It didn’t matter if I was riding my bike around the neighborhood, playing tag on the front lawn or driving off in my first car; before I took one step outside the door my parents told me to “have fun be safe”, as if it were one word, with one meaning.
I tried to do what I was told but learned that if I was going to “havefunbesafe” I would need to focus on safety first. I assumed that once I had myself good and protected from harm, the fun would swiftly follow. But the more I searched for safety, the more danger I found and the more danger I found, the less fun I had.
By the time I was in my twenties, fun eluded me. I was afraid of everything. From walking to my car through a parking lot to flying in an airplane. Whenever I contemplated doing something outside of my comfort zone I’d find a trillion potentially harmful monsters lurking in the shadows, ready to attack me.
I expected bad things to happen to me every time I set foot outside my door. You could say that I was afraid to die, but I think it was more that I was afraid to live.
My parents were afraid too. They were afraid for me and for themselves. What if something bad happened to their child? How could they cope? So they tried to keep me safe. But in doing so, they forgot to allow me the right to live.
Just now, my 17 year old daughter asked me if she could drive to the Outlet Mall an hour away. My first thought was, “No way, that’s too far!” I was filled with fear as I pictured her getting into an accident on the thruway. What if, what if, what if…
But I want my daughter to live. “Text me when you get there,” I said. “I love you.”
And off she went.