I've gotten some questions about the knife fight I referred to in the letter. I wrote about it briefly when it happened here. It was on the L train in Manhattan while I was taking my then-4-year-old to preschool. I didn't realize it was a knife fight until it was in progress two feet from us, so I grabbed my son, shouted "Tiene cuchillo!" at the other mom with a kid on the train, and she and I got our kids off the train. It was short but terrifying.
Also, if you're a new reader and haven't heard this before: When I lived in NYC we used to be at the playground every day, and at some playgrounds there would occasionally be hostile-seeming men (always men) staring at the kids and getting too close and sometimes taking pictures of the kids. A few times I took pictures of them with my phone, just in case. Last year, one of my friends from the playground was walking with her kids on the street and a man touched her daughter. So she took his picture with her phone. She told me she didn't hesitate, because we'd all talked about it and rehearsed it so many years ago when the kids were little. She took the photo to the police, and it turned out that the guy was a convicted child rapist out on parole. Her photo and evidence and testimony at the trial last week sent him back to jail where he can't rape any other little kids.
I am generally not afraid of the world, and I feel like it's a good and wonderful place, but I've learned to trust my instincts about people who are up to no good, and follow those instincts. Reading the book Protecting the Gift by Gavin De Becker is an excellent place to start assessing danger and trusting your instincts.
But let's talk about immunity. I didn't think the section about immunity in the letter to my kids was anything new, as I always knew I had immunity from my parents if I needed to call and get help. But it seems to have struck a nerve with people, both as something they wish they'd had, and as something they'd had. I got an email from a 21-year-old woman who grew up in New York and always knew she had immunity. She told me she'd gone through a very rebellious phase as a teen, and then told me this story (and let me quote this part of her email):
"But I went through a fairly heavy rebellious phase as a teenager, picked up a drug habit, and running away from home to get high became a norm for me. On one of these occaisions I was away from home for a 10 day stretch, on the 10th night a group of classmates tried to gang-rape me. I was extremely lucky and was able to run away. But because of the love my mother had shown me - I knew that night wasn't my fault. I knew I could go home. And I knew I would be safe."
She knew she could go home. I burst into tears reading that for so many reasons. Thinking about how scared she must ahve been, how worried her mother must have been, how lucky she was, how sad I am that the classmates tried to rape her and no one intervened, all of it.
But the takeaway for me is that she knew she could go home. That's what I want my boys to know, that they can ALWAYS call home and come home, and they can bring anyone who needs to be safe home here where there's always a hug and someone to listen to your story.
Tell me about a time you needed immunity, or got immunity, or gave immunity, please.