I wrote this post about six weeks ago. Even as I look back at what has transpired since formalizing our plans to move to the San Francisco Bay area, etc., etc., a lot has continued to happen. I would love to have been able to continue my 3-4 posts/week schedule I’d previously maintained but, well, there just hasn’t been time.
I’m glad to write, however, that our life in Bozeman has continued to click along nicely. Our daughter LOVES first grade. She LOVES her teacher. She is incredibly proud of herself as she acquires new skills (reading chapter books, performing simple addition, learning to read time, learning about mummies, Pharaohs and other ancient Egyptians…) in and outside of school. She even landed a part in a Christmas performance through her dance school–anyone attending T’was the Night Before Christmas here in town, watch for the farthest to the right Little Rockette. Meanwhile, our boys are becoming more accustomed to their new (temporary) preschool–perhaps even moving past “tolerating it” to “liking it.”
Now in the middle of my last childbirth preparation class for the year, I am sad and nostalgic at the idea of not teaching for a while. It has been an awesome nearly-five-year run, and already I can tell I’m going to miss it. As I press on, I mourn the loss of the baby of one of my couples and, in so doing, am reminded of the sometimes fragile and precious nature of life.
I think too of how we, as parents, cling to that fragility which we sometimes perceive in our children. Perhaps better said, we obsessively care about our children’s safety and well-being…the loss of a child being the worst possible fate a person could ever imagine.
While down in California last week on my big house-hunting trip (five days, twenty-five houses, 289 miles on the rental car) I felt like I experienced a close call with our kids–even though they weren’t there with me.
On day four of my trip, I thought I’d found the right home for us to rent. I’d spent time there with the owner–talking about the house and all it’s wonderfully remodeled features, and how it would make a lovely place to bring our children to. The woman told me about her daughter, showed me which of the three bedrooms she had slept in. She faxed me the application that afternoon. I completed it right away.
After returning from the city where I met with a woman in the SFSU Women and Gender Studies department, I dropped onto the hotel bed, exhausted from the preceding days’ activities. I turned on the tv–telling myself an hour of vegging was allowed after all my hard work. Oprah’s face filled the screen. Then, the faces of the missing children she and John Walsh were highlighting on that particular show.
My heart dropped: of all the researching houses and neighborhoods and schools and churches and preschools I had done that week, I hadn’t researched any of those things in terms of registered offenders. I turned off the television and turned on my computer. I pulled up the Family Watchdog (National Sex Offender Registry) website. I typed in the address of the house we were looking to rent. As the screen lit up with red, yellow and green boxes–many of them surrounding the little house icon that represented my chosen address–my heart dropped again. Directly across the street from the rental house lives a registered child molester. Even worse: his home backs up to an elementary school.
Scheduled to leave in 24 hours, I sprang into action–making phone calls, searching Craigslist and, yes, questioning the owner of the home we thought we would rent. Did she know about this guy? Was she aware there was an offender across the street from where she’d previously lived with her daughter? If she knew, why didn’t she tell me? (Ok, I know the answer is obvious here–she has a house to rent. If she told every potential renter who walked through the door there was a registered offender across the street, the place would sit empty and she would lose money.)
Long story short, I confirmed the presence of this guy (whom the landlady downplayed as “quiet, a little weird, but he keeps to himself and doesn’t bother anybody”–exactly the kind of description people tend to give of freakazoids who end up abducting, raping or killing someone) and found another house for a family to rent.
Even when the mere thought of harm to our children presents itself, most parents I know have little tolerance. Through my work in childbirth education, I have gained a whole new understanding for the words strength, vitality and empowerment. I even believe in the uber strength of children–even infants. I have witnessed countless examples of this within my own family. But, I have also been reminded of the fragility that sometimes accompanies life.
For my students who recently lost their baby, I can imagine how they would pine for the opportunity to face a move to a sex offender-infested neighborhood (yes, to me, even one offender equals infested–I have NO tolerance for that kind of slime) if only to have that child in their lives to protect. Life is fragile and fierce and wonderful, all at the same time. And when it comes to my fragile, fierce and wonderful children, their safety and well-being will always come first.