Don’t-Go-It’s-Dangerous-You’re-Abandoning-Your-Child

This is me right now. Only I've got long hair.

My extended family thinks a lot of negative things about this walk I plan to do:

1) I’m being irresponsible.  This is coupled with being selfish.  Dreams should take the backseat to our obligations to our children.  Why can’t I wait?

2) I’m abandoning my daughter.  Again.  Apparently when I was a long haul trucker when my girl was little counts as abandonment.

3) My husband is on death’s door and my daughter could wake up one morning and find him in a diabetic coma or worse, dead.  I don’t want her to have to be all alone and face that by herself, do I?  And how can he take care of her when he is so close to dying?

4) It’s dangerous and they won’t know where I am and if something happened to me they will never know what happened and Willow will grow up always wondering what happened to her mother.

My responses to these objections:

1)  Dreams do not have to take a back seat to raising children.  Actually, I think that showing my daughter I am doing unconventional things and following my dreams, that is a positive lesson.   Besides, I think that parents who follow their dreams end up being better parents.  If parents squash their dreams for their kids, then resentment can build up.  People who follow their dreams are happier, in general, I think.

Millions of military families, trucker families and other families who have had parents who are away for any length of time manage to get by.  Their children manage.  They grow up and become good citizens.  They are not traumatized.  Yes, they miss their parents and their parents miss them.  But it isn’t the end of the world.

Why can’t I wait?  Well, there’s no time like the present.  I know I can handle it physically now.  Eight plus years from now (once Willow is grown), I don’t know what the future will have in store for me.  I think this trip will only get more difficult the older I get.  My bones aren’t getting any springier.

2) The charge I am abandoning my daughter upsets me the most.  I am NOT.  When I was a truck driver and putting food on the table and paying for a roof over her head I was not abandoning her.  I was doing what any person would do–take care of my family.  Because I am a woman, though, my job is to be at home, joined at the hip with my kids.  I don’t think so.

The same goes for me going on this trip.  Men have been explorers and adventurers for ages, and have had children and society doesn’t think much of it other than, “whoa, I can’t believe he did that…how cool!” or whatever.  When  a woman does it, the reaction is similar, but when people find out she has kids, the next thing that comes out of people’s mouths often times is, “But what about the children?”  Which is a double whammy in sexist stereotypes.  It’s sexist against men, assuming they can’t take care of children, and sexist against women, insinuating they need to be home with the kids.

And Willow is ten years old now.  I’ve talked with her about the trip, my motivations and whatnot.  She says she will miss me, but that she is excited for me and understands that I have a dream that I’m trying to make happen.   She is being so grown up about it.  I’m very proud of her!  She is also excited, because I’m going to set up an email account for her so we can email each other while I’m on the road.

But it really does bother me that they think I abandoned her when I was trucking.  I just can’t believe that.  I’m still trying to wrap my head around that.  To me, abandonment means you take off and never come back and you don’t bother to keep in touch.  Or you come back so much later that it doesn’t really matter anymore, because you have become a stranger.  I would never do that.

3) Micah is dyyyiiiing.  No he isn’t.  When I first found out he had to go on dialysis a couple of years ago, I went on a major freak out and thought for sure that meant he would be dead within two years and I went on an emotional binge-eating streak that didn’t end until I gained 60 pounds.  Talk about unhealthy!

Anyway, I have since learned that my original supposition was entirely incorrect.  People can live on dialysis for decades.  We have now met many who have been tethered to the chair for years and years and years.  But I think, even though I have since explained that to them, my family still doesn’t understand that.

However, of the four objections they have, this one probably has the highest possibility for something to go wrong.  I do admit that.  I can’t predict his health outcomes; heck, I can’t even predict my own.  It is possible something could happen to either of us, health wise.  My hip is killing me lately.  And he did just recently mysteriously fall flat on his face and busted out his teeth and ended up in the hospital, after all.  That was unexpected.  (If it turns out that Micah has gotten some new thing where he gets dizzy, passes out all the time, and it becomes obvious that no, he can’t take care of our daughter, I will be looking into what else we can do.)

