The Truth About Parenting Kids in an Unsafe World — We are THAT Family

When I was a 9 years old, I snuck $ 3 out of my mom’s wallet and rode my bike to the corner drug store. I bought her a tiny china bud vase with “Happy Anniversary” painted in gold. I was a good-hearted thief and my mom loved the gift. While she may have questioned my pickpocketing ways, she never worried about my safety on the sidewalk, next to a busy road.

I knew dinner was ready because my siblings and I listened for my mom’s call throughout the neighborhood. We rode our bikes around town, to the store and to school, unchaperoned. We climbed in ditches and went inside our neighbor’s houses. We caught fireflies in mason jars and made yarn pompoms and went door-to-door selling them all summer long, just for fun.

When my husband was 10, my son’s age now, he put hundreds of miles on his BMX bike, riding from school to his parent’s print shop to baseball practice with his slugger bat slung around his back, and back home in time for supper. We didn’t have cell phones or websites that allowed us to check for neighborhood pedophiles.

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We simply lived in a different world. 

I look back on my carefree childhood and I grieve what I will never be able to give my kids: innocence.

Over Easter, we visited my in-laws rural farm located in a town with less than 500 people.

With hundreds of acres to explore, my kids absolutely love jumping hay bales, picking wildflowers, filling the table with farm fresh food and roaming. Getting poison ivy, optional.

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On the way home from working with the cattle, and away from my kids’ ears, my mother-in-law told me about the recent trial of a crazy man who murdered two young girls walking along side the road in a neighboring small town a few summers ago. We wondered if drugs and violent video games led him to such a horrible act.

It saddened me to think even the “safe” places really aren’t any more.

A few hours later, I urged my 6 year old to go play outside while we worked on supper. She looked up at me and said, “But what if someone steals me?”

Her fear hits close to home.

This is the world we live in, where our Kindergartners understand lockdown drills because school (even church, movie theatre and university) shootings have become a sick twisted  way of life. And my little one thinks about abduction?

And while I refuse to live in fear of what could happen down every dirty road or at the park across the street from my house, I also choose to take smart precautions. So, where does that leave us? Longing for an innocence that doesn’t exist as we raise our children in a world vastly different than the one we grew up in.

But we take heart because Christ did not leave us hopeless or with fear as a companion.

Truths We Must Take to Heart:

We Aren’t Really in Control- Ultimately, we have to relinquish the myth that we can actually keep our children safe and our homes secure and our lives out of harms-way. Oh, we can be wise, but we can’t be in control. As a parent, this is the hardest lesson. If you watch old home videos of me with my kids, I say “Be careful” 4256 times. But I didn’t give them breath and I can’t determine when they take their last. I can shepherd and walk beside them, but they are not my creation. They belong to God. Living in this freedom has allowed us to traipse all over Kenya, Africa, and trust God to do His part as we do ours. We might not be in control, but we cling to the promise that He is and works things out for our good. Romans 8:28

God Does Not Call us to be Safe- I love safety. I’m a seatbelt-wearing, vaccinating, precaution-taking mother. But if you read the Bible, you don’t find promises of safety. Actually, you discover the opposite. Safety can keep us frozen in place, it can distort adventure, it can paralyze us with fear. “Followers of God don’t always know where they are going, but they know who they are with. We do not bow at the alter of safety.” David Platt. So, while we long to provide safe homes and environments for our children, we can’t swallow the pill of ease because we’ve convinced ourselves we are safe. On the contrary, radical obedience to Jesus can be risky. James 1:12

This is Not Our Forever Home-And this is the truth that I cling to. It offers comfort when I am afraid or worry has found a foothold. The house we live in isn’t really our home. The swinging hammock in the back, the chalkboard table we crowd around–these are temporary. We are ill-fitted for this world, we stick out like sore thumbs and are urged not to conform–why? Because Jesus is preparing our forever home with him. This is our blessed hope, the promise we cling to in our changing world. I Peter 2:11

Perception is still Perception- Whenever I hear about local crime, I tell my friends about it. News spreads quickly as we try and look out for each other and then there’s the news on TV, Internet, etc.  I’ve updated this post with these stats. It shows that overall crime against children has gone down, but perception of crime has gone up. So we are safer, but feel less safe, mostly due to media coverage and constant access from living such connected lives. So, is the root of our fear based on violence in our world? Or is actually from overexposure and access? [Deep Thoughts]

Above all, there’s no room for fear to rule our hearts because that’s where love lives. And perfect love casts out fear.

What Next?

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