Before I start sharing what happened this weekend, I want to establish three facts about myself.
Fact 1: I am of the firm belief that all children starting from the age of 4 or 5, depending on the child, should know a basic level of self-defense. The older the child, the more they should know. With that said, I appreciate that some children depending on maturity and other mitigating factors should not be introduced to techniques they’d misuse. These techniques also has a potential of being used to bully or hurt other children. I’m aware of this, and I certainly would not be a proponent of encouraging our children to use violence against each other. However, I feel that every person needs to know how to defend themselves no matter their age, gender, creed, or religion. Too many people are hurt, attacked, or killed because they didn’t know how to do more than scream. Throwing a punch in the right spot can save your life.
While I would never advertise or support needless violence or wish to hurt anyone without cause, if I have to defend my family, friends, or self, I will to the full extent of my capabilities. I believe everyone should have the capabilities to do the same.
Fact 2: I probably have a higher than healthy level of paranoia when out in public, especially when my children are with me. To say I have trust issues is a bit of an understatement. I’m of the philosophy that if I don’t know you, you’re a threat. I’ll be nice and polite, but I’m watching you! When it’s only me, I’m careful. When I’m with my children, I’m worse. I’ve gotten better over the years, especially when I’m alone and as my children get older. Some of this is because I have realized that not everyone is out to hurt me, but also because of Fact 1 in teaching my children how to defend themselves. I know that they have the capabilities of getting away fast and far enough to get to me, my husband, or to another adult that will help them.
Fact 3: I get claustrophobic in crowds. The bigger the crowd, the worse it gets. Something about being squished with strangers, bags, boxes, hands, arms, legs, coats, and who knows what else gives me this feeling of being trapped in this box that I can’t get out of. It starts a feeling of panic that I can’t escape until I find a way out of the crowd. Most of the time I am able to focus on someone I’m with (my husband or kids, probably both) or on an objective (getting to a particular store if in the mall or to an aisle if in Wal-Mart) or sometimes it’s about getting to the damn door. I have dealt with this phobia for most of my adult life and to be honest, I don’t remember when or how it started. I don’t recall having this problem as a teenager or a child, but maybe a relative can put that question to rest if I ever get the urge (or remember) to ask, but that’s not the point.
Now that you have three fun facts about me (or not so fun, depending on your point of view), let’s get to this weekend shall we? Like many others, I was out with the kids doing some holiday shopping. ‘Tis the season after all, and considering fact #3, I typically avoid the malls. That’s where the worse of the crowds typically congregate so I go the other way. Take me to a nice backwoods store, thank you, and call me good. However, my son is at the age where he’s starting to plan what he’d like to get people. He has ideas and he thinks he knows where to find them. This year, that included the mall. It probably doesn’t help that Dad, who doesn’t have my issues, can handle the mall without freaking out or snarl at people for getting too close.
So I asked where would they like to go shopping and sure enough, my son says the mall. Despite my reservations, I agree and away we went.
Yay, fun… NOT.
I was alright in Sears, did fine in most of the halls then we had to go through the food court to the sporting goods store. I’m not sure if it was timing or if it was the Divine snickering behind hands, but there was a sudden influx of people at the same moment we forge through. My son, being smaller, has his hand in mine while my daughter who is almost to my shoulders now in a bright pink coat is on her own. The younger one between us, we start forward then it creeps in on me like rushing water. Starts as a trickle then roars around me like a flood. All I know is that I’m surrounded and I want to strike out but can’t for two reasons.
- I have my son’s hand in mine.
- The one part of my brain that is still conscious above the panic reminds me that it’s not going to do me a damn bit of good to give into the urge.
So, instead, I make a mad dash for the entrance to the store. The only other thought in my brain is counting of steps until I get there. I may have had a mantra going. In the background of the rush I can hear my son asking me to slow down and he may have said something about me squeezing his hand. Once through and I collapse against a wall that is out of the way and free of anyone but the three of us, I see that my son is rubbing his hand, looking confused and concerned at the same time.
Then my daughter takes the initiative when he asks what was wrong to explain. “Mom get’s claustrophobia in crowds. Do you know what that is?” (This is how we talk with her so she does the same to her brother and friends as well apparently). When he shakes his head she continued. “It’s like being wrapped in a blanket that’s squeezing you, but you can’t get out of it and you can’t breathe. It just gets tighter and tighter.”
… *blink, blink* …
She then looked at me. “Right, Mom?”
“Uh, yeah. That’s right.”
Whoa, how the hell did she do that? Near as I can figure, after talking with her about it, she came up with that analogy after talking with me about claustrophobia, plus a friend and what she read about in a book. Pulling these sources together, she came up with her own understanding of the problem. A damn accurate one at that which explained to her 6-year-old brother in a way that he understood it perfectly. Excuse me while I burst with pride.
After I calm down enough, though, we proceed further into the store to search for our prize (which we didn’t find) and a conversation starts between the three of us about staying close to me and being in public. You see, in the stores like Barnes and Nobles or Target, if the kids are within eyesight, we’re alright because we can get to them quickly. There are fewer escape routes for anyone wanting to harm our kids and fact #1, but in the mall, the rule is they have to be closer. The bigger the crowd, the closer they have to be.
My daughter turns to me at one point to ask if one of the reasons we want them closer in the mall is because of my claustrophobia. I explain to her that may be a part of it, but mostly it’s because of fact #2, that I don’t trust people not to try to hurt them. Whether on purpose or by accident is beside the point. Having them closer in the mall has a higher chance of me reaching them due to the crowds. In a store when there are few people between me and them, I can get to them even if they are not in reaching distance. With a crowd, the factors change.
If I have to reach for them then I’ll need to be able to –
Before I can finish the sentence however, she breaks in with “break out some Mommy Kung Fu?”
All of us stop as the phrase sinks in then we start chuckling, though I think it was for different reasons. I don’t know about them, but for me I started because when we think about martial arts whether it’s Kung Fu or Tae Kwon Do or another style, it’s specific to that style. The style depends on how you move and what you know what to do. I could be wrong about this, but a reason Mixed Martial Arts is popular is due to the variety of options within it. It’s not limited to a certain set of moves. It would also explain why many friends that I have who are skilled in martial arts are in many different styles. Usually one that is heavy with defense and one that is heavy in attack. Two different mind sets. My particular skill set is more like street fighting. No style, only attack and hit. Fast and hard is the motto, do it in the right place at the right time, I promise they will be down for the count.
Another reason I chuckled is because a mother’s instinct, whether it’s an animal or a person, is strong when it comes to their young. A mother without any training will defend their child with everything in their power. They will kick, scream, use a freaking cast iron pan to defend that child if necessary. It takes me back to an old mindset from school when it came to fights. Watching girls fight was always more entertaining than watching the boys because boys were about style. Fists up, bobbing and weaving, trying to look cool while they did. Girls on the other hand didn’t care. Nails, teeth, hair pulling, nothing was held back and we went for the jugular as well. While I know neither of my kids has been in a fight, and I hope that they never need to be in one either, I’m fairly certain both will be able to defend themselves. I say that because I tell them what my Dad told me.
“Never start a fight, but always finish it.”
- Facing Fears: Admissions of a Writing Introvert (careann.wordpress.com)