But he has gotten his blood sugars under control and he is working on his blood pressure (the docs are constantly fiddling with his bp meds to find the right med/dosage).  It’s better than it was.  He has lost weight, which is good, since he was overweight.  His docs are talking about putting him on the transplant list, which is a good thing.  He wasn’t a candidate a year ago due to his health issues and weight. It seems like he’s healing faster these days, too, which is good.  Diabetics can be slow healers.

He isn’t “healthy” by any stretch of the imagination, but he isn’t on death’s door, either.  He takes care of himself.  And no, Willow wouldn’t be taking care of him.  If by some weird horrible chance something DID happen while I was gone, we will be going over with Willow what to do for various scenarios.  But at this point, I think it unlikely.

4) Yes, a walk like this is dangerous.  I did some research, though.   Looking at the Bureau of Justice’s crime statistics* and compiling that with America’s population data, I calculated the chance that I would be attacked/raped/murdered.  That chance is approximately .0003% for assault/rape.  Even less for murder.  For men, the chance they will be assaulted by someone they don’t know is double that of women, actually.  No, as a woman I’m more likely to be assaulted and murdered by somebody I know. Which is hardly comforting, but there you have it.

I think the bigger danger comes from getting hit by a car.  I actually witnessed somebody on a bike get hit by a car the other day.  I mentioned it in my blog, too.  I can get hit by cars here at home just as easily as out on the road.  And here, people wouldn’t know I got hit, either.

But, to have a better understanding, I did research into that, too.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration**, approximately 59,000 pedestrians were injured in traffic accidents in 2009 (last data).  Of those, 4,092 were killed.  Our country has approximately 313 million people in it***.  That means I have a .000188 % chance of getting hit by a car.  That means I have a .000013% chance of dying from being hit by a car.

This came as a surprise to me.  I have less of a chance of being hit by a car than I do getting raped by a stranger (approximately 100,000 women are raped by strangers every year).  I did not know that.  How sad is that?

Wow.  That makes me feel loads better.  It also demonstrates to me people’s perceptions (including my own) of the probability of the dangers are waaay out of whack with reality.

So, is it dangerous?  Yes, it potentially is.  Especially if I expose myself to dangerous situations.  If I’m super careful, I can help nullify a lot of the danger (if I don’t do stupid stuff like stepping out in front of cars; and I watch the traffic, look both ways, etc.).  But is it dangerous enough to not go?  Absolutely not.

Yes, it is possible something happens to me and they never hear from me again, but the likelihood is extremely low, as you can see from the statistics.

And if they want to know where I am and what I’m doing from day to day, all they need to do is follow my blog, keep track of their social media or call me.  I’ll be doing regular updates, even multiple times a day when I’m in areas where I can.  I plan to call home every day to check in.  Eastern Oregon and parts of the Rockies will be problematic, but for the most part, I should have reception okay.

**

I’m curious if any other walkers or runners, etc. who have gone on this journey had kids.  I don’t recall seeing any mentioned in blogs.  Those of you who have done it who don’t have kids, would you have considered walking if you had one?

*http://www.lapdonline.org/our_communities/content_basic_view/8891

**http://www.nhtsa.gov/Pedestrians

***http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_of_the_United_States

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10 thoughts on “Don’t-Go-It’s-Dangerous-You’re-Abandoning-Your-Child

  1. Depending on the age of the kid, I’d probably try and take them with me. It would create a whole other set of problems and obstacles, but it would also give the child and amazing life experience.

    Stick to your dreams. I think once you actually get on the road and your family realizes how easy it is to stay in touch, and how non-lethal walking is, they’ll be more comfortable and back you up. Hopefully. That’s the way it worked with my family. Most were strongly against it, but once I was on the road they had a lot of fun following along and cheering me on.

  2. I will. I hope mine come around, too.

    I so totally wanted to take Willow. I even gave her an opportunity to, since she asked if she could go. But I warned her that she would have to train with me every day. The first day, she did 2.5 miles, which was great! I was impressed.

