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How to Avoid Being a Sitting Duck

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I was reading a news article this morning about the horrible shooting rampage at Clackamas Mall and in it a mom was quoted as feeling like a “sitting duck.”  I cannot begin to imagine the horror that was unfolding before her eyes and her abject terror at the fact that she was there with her family and felt like she had nowhere to go.  I would also like to note that this post is not meant as a criticism of her in any way as, at the end of the day, who knows how we will all react and however she reacted it worked as she and her family were not harmed (thank goodness).  However, this quote got me thinking about how in today’s world, we must always be prepared. This goes for anyone but especially people with children that they are responsible for. Whether there is more violence in the world today or whether we just hear about it more is debatable but either way, we must always be cognizant that something might happen.

Some people might say I am paranoid for thinking this way but the fact of the matter is that I am a product of my upbringing.  I grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the 70’s.  While the area was very nice, it was still not the safest decade to be living in NYC.  As a result, I (and all my friends) grew up with a level of “street smart” that most people I have met who grew up outside cities do not seem to have.  I must say, this has served me well on any number of occasions.  So, with that as background here are my top 10 ways to help you be prepared and not feel like a “sitting duck.”

  1. Make sure you know what a gun shot sounds like: Not from watching a movie but from real life.  This way when you hear it you will know exactly what it is and trust me your mind will start reacting to it by planning your escape.   I was in a hotel once and was woken up at 2am out of a sound sleep by gun shots and knew exactly what it was before I was even fully awake.  The friend I was with thought it might be a car back firing. Apparently hearing John Lennon get shot when I was a kid had stuck with me.
  2. Learn the rudimentary basics of how to handle a gun:  Let’s face it, they are not going away and if you are in the position of being able to access one and can use it to defend yourself or your family, don’t you want to be able to?
  3. Always know where all the exits are:  In a mall for the first time? Look at the map and do your best to memorize it even if you don’t have photographic memory. Many mall’s have apps that you can download so you can have the map with you at all times or, take a photo of it.  Teach your kids to do this as well.  Most large mall stores have back exits as well but be very careful on using those as now-a-days most are locked with key codes as they first go to a storage area.  However, smaller stores outside of malls generally have an accessible back exit.
  4. Always set a meet-up location: As your children get older, always have a meet up place set with them in case you get separated either in the regular course of shopping or due to an emergency.
  5. Teach you kids how police can help them:  Make sure your children can identify police officers and know to go to them in an emergency.  Make it a game.  I take my son to Manhattan regularly and every time we go, starting when he was three, we make it a game to find the police men/women.  Remember punching your friends every time you saw a VW Beatle? Make it like that but perhaps the winner gets to choose dessert instead of punching
  6. Make sure your child understands and responds to the word “STOP.”  I cannot tell you how many parents I see who tell their kids to stop and laugh it off when their child ignores them.  Easiest way to drive me batty.  What if your child was running into the street and did not listen to you?  Never mind that as they grow older they need to know that Stop means Stop and No means No. Maybe I am super sensitive to this as the mom of a boy but I do not think so.  Nothing makes me turn into psycho mean mom faster than when my son is doing something dangerous and does not stop when I tell him to.  As a result, I can now trust him to stop instantly and I can trust him to run down a sidewalk in Manhattan as I know he will stop at the cross walk, usually 10 feet before it.
  7. Walk with confidence: Visiting a not so safe area of town? Walk with confidence and do not hesitate to look people in the eye.  The more timid you look the more you look like weak and thus like prey.  Confidence makes you appear strong and able to take care of yourself. It also means you are focused and alert and not an easy target. Your confidence will also re-assure your children.
  8. Know how/when to “play dead:” Understand and accept that sometimes the safest course of action for you will be to “play dead” in some of these rampage shootings sometimes the best way to remain safe is not to draw attention to yourself and make the gunman think he has dealt with you already.  There are numerous stories of people surviving this way.
  9. Always keep an eye on the door: Sitting down to eat dinner at a restaurant?  Figure out which direction people are most likely to enter from and sit facing it. You will almost never catch me sitting with my back to the door. In fact, there is only one friend who I trust to be as attentive as I am and I will let him sit facing the main entrance.  However, if my son is with me, not a chance as nothing is more attentive than an alert mommy.  Remember, we have eyes in the back of our head 🙂
  10. Women: Do not assume that your husband or any other man will take care of you in any situation.  Too often, women still revert to the perspective that their husbands or partners will take care of them.  Putting aside the fact that the most common threat to women is men they are intimate with, in today’s day and age you cannot rely on anyone 100% to take care of  you and protect you.  Are there lot’s of men who will? of course. I trust my husband in this regard implicitly but I also trust myself and will depend on myself to handle any situation first.

