Should we raise our kids to live in fear?
It seems that, just recently, all I hear around me is fear. For me it started with Charlie Hebdo (especially due to our close links to France), with another wave in Paris in November, and was reinforced again with the terrorist attacks in Brussels last week.
This was a fear on a large scale. This general idea that we aren’t safe anywhere.
Then, more locally, I have heard fear around me here in Mauritius. There has been a spate of fairly violent burglaries in our local area recently and people are afraid.
I hear people talking about their fear, about the risks, and about what they are going to do to avoid the same things happening to them.
Whilst this might be a bit controversial, I disagree with most of what I hear.
“I’m going to avoid flying.”
“I’m going to avoid airports.”
“I’m going to avoid European cities.”
“I’m going to lock myself in.”
Now I don’t know the stats but I’m guessing that we’re at far greater risk of being run over on the way to work than of being victim of a terrorist attack. As for burglaries – in London I was definitely at a far higher risk than here in Mauritius, but I still didn’t let it stop me living my life.
The problem is we don’t hear about the everyday mundane deaths and accidents – car crashes, people being run over, death in home fires and the such like. These rarely make headline news as they’re less sensational. Instead we hear about the plane crashes, the terrorist attacks, and locals share worries about how their neighbourhood is becoming dangerous.
Now I don’t want in any way to talk down the deaths in these attacks, nor the traumas experienced by people assaulted in their own homes.
HOWEVER what I actively disagree with is living in fear.
One of the most dangerous things you can do is get up in the morning in your own home and drive to work – if I’m not mistaken more accidents happen in the home than any other place, and you’re more likely to have a car crash in the few miles around your home than anywhere else.
That doesn’t stop (most of) us from getting up, going to work and living our lives every day.
So I really hope that a few sad attacks – no matter how horrific or bloody – won’t lead us to a world where we live in fear, and raise our kids to live in fear.
If we do then the bad guys have won.
The terrorists who seek to do away with our freedom of movement, our freedom of speech, our freedom in general, will be the victors.
The tiny percentage of criminals who seek to harm us in our homes will not only have our possessions, but our liberty too.
And to be honest, none of this feels new to me.
Growing up in the commuter belt of London in the 1980s, I remember the fear of IRA bombs if you went into London around Christmas-time.
Going back even more years, I remember talking to my grandparents about the Second World War (I’ve always been a bit obsessed with this period of history), and I recall asking both my grandmothers, in all my childish innocence, “but how did you live with bombs falling around you all the time?”
They both replied in the same way as many of those at the time “you just got on with things, anyway, if a bomb’s got your name on it, there’s not much you can do about it.”
As far as burglaries are concerned – I was burgled on the first night of my second year at university in Liverpool (my first time outside of university halls of residence). It was pretty traumatic as I was only 19, had just split up from my boyfriend, was away from home and feeling a bit vulnerable.
Since then I’ve lived in areas of “high” crime and “low” crime from France to the UK and now here in Mauritius.
Every week for work I used to have to drive through an area in Nice where you don’t stop at red lights and you lock yourself in the car, with the windows shut, no matter the weather outside.
When we first moved to London there was a murder at the end of our road and the police were looking through front gardens in our road for the murder weapon (the knife).
By the end of our 5 years in London most of our friends had been burgled.
Does this mean we live in fear or raise our kids to live in fear?
There’s no way I want to give away my freedom of living, because of a tiny risk that something bad might happen to me. As I’ve mentioned before I live life to the max every day, making decisions to ensure my life is a happy one, so if my time’s up then I’ll have no regrets.
So what’s the solution?
The way I see it is you have to reduce risks, whilst still living. So this is how it works for me:
- Due to the huge number of “vol à la portière” (theft from cars when at red lights) in Nice I always lock myself in the car and make sure my handbag is not visible and/or accessible.
- I have had a dog more or less the whole time for the last 10 years, and I’m pretty certain this has deterred burglars on more than one occasion.
- I go out late at night, sometimes coming home by myself. I don’t want to give that up, so I take as little out with me as possible. I let my husband know where I’m going and when I’m due back.
- I don’t use my mobile on the street at night (and sometimes during the day, depending on the area) if I can avoid it.
- I carry my keys between my fingers when walking home from a night out.
- I don’t avoid big cities. I don’t avoid highly populated areas. I don’t avoid concerts, shows, or big public gatherings.
- I frequently travelled by tube, bus and train in central London without any hesitation.
What message do I want to send to my kids?
In an ideal world there would be no bad guys. No terrorist attacks. No burglars. No criminals. But let’s face it, that world doesn’t exist now and there have been baddies right back to the dawn of time.
So I want to raise my kids to be worldly-wise, to be street-savvy, to live without fear, but whilst taking sensible precautions.
I used to take public transport in London with our girls all the time (we chose not to have a car there), and I never felt in any danger. Whether from petty criminals or from terrorists.
I taught them to hold my hand / stay nearby, to keep hold of their belongings, but I made it clear that we were safe and we weren’t afraid.
I want to raise my kids to know their strength, to be brave, and to stick two fingers up at all those who want to take their freedom away or make them feel afraid.
What about you? Do the recent terror attacks make you act differently? Yourself and / or with your kids? I love seeing your comments on social media, but it’s even better to have them below where everyone can see them whether they’re on Facebook or not 🙂
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Absolutely! Like you say, living in fear or even stopping doing certain things is exactly what these terrorists want. I still fly, I still go to places I want to go and recently on a trip to London with a girlfriend, we used the tube, walked at night after a show, etc. If I hadn’t done those things because of fear, I wouldn’t have had the most wonderful experiences for my 40th birthday! And no-one was taking that away from me! I will live and enjoy my life. Of course, we have to take certain precautions and teach our children for everyday living but no fear!
Very sadly and tragically, I learnt 2 weeks after the Paris attacks that my neighbours lost their 38 year old son at the Bataclan. Knowing a victim shook me to the core but after talking to them, they insisted that his death should not be in vain. They didn’t want people to turn into haters like the terrorists and they didn’t want people to stop living. They still travel everywhere. It also reinforced the fact that life can be short and you never know when your time is up so live live live!
I’m glad to see I’m not the only one living my life – it’s hard to give in to a life of fear and apprehension, but that’s just not living for me.
How awful for your neighbours, but how great that they haven’t let it stop them from living their lives. Exactly you never know when your life is up – I have so many friends / acquaintances who have gone way before their time, often unexpectedly, so let’s live!
Another thought provoking post. Growing up in Borneo, there was plenty to fear. Constant threat on dad’s life, poisonous reptiles in the house, speed demons on the dodgy, unlit roads, pirate attacks in nearby towns, the list is endless. We were aware of dangers around us, we had dogs too, a neighbourhood watch and everyone just looked out for one another.
I was stuck in the tube on 7/7 in London and when we exited the train at Kings Cross, it took me a moment to realise that the red floral pattern on the clothes of the woman walking ahead of me on the steps (a passenger from the Piccadilly line) was exposed wound. It rocked me to the core and took a long time to travel on the tube without apprehension.
I encourage the Bear to hold hands when we’re out, to look out for cars and to stay close to Mama. Not so much to have fear but to be mindful. Though sometimes the lines do get blurry…
Wow! If you can live your life with those kind of fears to contend with then anyone can!
I can imagine that that kind of experience during the 7/7 attacks would take a long time to get over. Hats off to you for being able to raise your little one without giving in to fear.