Norah has been asking a lot of questions this winter, wondering where all the animals have gone. So, she and I are reading through a kid's book called Animals that Hibernate by Larry Dane Brimner. I found yesterday's portion about groundhogs fascinating and even encouraging.
“A female (groundhog) is a loving parent, but a strict one. A mother often 'drills' her youngsters. Pretending to spot danger, she'll give a false alarm to make certain her pups know what to do in an emergency. A wise pup scampers into the burrow where it is relatively safe from enemies. Any pup remaining above ground is given a gentle nip. It doesn't take long for the youngsters to learn the habit of going underground when danger is present.”
Recently, I have been growing more concerned that Norah be able to respond to an emergency, especially a situation which may cause me to be incapacitated. I've always been concerned about this, but she was too young before now and there was very little I could do to equip her to act for herself. However, she's becoming more capable of making decisions and doing basic things like making phone calls, giving rescue persons her name and address, helping them through our door, etc. At this point, it is just a matter of me helping her prepare.
I've been teaching her how to use my cell phone, which can be challenging for me at times, so I realize it must be overwhelming to a four year old. I let her dial the number for Grandma's house and talk without stepping in to the conversation for a few minutes. This way, she will be more comfortable and practiced if she ever needs to make calls on her own.
We've also been discussing what to do if there is a fire in our home, etc. We talk about our meeting place outside and discuss neighbors who would be helpful if she were left all alone. We've made it a point of befriending the people who live around us, as far as it has been within our power. These friendships will make it easier for her to appeal to them for help and knowing their character, makes me more comfortable encouraging Norah to get them involved if it ever becomes necessary.
Another thing I have felt important to teach her is how to respond if someone ever tries to take advantage of her and touch her in private places. This could have been uncomfortable, but I've simply waited till subjects have come up during bath time, doctor's visits, etc. Though I try and instill in her a respect for authority, I never want her to feel like she can't stand up to any adult or older kid who is trying to intimidate her and force her to cooperate when it is inappropriate. I believe God gave us the right to protect ourselves and I'd never want her to suppress that good and natural instinct to flee or fight out of fear of punishment.
I was also humored by the fact that the groundhog nips her cubs if they don't do what she's expecting of them. I also take it very seriously if Norah doesn't respond quickly enough to my warnings near the road in front of our house, in parking lots or on busy sidewalks. Some parents may think I overreact, since there may not have been any danger when she ran out into the street this time, but what goes on in the back of my mind is what could have happened. That is what I feel like I am supposed to prepare Norah for, for the one time when listening to me say “Stop!” could save her life.
Modern parenting strategies seem to promote the idea that it's inappropriate for moms to discipline their youngest children when they don't cooperate, since they are too little to understand dangers around them. So, it seems like the poor parents who go along with this thinking are somehow expected to be super human, allowing kids to go their own way, while somehow also preventing every possible emergency and rescuing their kids before they are ever harmed. This makes no good sense to me. Why would I let Norah run by a swimming pool just because I am nearby, for example? Should I let her play by my hot stove just because I am standing at the kitchen counter? Kids should listen, even when they don't understand everything. I think it's okay, through the earliest years, if they listen just to avoid their mom's "gentle nips."