Minnesota boy, Jacob Wetterling has been found. Twenty-seven years later, those of us who grew up haunted by his disappearance, now have answers. As a young Minnesota girl, only a few years younger than he was when he vanished, it scared me. It was my first real jolt of fear at age nine that made me realise bad people are out there- outside of my safe Midwestern bubble- causing harm. It also made me have hope. His mother’s perseverance and love for her son taught me about the strength of motherhood; indescribable, unmovable, resilient.
I cried a lot yesterday when I read details from the predator’s confession. I hope I never remember the man’s name, and I certainly hope I forget what I read. After working with addicts and sexual assault survivors, I’ve heard many traumatic stories that made me cry as soon as a client left my office. But this, this was different. The twenty-seven years of wondering what happened came crashing down within a few days, and it hurt.
To help ease a bit of that pain, I’ll try to focus on what I don’t want to forget… what Jacob’s existence, and even disappearance, taught me.
As a parent, all I ever want for my child is to be safe. Of course I want him to be happy in life, which is something I always hear people say they wish for their children, but from my perspective, it’s not reality. Happiness changes from moment to moment, and isn’t a guarantee. He’ll experience true suffering at some point in life, it’s unavoidable. Not that I wish that upon him, but it’s part of our experience as humans. It’s my wish that he comes to me in those moments so I can talk him through it. So I can listen, and so he knows I’m there for him. In alignment with that happiness…
More than anything, I want him to be safe.
Safe from danger. Safe from strangers, safe from people he knows whose intentions might not be clear, safe from falling, safe from high tides, safe.
Safe from drugs, safe from self-harm, toxic thinking, safe from manipulation. Safe from bullies, from evil, from violence. Safe from people who aren’t safe.
Agh! It’s a challenge; I’m very aware the world is not safe.
So how do I help him navigate through what is safe & what isn’t?
How can I help him feel protected up until the very last days of his existence, even when I am gone?
Maybe it’s about helping him rely on his intuition. By encouraging his voice. By listening to him. By offering options for him to choose from. By bolstering up that confidence. Or maybe I don’t really know how to protect him other than to love him. To never give up hope that the light within him is always shining, like Patty Wetterling continues to hold onto for Jacob.
By letting him make mistakes while he’s young so he can learn & I can help him through it.
That’s my job.
My sole purpose as his mother is to guide him through obstacles in life. To lead by example & communicate with him about life and all the good and bad that exists together. To advocate for him when he needs so he can learn to advocate for himself. I can’t keep him in a bubble- that wouldn’t be safe, either. But I can teach him about what’s outside the bubble we have created. And he needs to see that his mother is confident in her safety, too.
As long as he feels protected in the home, as long as he trusts his parents, as long as he knows he can rely on us to protect him and that we are the foundation for his sense of security- whenever he thinks of us in whatever situation he’s in- he will be safe.
Through my love, my guidance, and faith in him, my son will always feel safe.