I was writing up a blog post for Sunday…all about not feeling “lazy mom” guilt for keeping my kids inside where the AC was blasting after a very busy weekend. I knew a storm was rolling in but had checked my weather app and hadn’t seen any warnings or watches. So I went about my afternoon, getting ready to submit a very boring blog post on my dislike of carnies.
And then my phone rang.
My daughter had it at the moment so she ran it to me, but I didn’t answer it in time and it went to voice mail. When the call screen cleared, the words “tornado warning” took its place.
Like a gun going off, I set into a flurry of action, instructing the girls in my best “don’t argue with me or question me” voice to get out of the house and into the van. I’m proud of both of them for reacting just the way I wanted them to – minimal questioning and out the door, the dogs and myself right behind them.
We are extremely lucky that my in-laws live a five second drive down the road. Living in a mobile home doesn’t offer us safety from tornadoes. Maybe it does but I’m really not willing to test that theory, especially when all warnings include “mobile homes” as places that are not safe in a tornado.
My mother-in-law was waiting for us. She helped me usher my dogs into the attached garage and the girls headed downstairs where my father-in-law was working on the well. Little Helper Mady plopped right down in his lap. Apparently, this three year old knows exactly what to do when it comes to well repair – put a smile on grandpa’s face.
The storm rolled in, winds tearing at the trees, thunder rolling constantly as the clouds shifted, small hail bouncing off the pavement and grass. It passed without incident for our area at least. The storms that whipped through the Western Minnesota/Lakes Country area on Sunday did quite a bit of damage and numerous tornadoes were spotted.
Normally, I love storms like these. I love Mother Nature when she’s fierce and loud. I remember living with my parents when an electric storm came through. My brother and I headed out to the field beside our house to sit in the grass and watch. It was a phenomenon I’m grateful to have seen.
Then I had children. And suddenly Mother Nature wasn’t someone I appreciated so much, especially when she came tearing through my neighborhood and threatening the safety of my family.
Call me an overreacting mama bear. That’s exactly who I am. I protect what’s mine and I do it fiercely. So does my family – both direct and married into.
I have my moments of “mommy fails” and those moments when my girls drive me absolutely up the wall. I once joked to my husband that I was going to make a drinking game out of how often the girls said mom, mommy or mama. He grinned and said “You’d make it maybe 20 minutes before you’re on the floor.”
I counted one day. Mady actually hit close to 200. That was a tough one for this mama and when the Hubs got home I quickly made my exit to go to the gym and blast mama free music in my ears for an hour while the treadmill spun in a continuous circle under my feet.
But even on our bad days, the lazy mom days…we’re still fierce protectors of our children.
There was this recent event that happened in our area – a man stood in an observation window that overlooked a local outdoor pool and took pictures of the women and children in the pool. The reactions over this were immediate – especially when one man (a pretty decent and awesome citizen in my mind) took it upon himself to confront the man and ask him what he was doing. The man’s response was that he wasn’t doing anything wrong and it was perfectly legal. The one confronting threatened to break his camera if he didn’t leave and the offender took off.
The one confronting the man also took pictures of the man, his car and his license plate. Then…he let loose on social media. Like the storms that ripped through here Sunday evening, the story took off, growing and building in ferocity, people arguing both sides of the story, calling him a creeper, a pedophile, a sicko and others reiterated that what he was doing was not illegal, that he was perfectly within his rights to take pictures. Some even stated that they took pictures of kids all the time by accident when taking pictures of their own and asked if that made them a pedophile. A news article did a story on this, opting for a different angle after talking to Willie Kirshner, a 1st Amendment Lawyer who stated that the man was doing nothing wrong and that the public just didn’t agree with what he was doing. To quote the article directly:
He (Kirshner) says this is an attempt to limit the constitutional rights that people have to take pictures of things in public. “You can tell them I’d like you to stop doing that, you can turn your back to them, if all these parents are so worried they can stand between the man with a camera and their children, but why should your children be afraid, why are we teaching our children to be afraid?” (Valley News Live, 2015).
I cannot argue the stupidity of this statement enough. From what replies I saw to this, no parents were advising people to “tell your children to be scared!” They were advising other parents to watch out for this person, to be aware of his behavior and what he was doing. And, as a parent, I appreciate this.
The man snapping the photos saw the post on Facebook and turned himself in but not before the considerable amount of damage had been done through social media.
I can see this story from both sides if I consider the one incident and the fact that there is nothing illegal about taking pictures of people without their knowledge. It doesn’t mean I think it’s right. Not by a long shot. Do I think that people should be labeling him as a pedophile right off the bat? I don’t think it’s entirely fair or accurate but I’ll be honest…the thought would be in the back of my mind if I ever caught some man skulking around outside a public pool and taking pictures of women and children.
And the fact remains that not only was this NOT a one time occurrence…but the man never seemed to handle confrontation the right way at all. Another instance has him snapping pictures of unknowing women sunbathing in the park which was witnessed by someone he was not photographing. One woman he was photographing stood up to confront him and he took off.
All of this adds up to some pretty creepy behavior. When taking pictures, he did so in a sneaky manner, he was caught multiple times, ran from those confronting him, told others confronting him that what he was doing was legal and even calmly told police when turning himself in that until what he is doing is illegal, he’s going to keep doing it.
These are behaviors that are unapologetic and put people on edge. That is a simple fact. I’m not calling him a pedophile, I’m not saying he’s a creep or dangerous. But I AM saying that his behavior really isn’t painting him in the best light.
I’ve seen a lot of people coming down on parents for being “mama bears” and “overprotective” when it comes to this situation too. Well, you know what? That’s what we are. It’s our job to protect our children in any way, shape or form and if we want to be leery of people taking pictures of our children in bathing suits while standing behind a bush or observation wall without asking our permission first, we’re going to be. Someone telling us that we’re being ridiculous is not going to stop that. I’ll be the first to admit that had I caught that man taking pictures of my children in such a manner, I would have busted the camera over his head. Probably multiple times.
Does that mean I’m going to drive the point that my children have to fear people like this home in their sweet little heads where the ugliness of pedophiles, rape and abduction don’t exist? Absolutely not. We’re going to have a conversation that is somewhere between three year old, six year old and adult about Stranger Danger and what to do when someone makes us feel uncomfortable. This might involve some questions regarding what makes my children uncomfortable. I will educate, not teach to fear. Knowing the people that I know, I know that 90% of abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows and trusts and that stranger abduction and abuse is actually quite rare. Teaching them to be afraid of a man with a camera is a little pointless. Teaching them to know what makes them uncomfortable, that they’re okay to feel uncomfortable and let and adult they trust know isn’t.
I like to think that’s what a lot of parents would do in a situation like that, educate their children. Mama Bears and Papa bears too. We all know what it’s like to look down at a tiny baby and forfeit our lives, promising to do everything we can to protect our kiddos, whether from Mother Nature, or some random guy with a camera.
For more information on being a Mama Bear and educating instead of instilling fear, check out: www.MamaBearEffect.org.