can, my daughter understands the difference between helpful grownups and ones who are trying to hurt her. I do not tell my child to "not talk to strangers", because I believe that most strangers are actually good people and I want her to ask for help if she ever needs it. She has fire and lockdown drills at her school but we have never discussed the Newtown shootings.  We do not keep a gun in our home, so we have never discussed gun safety. We have certainly never discussed bombs and what they can do when they are suddenly detonated in an unsuspecting crowd. 


Maya loves the Star Wars movies and the Incredibles and Spy Kids. But if you ask her about real life "bad guys" she will say that yes, there are bad guys in the world but that most people are good. She will tell you that her school is a "safe place". And then she will explain how to break someone's grip by twisting towards the thumb. (Her daddy taught her that.)

This morning, Lenore Skenazy of freerangekids.com posted this statement that had been sent to her: “If you love your kids, don’t bring them into large crowds at high profile events. Yes, it stinks that you have to make these kind of choices, but the reality is that there are a lot of bad people out there. If you want to see the action, watch it on TV from the safety of your home. "

I love my daughter. And as a mother, I understand how this kind of "worst first" thinking can consume your life. I mean what if it is your child that gets hurt? Isn't it better to be safe then sorry? The truth is that every time I hear a news story like Newtown or Boston I have to force myself to breathe deep and remember that these events are RARE. I have to fight the urge to never ride the subway again, to stay away from large gatherings, to hold my child's hand while crossing streets, in the supermarket, at the playground, forever. Every single time. 


For me it is not about not "letting the terrorists win." Its about raising a confident, independent daughter, one who does not fear the world, despite the fact that there is plenty to fear. It is about understanding that there is a difference between being realistic and being paranoid. That in the end, no matter how tightly we hold on, we can only do so much. In the end, we have to have faith and let go.


In a recent Facebook status update,  comedian Patton Oswalt said the following: 

I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths. 

But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet...


This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak...

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will.""

Mommies and daddies, I know how you feel. It is hard to not let the fear win. Really f-ing HARD. And if God forbid you were in that crowd in Boston, you stay home. For months if you have to. But as time passes the rest of us have to remember that there are not "a lot of bad people out there." There are some. But mostly, the world is full of helpers. It is full of compassion. It is full of people who care about others and do not want to see them hurt.

"The good outnumber you, and we always will."
Thinking of you, Boston. Carry on.

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