Monday, October 12, 2009

I need the parenting wand

Last Thursday, Parker and I were working in the studio. Jeremy had just left town for a project he's been working on with a group of Dutch artists. Things were going fine. I was sewing, Parker was doing homework....everything was good.

As many of you know, we are renovating the building the studio is located in. When we moved in, the building was in need of repair due to some water damage. We had to replace the floors, repair some walls, paint, etc...but, the bigger issue was in the basement. The basement is a stone foundation which had been insulated with a vapor barrier, dry-walled and fitted with lovely drop ceilings (why do people do this!!!). Several months before we moved in, a pipe burst on the main floor, ran for several days, flooded the main floor and the basement - nothing was really done to take care of the damage that had been done and the water sat there for months. This meant the basement molded - in a way I have never ever seen before. It was covered, floor to ceiling in black mold...literally, the walls were black, the floors were was horrible. To make things worse - the only usable bathroom was in the basement. So, one of the first things we did was seal off the basement from the first floor so we could safely work in there (we have since gutted the whole basement). The air quality was so bad - everyday we went home with headaches and Jeremy developed some respiratory issues. To remedy the situation, Jeremy tore out the basement bathroom, salvaged the sink and toilet and replaced the bathroom in the second floor apartment (which will soon be turned into an office). In order to use this bathroom, we go outside, up the back stairs and into the second floor. The back stairs are just old deck type stairs that raise up above a dead end alleyway type space between our building and the building next door. This space is pretty big and very's about 30 feet deep, 5 feet wide and 12 feet high. We have been talking about closing it off and turning it into outside storage since we moved in. There have just been so many other things that needed to take precedence that we never got around to it.

So, last Thursday, while Parker and I were at the studio, she went up to the bathroom, returned and went back to homework. About 30 minutes later, I did the same. Only, when I opened the back door to go upstairs, I walked into a police raid on our backyard. I was met by about 10 police officers who had just arrested one man. (Parker witnessed all of this) It turns out, this one guy mugged someone about an hour earlier right up the block from our building and had been hiding under our back stairs for that whole time - during the same period of time that Parker had gone outside and upstairs by herself. I spent about 15 minutes with the police trying to get the details about what had happened only to find out this guy has been coming to that space under our stairs to get high on a regular basis (I'm pretty certain he's not smoking pot). I have been completely trapped with thoughts of "what could have happened" for the last three days. While, thankfully, neither of us were physically hurt, our sense of security has been completely compromised. Parker especially.

Jeremy came home early and we tried to asses what we could do to make our building and back yard a place that would not be conducive to intruders - for starters, closing off the dark alley and following through to a more thorough security system. It's all very unsettling. In many ways I feel like it was a wake up call for us to be more careful. The reality is, the neighborhood of our studio is in the city and while I do not think it is dangerous...we can't be naive... things do happen and we must take precautions to protect our business and family. We can find solutions to this, but the harder part is working through an invasion of personal safety with an 11 year old. She has been like velcro to me since this happened. Afraid to go to bed at night, scared at the slightest noise...I'm not sure what to do except show her we are taking preventative measures. But the reality is, she is only 11 and her 11 year old imagination has taken over...she does not feel safe. This is one of those moments when I wish there were a magic parenting wand that would just make everything better. If you know where I can find one...let me know. In the meantime, we're doing our best to try and work through things.


  1. I had a similar thing happen to me where someone broke into our home and robbed us while I was sleeping. There is no magic wand to make a child feel safer.

    A child can sense trepidation in you. The best way to make a child feel more secure is to embody the confidence and the mindset that comes with the knowledge of how to protect yourself and your family. An education in how to observe, assess, avoid and mitigate threats will give you the confidence that will transfer to your child's feelings of well-being.

    The way that I found this knowledge was through the teachings of a former Navy SEAL. There is a web-based program that teaches this knowledge to anyone who is willing to learn. You can find it at

  2. My husband is in law enforcement. In fact, we met in the academy. Is there any way you can get your daughter a dog? I know it sounds dumb, but dogs are really a very good preventative for crime, as well as great at alerting to dangers. The dog could be hers, sleep in her room, be with her. You can check out local rescues for the right fit. Just an idea. Be safe.

  3. that's horrible!
    so sorry you are going through this in your new city and home.
    kids are resilient - she will come out of it and be stronger. you all will.

