Feeling Safe: How to Do It Without Losing Your Mind

by Cate on February 23, 2012

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A few weeks ago, we came home to find our double-locked basement door open and our dog Maxwell gone. It appeared someone tried to break into our house.  The police department came and did their thing, animal control found our dog, and life resumed. Or did it?

While the police department isn’t too sure what happened (we’re all fine and nothing was taken), my kids were understandably more than a little freaked out.  What’s a mom to do?

The officers gave a few implausible explanations, mostly to make the kids feel better, but that isn’t enough.

What’s left is that rather unsettling period of feeling unsafe and uneasy in your own home.  And even more so for the kids.  As the three police officers searched the house, and then came back to our living room to talk, I asked if they could direct some of their conversation to the kids.  Kids who were now more than a little apprehensive.

The officers assured the kids that no one was in the house now.  That everything would be fine.  That there was no reason to be scared.  And lastly, that they wouldn’t let us stay in the house if they thought there was any reason to be concerned.  That certainly helped.  A little.  But that night, understandably, my bed was extra full.  Although we don’t (and likely won’t) know the specifics of what happened, it is one of the worst feelings when your kids don’t feel safe.

Some six plus years ago, someone had tried to break into the house.  Scared by Eli and a friend who was in our house at the time, they escaped before getting in, but not before jamming our back door to the point that it couldn’t be opened and had to be replaced.  Luckily Nick was young enough to not really be able to comprehend what had happened.

When we lived in England as kids, someone broke into our house while we were out.  Ransacked it.  Stole jewelry and many other irreplaceable items.  The police suggested we get a dog, and a German Shepherd joined the family soon after.  When that story comes up in conversation, my mom always mentions how unsettled she felt being in the house after that.  That someone had been through our personal things.  Invaded our space without permission.  It’s a tough feeling to shake.

Now how to get past it?  How to make the kids feel better?  How to make them feel safe?  All without making our home feel like a fortress?

And that’s the rub right there.

As much as I want to feel safe, and even more so for my kids to feel safe, I refuse to have six locks on the door just to enter the foyer.  I don’t want to feel trapped.  Scared.  Because I think that only makes it worse.  I think that only serves to heighten your fear, as opposed to making you feel safer.

We lock our doors and windows.  Have an alarm system.  The dog.  What more can you do?

  • If you had a break-in and have kids, have the police officers talk to your children.  Sometimes the reassurance happens more easily if it comes from someone else.  Especially someone who deals with this on a daily basis.  I think the kids felt better hearing that the police officers felt it was safe for us to be in the house.  That they would keep an extra eye on the neighborhood for us.  That they were there to protect us.
  • Have a routine.  Whether it’s checking the locks, leaving lights on, or setting the alarm, go through the steps.  Have the kids be a part of it, so they see what you’re doing to protect them.
  • But to contradict that, don’t be super rigid about your routine.  Don’t do everything at the same exact time, the same exact way.  Because if there happens to *be* a bad guy scoping out your neighborhood, you don’t want him to know your routine.
  • Do what makes you and your kids feel safe, without going overboard.  Whether it’s a dog, an alarm system, a sensor light in the front yard or some or all of it, do it, but keep it in check.  I feel the more obstacles you place between you and the rest of the world will only serve to alienate you from it.  I don’t want to live my life (or the kids’ lives) locked up and in fear, and I don’t want to exaggerate a sense of fear for my kids.
  • Talk to your kids.  Listen to their fears.  Acknowledge them and do what you can to help them feel better.  For this instance, I explained that people generally break into people’s homes when they’re not there, because they just want the stuff.  They don’t want to be there when there are people there, they don’t want to hurt them, and that seemed to help.
  • Be aware, but just short of hyperaware.  There’s a fine line in being conscious of your surroundings and what is going on, and being paranoid.  I want my kids to be aware of what is happening around them, but not concentrate on it enough that they think everyone is a bad guy.
  • Remind them (and yourself) about the basic inherent goodness in people and the world at large.  Most people, I’d like to believe, are good and don’t want to hurt people.  An odd break-in here and there is the exception, not the rule.

The bottom line?  Life moves on.  I’m good.  The kids are even better.  And this is just one of those little blips on the radar screen of life.  We get past it, and motor on.  There are cookies to bake, rainbows to seek, and general good clean wholesome fun to be had.  And believe me when I tell you, I’d much rather focus our energy there.

February 23, 2012 – Bonus Photos
So the other day, while listening to the radio on the way to work, I finally heard some new Diet Coke statistics that made me stop in my tracks.  Or more to the point, these new stats just might be the final nail in my don’t-drink-the-stuff-anymore commitment.  Today is Day #3 of no Diet Coke.  The caffeine headache set in already, so I’m trying to squash it with extra Iced Coffee.  I think I just may have convinced Mystic to join me on my new resolve, although I think it might be harder for him.  I used that whole misery loves company tactic.

**The first picture up top has nothing to do with our story tonight, obviously, but I hate running a post without a photo or three.  That’s a super colorful display that we spied in Target the other day.  Love it.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanne February 24, 2012 at 7:21 am

I had no idea that any of this happened! I would be so anxious for days after that….so I can only imagine how the kids felt! So weird that they broke in and didn’t take anything though. thank god for small favors.

what were the diet coke stats you read? I was wondering why you suddenly decided to give it up…


Cate O'Malley February 24, 2012 at 9:54 am

Joanne – A new study revealed that those that drink Diet Coke daily have a 40+% increase risk of stroke and 66% increased risk of heart disease. Those numbers were just too high for me to ignore.


Cindy February 24, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Thanks for sharing the stats. I gave up Diet Coke this fall. I still have an occasional one, but seeing those stats helps me to not give to the urge to have one!


Claire February 24, 2012 at 11:45 am

I definitely lock my door as soon as I come in my apartment…though one time I DID accidentally leave my keys in the door on the outside and didn’t realize it until I tried to leave the next morning. YIKES! I realized that I don’t have a specific routine with my outside light, but I think that’s good. Sometimes, I turn it off when I come in, sometimes it’s on all night, etc.

Does the study specifically have to do with diet Coke or diet soft drinks. I wonder if the theory behind that is that in drinking the diet drink, people feel more free to eat more decadent foods because they aren’t drinking their calories and have more “fudge” room. Hmmm….


Meg February 29, 2012 at 4:50 pm

I’m so sorry this happened to you, but thankful everyone is all right and Maxwell is back. I’m a nervous Nancy by nature and am thankful to have an alarm system, which we turn on religiously in the evenings.

At my boyfriend’s apartment complex, I sometimes come into the building only to find the “secure” door propped open — and that really, really bothers me. I’m sure it’s innocent — someone just too lazy to come down and let a friend into the building, etc. — but it bothers me. No matter where you are, sometimes it’s hard to feel “safe.”


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