As I’ve grown older and look like less of a target (and earned belts in judo, jui jitsu and karate), I’ve worried a little less about myself. However my daughter is hitting puberty and my fears for her are in many ways even worse. And yet I don’t want her to constantly look at every guy with suspicion, always on guard, the way I’ve spent so much of my life.
To the men who have daughters: How do you deal with this?
My daughter is in the first grade, so I have not yet worked out an operational plan. However, I know she’s going to be difficult. She’s like me, a stubborn ass.
She’s definitely a flock-of-a-single-bird type of girl, who cares less about what everyone else is doing, which will make it less likely that she’ll be out and about in a large posse of friends. On the other hand, this also means that whoever her buddies turn out to be in the 5+ grade world, they’re likely to be close-flying wingpersons. One advantage of being fairly self-contained is that she’s also hugely disinterested in external validation, which generally leads to the sort of independent personality that is less likely to get involved in a large selection of situations where creepy guys have a power advantage. Not that this eliminates all of them, but having little interest in taking crap from anybody helps.
But the worry is of course still there, creeping about in the dark part of my mind where worries go to fester.
At this point, I imagine I’m going to rely pretty heavily on teaching situational awareness. Specifically, teaching my kids that the biggest human error that gets most people into most types of trouble? People are very bad at recognizing when a comfortable situation (where you depend on “default trust”) begins to morph into one where your “default wary” light needs to come on, well before the “danger!” sign needs to get lit up like a Christmas tree. When you read a lot of crisis literature, you see this pattern over and over again: small events lead up to the moment where everything goes to hell, but everything only *can* go to hell because those small events occurred in the run-up. And since they were small, seemingly independent events, your internal security system flagged them all as, “no big deal, carry on”. Suddenly, it seems, it’s too late… you pass the threshold where enough things have already gone wrong that a big crisis can occur and you’re far enough outside your safety net that you can’t recover. If you’re the sort of person who recognizes these sorts of “confluence of problems” patterns, you have a built-in tendency to avoid large crisis events because you bail out on the pattern before it gets critical. I’m hoping my children have inherited my sneaky weird security brain, but if they haven’t, they’ll get a large chunk of it hammered into their head just by osmosis.
The friends aren’t around. The cell phone battery is dead. It’s late. You’re out when you’re not supposed to be, so you’re reluctant to call for a ride. You’ve been drinking, so you’re reluctant to call for a ride. That will be the number one operational principle: you can always call for a ride.
One of the advantages that I think our children will have that the generation previous to them didn’t have, is that the equilibrium between using social media and establishing clear boundaries is working itself out, right now. I see teenage kids who have a pretty consistent communication connection to their parents without it being creepy and independence-destroying. So I’m hoping that by the time my children get to the point where they’re out and about, we’ll have established a good sense of rapport on that score. Communication is huge.