Why I’ll Never Write About Safe Parenting

{I took a deeply desired hiatus from blogging on my website over the past three months, and as I get back into writing in this space, I will be doing things a little differently. Each week, I want to focus on one topic that I will write about in multiple posts: a blog article on my website on Monday, as well as related posts on my Instagram and Facebook pages throughout the rest of the week. My hope is that I will be able to dig deeper into different topics related to inner city living, everyday motherhood, grief, etc. If you don't already follow my social media pages, now would be a great time to come on by and be a part of the larger conversation. You will also be able to look up related posts with that week's hashtag. If you would like to suggest a topic for me to cover, please reach out via email or social media. As always, thank you for taking the time to read what I have taken the time to write! This week's topic: #SafeInGodsHands *A special thanks to Rachel Carlberg for giving me feedback on this article.}

{I took a deeply desired hiatus from blogging on my website over the past three months, and as I get back into writing in this space, I will be doing things a little differently. Each week, I want to focus on one topic that I will write about in multiple posts: a blog article on my website on Monday, as well as related posts on my Instagram and Facebook pages throughout the rest of the week. My hope is that I will be able to dig deeper into different topics related to inner city living, everyday motherhood, grief, etc. If you don't already follow my social media pages, now would be a great time to come on by and be a part of the larger conversation. You will also be able to look up related posts with that week's hashtag. If you would like to suggest a topic for me to cover, please reach out via email or social media. As always, thank you for taking the time to read what I have taken the time to write!

This week's topic: #SafeInGodsHands

*A special thanks to Rachel Carlberg for giving me feedback on this article.}

Our daughter spent the first ten months of her life in Guatemala where car seats simply were not a thing.

She sat on my lap in crowed vans and refurbished school buses, speeding through our city's cobbled streets and careening around winding mountain roads.

Our move back to the States and her transition to the laws of car seats was, shall I say, rough. There were times it took both my husband and I to wrangle her and buckle her in. There were times she would push the chest clip far below the recommended armpit height and wriggle her arms above the straps. And there were times, during the long battle it took to get her to accept her car seat, we gave up and let her ride with her pits out. We chose our sanity over today's safety standards.

While driving to visit my family, I shared a picture on social media of our daughter in her car seat. I added a sarcastic comment about the joys of road tripping with a toddler, and then published it to both Instagram and Facebook. What I forgot before posting the picture was that our daughter was riding "Guatemalan Style," with the chest clip pushed down and her arms out of the straps. 

When I came back to the picture a day later, there were comments. Some were genuinely concerned about the safety issues of our daughter not being properly strapped in, but one complete stranger wrote, “How dare you claim to write about parenting and yet set such a poor example for other parents! Shame on you!

I quickly deleted the picture, both embarrassed by my mistake and hurt by her unkindness.

That certainly was not the only time we have chosen sanity over today's safety standards, nor the only time someone has commented in real life or online about our lack of safety precautions as parents. 

Which is probably the most glaring reason why I will never write about safe parenting: in today’s standards, I am simply not that Poster Mom.

But what bothers me about every single “Safe Parenting” debate in regards to how our kids sleep, and what we let our kids eat, and where we let our kids touch dirt, and how we get them from Point A to Point B, is that underlying many of our decisions is the anxiety and false pretense that our kids’ lives are in our own hands. That if we are smart enough, researched enough, and diligent enough, we can control the wellbeing and outcome of our children’s lives. We vow, “Because I know, I am responsible. And if something bad happens, it will be all my fault.”

There is no longer such thing as accidents, only preventable tragedies.

But I can’t make any guarantees that my kids have lived another day because I took a specific safety precaution, or that they lived another day even though I didn’t take a specific precaution. The truth is – no matter the lack or abundance of safety preferences we adhere to as parents – the lives of my children are not in my hands.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!” {Psalm 31:14-15}

I think about this a lot as we live in our new neighborhood, one that is in the heart of the notorious 53206 Milwaukee zip code.

Multiple assaults and shootings happen within blocks of our home every day. There was one time I walked our kids to the playground, only to realize there was a drug deal going down on our corner. And although I love our neighborhood and feel deep peace about living here, I have to also admit that every time I hear the pop of a gun in the distance,  I fervently pray that God won't take away my husband or kids with stray bullets. The same kind of stray bullets that killed my neighbor's nine-year-old cousin while she was watching TV inside of her house.

If we moved our kids to this neighborhood on purpose, does that make us the worst parents ever? 

Our society tells us that the presence of anything opposing safety in our child’s life makes us a bad parent. And while there are hints of truth within that – that we don’t stupidly endanger our children on purpose – striving to create a perfectly safe environment where our children will never get hurt, never get dirty, or never experience any sort of neediness will drive us insane as parents.

And frankly, it will send our children mixed messages when we tell them to love and rely on God with all of their heart, all of their soul, and all of their mind, but then live a life that says safety first. Or worse yet, safety is in our own hands.

But this is why I love what Husband’s boss said to us when we first talked about moving into our neighborhood: “Safety is not a priority, but it is a concern.”

My point is not to deem all safety measures meaningless with a flippant wave of my hand. My point is that when we follow where God leads knowing that there are risks involved, the one thing that keeps my heart from anxiously beating out of my throat is that my life – and my kids' lives – are not in my hands.

We didn’t move into our neighborhood seeking danger, just as I hope those who move into a cul-de-sac in the suburbs aren’t seeking a safe bubble. Danger and safety set aside, we go where we go because God led us there. Sometimes us, our spouse, and our children.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. {Matthew 10:28-31}

Safety will continue to be a concern of mine as a mom.

I’ll force my kids to wear shoes in our alley because there is often broken glass scattered about. I’ll make sure we go inside if we hear gunshots in the neighborhood. And I’ll keep putting my kids in car seats until they are old enough to afford a mortgage. Or whatever the law is these days.

But our priority will be to follow in the footsteps of Christ. Because in our neighborhood, in a place so many have deemed the least likely of places, Christ is wrecking and reworking our hearts as a family.

While at times we’ve chosen sanity over what culture has deemed most safe, we will choose to believe in God’s sovereignty above all else.

 

Grace and Peace,

Kendra