Finally, this one is the most important. To important to be another number on a list:

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS

If you have a bad feeling about a situation think about the best way to handle it and, if possible, act on it. If you can extricate yourself – great, but if not start planning on how you can best protect yourself while not giving away what you are thinking.   At the end of the day, we are still members of the animal kingdom and our bodies are trained to interpret noises, signals, and even scents from others to interpret their intentions.  This is not done consciously but if your body and mind detect that something is wrong that nagging instinct to get away is how it tells you.  NEVER ignore that inner voice.

Hopefully, none of you will ever need to implement any of this advice but at least you know there are things you can be thinking about to protect yourself and your family.

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Old, Happy and Proud Mom!

Ok, I have to say that I have just about had it with all of the articles trying to make older parents feel bad about being older parents.   For example, click here for the latest parenting analysis from Slate based on comments from The New Republic.  I was 38 when I had my son and I had him without any modern medical intervention even though the doctors said I had only a 3% chance of getting pregnant after a miscarriage, I was pregnant within 3 weeks…shows what they know.  My husband is my age and we have a (knock on wood) perfectly normal, healthy and obscenely happy and smart 4.5 year old boy.  Are their potential issues with having children late in life? sure there are, but many of them can be mitigated by a healthy (hell, in my case, healthy’ish) lifestyle.  Worried about exposure to pesticides? eat organic or go vegetarian, the lower you eat on the food chain, the less toxins you absorb.  Don’t believe me? see a nutritionist.  Want to look and feel young and have a strong back so you can pick up your kid(s)? Go for a run.  I have scoliosis and it’s pretty bad but I have run all my life and even now that my son is almost 5 and half my height I can still carry him and even get him on my shoulders.  If I can do that, we all have no excuse and all you need to run is shorts, t-shirt and sneakers (these are the only expensive part).  Oh and spare yourself the hundreds of dollars every year on make-up.  Try living without it, you might find you look younger without the chemicals and, if nothing else, you will save yourself some time in the morning which, when you have a full-time, successful career and kids, you will need!

As for the fact that we will be so much older and our children may have to deal with us dying when they are in their 30’s.  Well, yes, this is a possibility but think about this – just a couple of hundred years ago, children were considered adults no later than 15.  Heck, many were married by that age.  I would not go back to that time but I also think we coddle our children way too much.  So long as we raise them well there is no reason why, if they have to, they should not be able to take care of themselves by 18.  While I sincerely hope that my son will not need to, I will plan on him having to, and not sit here moaning about the fact that I might not see grandkids.  Heck, if he does not want kids it does not matter how old I am, I am not going to get them.

All in all, I am just tired of these conversations.  Surely we have more important things to worry about than continuing to make people feel bad about whenever they have kids, whether too young or too old.

Are their risks? Sure there are.

Are the risks higher as you get older? They can be but it is not a given

Are their risks when some people have kids young? Yup

Are their risks crossing the street? Yup

So, be aware of it but do what is right for you and I firmly believe that older parents are not dooming the future of the human race. We should spend our time and energy fixing our economy or creating world peace or perhaps, in the case of us “blue haired mom’s” sleeping!