When I was asked to write on this topic, the heavy ache deep inside my heart that surfaces every so often grew heavier.
I believe being a mother of two little girls in our country’s capital city is definitely a weighty calling. Every day the local newspapers, without fail, have at least one horrid story of crime against women and/or children. Is it even possible for me to see off my four-year-old to school in the school bus every day without worrying about her well-being? Can I ensure that nothing horrible will happen to her? It’s next to impossible!
As much as I’d like to, I simply cannot keep my girls within my sight all day long even during these tender childhood years let alone in their teenage or later. I have to let them go at some point. What I often ask myself is whether or not I am doing all that is in my hands to ensure the safety of my child in my absence. Am I training her enough, even at this young age, to protect herself against predators that seem to be lurking at every street corner, every marketplace, even in school gyms? And more than the stranger, how do I teach her to be wary of the friends and relatives who might try to abuse her trust someday?
Not one day has passed since my first baby girl was born that I have not thought about how to keep her safe from sexual predators, especially since she was an exceptionally friendly toddler who loved strangers! I have wondered how to teach her to be kind, gentle and loving, yet to protect herself from the darkness that lies within the heart of man. How do I overcome my own paranoia and see male relatives as simply doting over my daughters and nothing more? Is it even possible for me to teach her to strike a balance at this young age? Will all my training make her fearful and generally distrustful of all men with the exception of her own father? How will this affect her life decisions in the future? Will she ever be able to build friendships and even healthy professional relationships with other men? Even today, I find myself unable to answer these questions satisfactorily.
Oh, how I wish that our daughters didn't have to shoulder the burden of constantly protecting themselves against unknown predators but could simply enjoy their lives without any cares in the world.
Every other week I go through the drill with her. From asking questions about the bus ‘bhaiya’ and skating instructor in the school to reminding her about the ‘password’ in case I don’t turn up at the bus stop and someone else comes to pick her. Sometimes, the discussions are casual and routine when I tell her not to go with a stranger who offers a candy or ice cream, or that it’s OK to refuse to sit with people who make her ‘uncomfortable’ even if they are mamma or dadda’s good friends. She has heard it so often that she now brushes it off saying, ‘Yes, mama, I know it.’
But other times I have to stop myself when I see MY fear in HER eyes. The other day during the password drill, she was almost teary eyed and asked me, ‘mamma, but why won’t you be there at the bus stop? Will something bad happen to you?’ I just reassured her, calmly, that perhaps someday I could be unwell or busy with something else and can’t be there at the bus stop on time. It’s difficult to know how to instruct and not terrify her as she is still so young and unable to understand the dangers in the world.
In the end, I can only equip my girls as much as possible and pray, trusting that ultimately only God can protect them. After all He loves my daughters more than I could ever. He has invested in their eternity! And even if He allows something to happen, I pray to have the faith to understand that He knows what He is doing and that He can use every experience to build us and bring us closer to Him.
And if something should happen to her, whether she may understand what has happened to her or not, I want her to know one thing-- that she can come to me no matter what the circumstances and that she will be understood and defended. Also, I want her to know that as much as I’d do anything to prevent her from experiencing pain of any sort, it’s not the end of her world if she does. That she will have many more beautiful days and experiences to look forward to, even though the present challenges may feel overwhelming.
It is my hope that despite any experience that this world might throw at her, she will grow to be strong in the Lord and trust Him with everything. A woman who can look back at her difficult experiences as the dark threads in the tapestry of her life that only render the brighter threads to stand out even more and make the whole picture of her life beautifully complete.
If you are a mother of a daughter, what is your hope for her as she faces the challenges of being a girl in this culture?
Photo used with permission from C. Winfield