I dropped my daughter off at the movies last night. She was with three girlfriends, had a cell phone in her pocket and had been read the riot act about stranger danger, going to the bathroom in pairs and every other rule I could think of. This made me think about how protective, not over protective, just protective we feel we have to be just to make sure our “babies” stay safe! It also had me reflecting back on one of those times I wasn’t so safe…..
We used to play alone in the woods at the cottage all the time. We were safe. The rule. Make sure we were home by dark. The problem. This time, we were lost. Not just a little bit lost, but a sweat breaking out on the back of my neck, bile starting to rise in my throat kind of lost. Four or five of us. Me the oldest at maybe 12? Alone in the woods. The worst part, my little sister was with me, my responsibility. The sun was going down, all the trees were beginning to look the same. Tall. Dark. Scary. My parents were going to kill me. (if we ever got out of here alive) I was starting to feel dizzy with fear. The little one’s tagging along with us, they had no clue our little hike had taken such a bad turn. They had no idea that we were soon going to experience a dark like we had never seen before. Not city dark, country dark, out by the lake dark.
Then, what seemed like hours later, across the forest floor, from up above a ray of sunlight. Cooler heads prevailed and I decided to lead our rag tag troop of “explorers” towards that light. Praying that my gut was right, that going towards the open spot in the sky would lead us back to a dirt road. That the dirt road would point the way home.
Twenty sweat soaked minutes later we emerged. Suddenly, the dark scary woods broke open, I could see a dirt road and open sky, the woods seemed friendly again. Fighting our way out from the brambles. The little one’s laughing at our “adventure”. I took a deep breath, I knew exactly where we were. Somehow our little group of misfit friends had walked a giant circle and emerged to what would equate to a few city blocks from our cottage. I played the “cool big sister card”. Kept pretending I had known where we were all along. I clearly remember hiding my trembling hands in my dirty cut-off shorts. I also remember making a silent vow to never walk that far from the cottage again.
Looking back now, getting a little lost in the woods seems like no big deal. My new fear is not the Big Bad Wolf that is hiding in the woods, but the one who hides in bathroom stalls at the movies, the creeps in the stores at the malls, and even the unknown dangers lurking behind the computer screens seeking out our innocent pre-teen girls…
Sigh. It’s a wonder any of us survived childhood.