Words from my mother

As I sat on the sofa this past Saturday morning  surrounded by my dogs, my handgun within reach, watching my 3 month old daughter happily dream away in her swing, my thoughts drifted to a conversation I had earlier this week with a friend who has a young daughter.

It was a conversation about how to teach conflict resolution at such a young age and if she could understand when to when to walk away. Of course, my mind always has to step over the edge and remind my friend that just because her daughter knows to walk away doesn’t mean a threat will not come after her.  We don’t like to imagine any type of harm coming to our kids but she needs to make sure, even as little as she is, that she knows how to defend herself.

I’m not quite sure how old I was, but my mom was the first person who brought the reality to me that my older brothers weren’t always going to be there to step in if I was being bullied; that mom and dad aren’t going to always be walking with me down our safe suburban streets. I finally understood wholeheartedly that strangers are more than a threat of just not knowing who they are.

My awareness came to light in my early school age years. I could have been in Kindergarten, but it was most likely first grade as I remember sitting at my desk and felt that I finally understood the difference between good and evil. I remember it feeling like a virtual line was drawn in the differences. It became somehow tangible now that I understood the concept.

My mom didn’t drive when I was little and my dad worked crazy hours, so when I started school we had a password in case someone else had to come pick me up at school. She sat me down on the brown sofa in our living room, made kind of a game out of coming up with the password and we came up with “fiddlesticks” which I agreed to immediately because she told me it was one of my brother’s passwords, too (as an adult, I’m sure she was just at her wits end trying to get me to agree to any password at this point, lol). I remember looking at her and wondering if she knew that I was in danger (which I wasn’t) and that was why this password was so important. Who was coming to get me, I wondered as she pressed on that it was a secret password that only I and the person picking me up would know.

If my mom ever had any trouble talking to her kids, I wouldn’t know. She’s always been quite matter-of-fact when talking to me. A few years later, out of nowhere she said to me something like “do you know what to do if someone is choking you?” As I looked at her, imagining a person walking towards me with their hands outstretched reaching for my throat, she goes “break their thumb. People lose their grasping ability if you break their thumb” then she took a sip of her coffee, showed me how to do it and sent me on my merry way.

Another time, she told me regardless if I had time to run or time to fight to scream “fire” as loud as I possibly can. People will not respond to “help”, she advised.  “Help” is a word that people are too used to hearing…yell “Fire” and people will come running.

I was almost late for my first day of high school. As I heard the bus coming down the street, my mom stopped me as I was headed out the door. She held my shoulders, looked me straight in the eye and said, in this exact order: “No drugs, no sex, no smoking.” End of lesson. She didn’t have to say anymore. I understood the words in the order in which she said them. No drugs: don’t lose control of yourself which will lead to your getting into the following situations when you don’t want to be. Be aware at all times. Keep your wits about you, girl, because you alone are responsible for your safety.

I am willing to teach my own daughter and any future children I may have the same lessons, although I will include one more because a piece of paper won’t protect her from those who want to do her harm.

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