When we birth our children, we also birth a protective instinct that bubbles up in us and can nearly consume us in those dark times when our children may be in danger. It’s the Mama (or Papa) Bear gene. Mostly it lays dormant until the tiny seed of a child begins to grow in us.
I remember a time early in my pregnancy with my first daughter. I was about to dart across the street, dodging traffic, when I stopped myself short. I couldn’t budge. The Mama Bear instinct forced me to stand on the sidewalk waiting for a more safe opportunity. It caught me by surprise to realize that I couldn’t do it quite as carelessly as I once did. Suddenly I was responsible for someone other than myself and that felt serious.
As the children get older, it becomes more and more clear that we cannot protect them from everything. They will get hurt, they will fall down and skin their knees, they will be betrayed, they’ll have their hearts broken – and all we can do is offer them a safe place to land. It tears your heart out when you watch it happen. Sometimes, in fact, it feels like the pain is deeper than if you were the one getting hurt or betrayed.
This week, we found out that the soccer coach that was supposed to be coaching our daughter’s team was arrested for child molestation and child porn. He allegedly took advantage of one of the girls on the soccer team – quite possibly someone we know. We are all heart sick about this.
At the beginning of the season, when we went to the meeting to be introduced to the coaches and team members, this particular coach took the parents aside and said “if you’re ever in a pinch and need someone to give your daughter a ride to a game or practice, give me a call and I’d be happy to help out. Especially if you’re a single parent and you just can’t juggle everyone’s schedule – I know what it’s like to go through a divorce. I’m there for you and your daughters.” At the time I remember thinking “he’s either a really nice guy or he’s a little creepy – I’m not really sure which.”
It’s sickening now to think that he was setting us up to trust him with our daughters. He seemed sincere at the time and though I found his offer a little odd, there was nothing that screamed “child molester” about him. (He left the team shortly after that meeting, so that was the only time I encountered him.)
Every day we have to make decisions and help our children make decisions – is this person trustworthy? Is this activity safe? Mostly, I tend to lean toward trust rather than fear. I don’t think it does anyone any good to be forever living in fear of everyone we meet. But there are those times when trust is the wrong choice, and for that girl, who was (allegedly – I have to remember “innocent until proven guilty”) molested when her dad had to leave the soccer field early and she’d gotten rides home from the coach, trust may never feel like an option again.
And even for my daughters, who are very aware of what’s going on, trusting adults in positions of authority has become less of an automatic assumption.
Oh, sometimes I wish the world were a simpler place.