    The next day, she asked me if she could go to her friend’s house, and I told her no, because we were going to go walking. It finally dawned on her that I was serious when I said that training was every week, four to five days a week and that we would be doing a LOT of walking. I also think my gregarious girl finally realized that going with me would cut into her social life, too. She said, “Um…that’s a lot of walking mom. I don’t think I can do that.” And she went to go play with her little friend, instead.

    Dang, she’s not even a teen and I’m already losing out to her friends…sigh.

  3. Hi. I didnt have the same cautions or warnings from people. I did get a lot of “Why?”s but I just told then that I had to do something big, as Pres.Obama said in his state of the Union speech last year. As for danger, i think you will be very safe as long as you walk against traffic. I was walking with traffic for the state of Georgia and into a city in Alabama, when a car driven by an angry woman clipped my cart with her mirror on purpose. No harm to me but it made me realize I was on the wrong side of the road for safety purposes. That and a logging truck with branches sticking out that almost nailed me from behind. Youre gonna find the nicest people. I really dont think you will have any trouble at all. And carry pepper spray. I did, and never had occasion to use it. I had all kinds of people telling me I needed a gun but I detest the things and besides, some states dont allow them.

    • I absolutely agree, Jim. I have pepper spray for the aggressive dogs (and potentially belligerent people). I don’t want to carry a gun. As you point out, it is illegal, anyway. Carry/conceal permits in one state won’t necessarily be respected in another and I don’t want to end up in the clink for 10 years because of it.

      I figured out the whole walking toward oncoming traffic a long time ago. I want to see where the traffic is, so if I’m walking toward it, I can get out of the way. If it is behind me, I can’t. Makes sense to me!

  4. I’m really glad you posted this. I’ve dreamed of walking across America since I was a kid, but got married shortly after high school, and had three kids in four years’ time. I would never leave them to do a walk like this as young as they are now (the oldest is only 5), but it’s good to hear that someone else is doing it while their kid is still a kid! Maybe I won’t have to wait until they’re all out of the house before I start my walk, after all! When I do, I hope at least one of them wants to join me.

    I especially liked your point about parents who realize their dreams being a positive thing. Thanks for the encouragement, Holly!

  5. I’m not a highway walker, but I say “Right On!” to all the reasons you listed for going. I think it’s so important to be a living example of courage and dream-living to our kids. You’re right, if you repress that aspect of yourself, it could be detrimental to your happiess, and ability to be the best parent you can be (unlike repressing flatulence, as you noted in your other post, which can have benefits). Fortunately, I have a family (including my daughter) who are very supportive of my adventures, but I heard some of the same fear-based caca from a couple friends when I was on my way to Haiti. Half the time, I think other people are just envious that they don’t have the courage to follow their own dreams, take informed risks, venture into the unknown, etc, and they project all of that onto people who do. Yes, there is a difference between reckless sensationalism and planned, researched dream-following that inspires you like nothing else! Go for it!

    • What did you do in Haiti, Laura? Did you go after that giant earthquake decimated Port-au-Prince?

      And thank you so much for your cheering! I can almost imagine you shouting into a megaphone while cheerleaders make letters with their pompom filled hands and shout, “Gimme an H! Gimme an O! Gimme a L!” and so on until my name is spelled and they start cheering madly!

      I have a vivid imagination. 🙂 But seriously, in the last few sentences you wrote, I think you are absolutely correct. It’s so nice when people get it!

      • I have an partnership with Haitian who runs a small paper-mache and metal art business. Our web site (blog) is paperturtle.com, and if you click the About tab, you can learn more. I wrote a post before going, touched on a couple of the themes you did. You can read that post here http://paperturtle.com/2011/10/12/haiti-here-i-come/ and, if you’re interested, there’s half a dozen more on the actual trip. I hope you have a good time, I’ll have to stop by and see. Yes, if taking chances was easy or “guaranteed success,” everyone would do it!

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