  4. oh no, i'm so sorry to hear this. in addition to taking prevenative measures, maybe it would be helpful to take some walks with parker through the neighborhood and various alleys, especially at night. part of it might be fear of the unknown, if you get out and show her that the streets are safe at night, that might ease her fears a bit by making it less foreign.

  5. How awful! Keep doing what you are doing. She will get through this, stronger and wiser, all of you will. Take care of each other.

  6. I am so sorry this has happened to you and your daughter. It's an unsettling feeling anytime to have your space invaded.

    As a child I was always scared of a break-in or intruder and I had never had any first-hand scary experiences. I knew our neighborhood wasn't the safest, so I would create these senarios in my imagination.

    My parents did a wonderful job of supporting me and listening to my fears, not making me feel stupid. It took time but as I got older, 12 & 13, I started to not be as frightened.

    Unfortunately, there isn't anything you can really do to get her out of her imagination. But I agree with ravenwrendesigns, with getting a dog. The safest I have ever felt is having a dog by my side.

    Once again, I am sorry. I wish you the best!

  7. Dear Wendy, I am so sorry to hear what you and Parker had to go through while Jeremy was away.

    I have experienced something similar and here is what helped:

    -Once a few days had passed after the incident, we decided to take control back. The way we did this was to come up with a few alternative plans when and if we ever found ourselves in various threatening situations. This involved having escape routes and meeting places or coming up with a variety of safe words that would translate to mean something else.

    This was very effective as we would also practice the options we had come up with. I continue to say WE, but it was actually just me, living alone in my own home and enduring a threatening and scary incident. However, The plans I refer to involved my neighbors and friends - they all were part of the goal to make me feel safe again and take the power and control back.

    Lastly, my girlfriend got me a dog...he was a great guard dog (a cocker spaniel who thought he was a german shephard) and quickly gave me peace.

    I hope this helps, even if a little bit.

    Take care.

  8. Hi Wendy,

    I was one of the first to purchase a market bag from you.
    Gorgeous grey with orange rip stop lining, it is looking a little tired now, so has been delegated to being used as a beach bag now.
    I have followed your blog and career with interest for years now, but this last post has prompted a comment.

    The dog idea is a great one, but choose your breed carefully.
    I have suffered from the experience of being violated.
    Tell Parker if she ever finds herself in a situation where she is uncomfortable or frightened to make noise. Lots of it.
    Scream, kick, draw attention to herself.

    I bought 2 boxers, these guys offered me great comfort and companionship. Completely crazy though, we did attend obedience school, which is an absolute must for a well behaved puppy/dog.

    They look unfriendly but were the happiest, most loving animals I had ever owned.
    I miss them terribly, it has been 10 years now since I lost them (old age) and 22 years since my attack.

    I am braver, but sometimes still get frightened, constantly remind myself to take back control and power.
    Lots of hugs for Parker, she will recover and regain her confidence, it just takes time, sometimes lots of it.

    Wishing you luck and strength.


  9. In addition to what wise readers have said above, why not look into a physical street smarts/self-defense for kids (and yourself) class at your local Y/library/community center? Hopefully you can find one that is less fearmongering than "you are a smart and brave kid and instincts and most grownups can be trusted if you break through your fear and call on them". Also, my good friend has had repeated (likely same crew) break-ins at her house during daytime hours due to empty houses on either side. On the stressed verge of selling the house at a loss, with an impending baby, they've had a lot of help from the father-in-law with tearing out overlarge hidey bushes, adding security lights, possibly an alarm. Making a statement that you are there and you care is a huge stay-away step in edgy communities.

  10. Um, super creepy? I'm glad Parker's okay.

  11. I'm so sorry you and your daughter have had such a scare.

    My family went through something similar, and what helped the most was taking self defense classes. They were of the model mugger variety, but geared toward girls.

    Also, how about installing motion-sensitive lights -- under the stairs and at the back of the building?

    Good luck.

  12. Wow! I live in your city too, and just last week I arrived home to find several police cars on my street, even blocking our driveway. With guns drawn, the policemen were walking around an empty building just up our street. They left shortly thereafter which tells me they didn't find who they were looking for (this was reinforced in my mind when they were back a few days later!)Anyway my daughter lives right below me and she wasn't home but I had a horrible thought that whomover they were looking for was probably sitting on my daughter's couch sharing bon-bons with her Pit-Bull, who unfortunately loves everyone!!
    I still have no idea if they found the subject of their search or not.
    I remember being 11 and I really feel for your daughter!


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