From the first day here we realized that not everything is perfect. It didn’t take long before we discovered goat heads and sand burrs. We’ve encountered the goat heads before, in Colorado, and they are nasty. They puncture bike tires and shoes – and they hurt. They poke through gloves, and are nasty to the pads of dog’s feet. The sand burrs, while not quite as violent, are more prolific and annoying. They stick to one’s socks, pants, and fall into shoes with devastating effects.
Sure, in Oregon we have mist, fog, grey skies, and rain – but those are not painful in a tactile way. We also have poison oak and the occasional earthquake, but we don’t have lightning, tornadoes, or nasty stickers. I’m still trying to keep an open mind, but it’s a known fact that Oregon is God’s country and doesn’t have the devastating pests, natural disasters, and annoying biology of other parts of the country.
I’m not naive enough to think I’ve figured out the blessings of these thorns – yet. And I’m pretty certain I don’t even have a clue as to any benefit. I did find it interesting that the sand burrs were native to North America and were not a problem until after the Carolina Parakeet became extinct. Now they are found worldwide and they are toxic to animals.
Sometimes some things we think are harmless, like a beautiful pasture, often turn out to be prickly and annoying. Too often, beautiful things can turn out to be dangerous and harmful. Like the deer that wander past the house, they look beautiful and harmless, but in reality they are the cause of serious injury and death to humans.
As a father, I’m always vigilant to danger and constantly on the lookout to protect my family. My biggest fear is humans – not stickers, burrs, or animals. The coyotes that prey in the pastures don’t scare me; I’ve taught my kids to not approach deer; and most of the other animals are rare and pose little risk. But it is the people who appear friendly, but in reality prey on children, they scare me.
It is difficult to know who to trust and who not to trust. Some people just love children. They treat all kids as if they were their own grandchildren – and that is awesome. But some are adept predators, grooming children for their own use and satisfaction. Not all predators resort to abusive touch or other harmful actions, some are content with the flirtation of impropriety. Living a fantasy life through pornography and desire.
But some very kind and apparently well intentioned people are so adroit in their predation that it is difficult to not let one’s guard down. They don’t just groom the kids, but they groom the parents to trust also. It is exactly because I don’t always trust myself in judge people’s motives that I don’t always trust others.
Last night I was talking to a man who had just met my family. He went into great detail about how “darling” my daughter is. Of which I agree. But he told me about what she was wearing, how she behaved, and how sweet she is. I will admit, she is all of that – but I have two issues regarding this. First, I don’t want my Darling Daughter to grow up thinking she is a princess and will have everything handed to her on a silver platter – just because she is beautiful and charming. But, like the wolf in sheep’s clothing, I am leery of the occasional predator that may take advantage of a moment to harm my kids.
Last week I met a man who was clearly grooming my Smiling Son. He brought guitars, guns to show off, and paid special attention to him. He went so far to offer to teach my five-year old how to use guns. I later advised both of my kids to never be alone with him and to not hug him or let him touch them.
At the same time, I don’t want my kids to miss out on opportunities because of my fears and protective approach. As an older father, that is always a danger in raising kids. Being overprotective can be as harmful as other serious parenting mistakes. But when it comes to sexual abuse, abduction, or worse – I will continue to be the wary parent and I will continue to shelter my kids from people (including other kids) whom I deem dangerous or untrustworthy.
What fears do you have? What steps do you take to protect your kids? What irrational fears do you harbor? What rational fears do you watch out for on a regular basis?