I was up most of the night of December 2. I had been mixing applesauce cinnamon dough for a co-op class the next morning and had a severe allergic reaction. Around five o’clock in the morning of December 3, I kissed my husband goodbye as he headed to the airport for a week long business trip. I then headed to bed in the hopes of getting in a little sleep before the kids woke up and we had to get on with our day.
The class went well. All of the kids had fun rolling out their dough and cutting out ornaments to take home and dry. I carefully wore gloves anytime I had to touch it. We chatted with friends, and after they all left, we had a nice little lunch and read some books. We needed to run a few errands, so we headed out about 1:30 PM. It was a lovely day out and we decided to head the park and try to get some great photos to put on cards to mail to friends and family.
We pulled into our driveway just before 3 PM, ready to grab clean shirts for the kids and my camera for some photography fun. I saw that the lights on the outside of the garage were on and made a mental note to remind the kids to double check that they were only flipping on the inside garage light and not the outside light. The switches are next to one another and sometimes the outside lights are accidentally turned on. I hit the button for the garage door to go up, parked in the driveway, and proceeded to help my younger children unbuckle, grab our purchases out of the back of the van, check the mail, and head in through the garage, which we used as a mudroom due to the limited space. I noticed that the garage smelled like cinnamon, as our house had earlier, and thought it odd that the smell had permeated so strongly into the garage. Later, my oldest child told me the door was wide open when he went in. He thought I had gone up to unlock it before getting the mail.
We went inside, dropping the diaper bag and purchases by the door as we rushed to get to the park before we lost the fantastic light we were being afforded. I began going through my two year old’s shirts while my other children started checking what they had clean. My eight year old came to me with three shirts, and I informed her that there was a basket of clean clothes in front of the dryer. She headed down to check and immediately came running back up the stairs saying, “Mom! Someone broke in!” My immediate thought was denial, so I ran down the stairs. I was halfway down when I saw the baby gate around the television had been moved. Turning, I saw our back door was wide open with the trim boards broken and laying on the floor.
I raced back up, scooping up my youngest child and telling the kids we had to get out. Luckily the diaper bag still sat by the kitchen door, and I grabbed it as we raced back out to the driveway. I pulled the phone out as I gathered my children close and called 911. I tried reaching my husband, but he was in a meeting halfway across the country. I called a friend who made some calls so that we would have help securing the door that evening. I cried. I didn’t know if the perpetrators were still there. I thought about my children, my babies, being in the house where there might have been strangers who could have harmed them. I shook. cried some more, and I hugged my crying children close.
We were lucky. We weren’t home at the time, and no one was hurt. The people who broke into our home were professionals. They didn’t trash the house, they just took most of our electronics. We think the garage door scared them off, as our desktop computer was moved and partially unplugged. They didn’t get our external hard drive, which housed all of our photos. Everything they took was something that could be replaced.
However, it was scary. My husband couldn’t get a flight home that night. When bedtime, albeit much later than my kids had been going to bed, rolled around, the questions came about what the perpetrators would have done if we were home. I didn’t want to lie and say that that would not happen, so I explained that most burglars do not want to be caught so they won’t break in if someone is home. As I was explaining this, I was also preparing for battle. I left all of the outside lights on. Most of the inside lights were on. I brought spray bottles of homemade cleaning supplies into the master bathroom, set the phone by the bed, brought in my son’s bow and unlocked the case ready for me to grab, and barricaded the bedroom door. I then proceeded to stay up all night while my children slept around me, listening to every tiny sound in case just in case the people came back. My husband grabbed the earliest flight home the next morning and we all hugged each other.
Since then, we have worked to make our home feel safe again. We have made changes to our home to make it more difficult for someone to break in. Most importantly, we have done everything we can to show our children that we will do whatever it takes in order to protect. Our children should feel safe and it is our job to make that happen. Home should be safe.
However, many, many children do not feel safe in their own homes. Many are the victims of abuse, while others are afraid for reasons that do not legally qualify as abuse. I can tell you that living in fear is not healthy and it does not lead to optimal growth, something which most parents want for their children. It is stressful on our bodies and minds, and limits us in learning and resolving conflicts. Ruling through fear by way of hitting, yelling, or other punishments does not provide that environment. It’s our job as parents to provide the safe environment for our children to learn and grow.
I’m so sorry you went through that! What a true lesson though, that living in fear is so all-consuming. For foster and adoptive parents to traumatized children, that one simple truth explains so much about the child’s resulting behavior.
I had a similar experience as a child. My mother was in hospital at the time and we all slept with my dad in their bed until she came home a few days later. I did not sleep properly for months after that my parents always validated my fear and did not try to force my fears to just go away. I am immensely grateful to them for that.
How troubling and unsettling! Our homes are supposed to be safe and make us feel protected and to have someone mess with that is disheartening. I’m so glad everyone was fine and I hope time and distance heal the mental wounds some. My heart breaks thinking of the children who have to live with that feeling every day of their lives because their homes are unsafe.