Monday, February 23, 2015

Fear of Bad Guys

Image: Andre Rajoelina
It’s 3 AM and my wife is poking me in the shoulder. I don’t hear our two-year-old crying and our four-year-old has been sleeping through the night for a few years now. Maybe she wants to make out? It’s the middle of the night, but hell, I’m a parent of two. I’ll take it when I can get it. I roll over and start to kiss my wife.

“No, what are you doing? That isn't why I woke you up.”

“Then why did you wake me up?” I say trying to sound as unannoyed as one can possibly sound when woken up at 3 AM for anything but that one thing I don't mind being woken up for at 3 AM.

“I don’t know if I locked the garage door. Will you go check it?”

Oh. Now I have to try extra hard to not sound annoyed. Annoyance tossed on top of crippling anxiety makes a shitty emotional nacho at any time of day, especially at 3 AM.

It has always been bad, but lately it has been worse.

A few months ago some guy walked in the front door of a home about a mile away from us, grabbed their four-year-old daughter and walked back out the front door. The mom heard something, woke her husband up, who ran outside to find a strange man with his daughter wrapped in his arms. The dad frantically asked for his daughter back. The man handed her to him. Then he ran.

He was picked up by police a few hours later. If the mom hadn't heard something downstairs. If the father hadn't sprinted out front. I...  I can’t even finish this sentence.

Stevie hasn't been sleeping well since. There have been nights that she’s barely slept at all. So instead of getting frustrated, and instead of giving her my cute “oh come on let’s kiss some more” face, I head downstairs to check the garage door.

Once down there I unbolt then re-bolt it, sliding the metal cylinder loudly into the solid wooden frame. I continue wandering through the cold house in my underwear, checking each exterior door - unlocking and locking. I already know they were all locked, but I want Stevie to hear me checking. It is important to me that she hears me checking. Maybe then she can sleep.

On my way back upstairs I slowly turn the handle of my daughter's door, peer inside and see her sleeping. Her arm is draped over a stuffed Tinkerbell doll. Tiny little snores puff in and out of her nose. "She is safe." I tell myself. "She is safe."

I peek into my son's room. He too is asleep, snoring, and safe. "He is safe."

When I return to bed I kiss Stevie on the cheek. She's still awake, eyes wide open, listening. “It was locked. I checked all the other doors just in case. They were locked too.”

“Thank you.”

She crawls in close and lays her head on my chest. I close my eyes and try to hear her close hers. I hope her eyes are closed. I can’t hear anything but my heart pounding.

We always knew there were bad guys in the world. Now we know they can be ten blocks away.

Stevie’s not the only one who's having trouble sleeping.


“Dad, are bad guys real?”

Duchess is REALLY into The Justice League lately. It is a Saturday afternoon and we’re watching it together. During the action scenes we stand in front of the television while we both kick and punch the air. We are Batman and Hawkgirl. We are kicking and punching “bad guys.”

Bad guys aren't necessarily “guys.” They are the males and females and gender-less monsters who try to blow up Metropolis, or rob banks, or create an army of nanobots to invade Superman and take away his super powers. When my daughter is asking me if bad guys exist she isn't asking me if there are evil people in the world. She is asking me if Lex Luthor could possibly show up on Tuesday and request her assistance in slowing The Flash down long enough to handcuff him to missile and shoot him into the sun.

But when I hear tiny voice ask “Are bad guys real?” all I can see is a stranger standing in my front yard with her tiny frame in his arms.

“Can I have her back? Give her back please. GIVE HER BACK NOW!”

It’s an anomaly of course. Proximity doesn't equate frequency. We live in a very safe neighborhood, and I do believe that people are overwhelmingly good. I don’t want her to grow up afraid. When the world reaches out to my kids, I don't want them to flinch. I want them to embrace it. I want her to be fearless with her kindness. I want her to be able to walk to her car someday without threading her keys though her fingers. I want her to be able to sleep in a house with unlocked doors.

But there ARE bad people in the world, and I am not Batman.

“Dad... DAD... I mean Batman! It’s time!”

It's the part of the show when the bad guys attack, Together we start swinging and kicking and yelling “HA” and “OOMPH.” She spins in place and falls on the floor, reaching out for me with her tiny Hawkgirl hand. I grab her and pick her back up. We start punching and kicking again.

In her head the bad guys are flying away. In mine we’re just swinging right through them.


Thanks for reading. We're not always so somber around here. If you want some laughs stop by the Ask Your Dad Facebook page or read some of the related pieces below! 

 Also, fun news!  Stevie has opened up a cool little shop where you can buy high resolution digital prints that she designs. There are some samples in the sidebar of this blog, or you can find more at her shop Ollie Jo Jo. Go. Check them out!  


  1. That is scary stuff for your neighbor.
    I would be rocked as well. We like to think our bubbles are secure, but they can never be completely safe, and we have to live with that.

  2. Not nice knowing it happened that close, I can understand your (and your wife's) fears.

  3. Beautiful, troubling writing.

  4. It's crazy scary especially when something happens so close to home. I am a single parent and get up myself at night to double and triple check that my doors are locked. Heck when I was married, I still did it because my husband wouldn't get up. (no wonder I'm divorced. ha) So MAJOR kudos to you for helping your wife feel safe.

  5. One of my least favorite parts of parenthood was watching my kids slowly realize that there are awful, evil people in the world. My 13-year-old daughter has become something of a cynic lately as she becomes more involved with following the news and history. Just after we first moved to North Idaho, a brother and sister were kidnapped from their home, their mother, stepdad, and older brother bludgeoned to death in front of them. That was ten years ago, and I'm still haunted by the Groene children. I never go to bed without double-checking windows and doors, and I'm easily awakened by the creaks and thumps that are probably normal in our house.

  6. Where children are concerned, The average American Bad Guy is the average American family member.

  7. I was a child in the 1970's when the Atlanta child murders were happening and all of a sudden there was a suspicious blue car, or white van being announced on the loudspeaker at school almost everyday. I remember hearing that on child was from a poor family that all slept in the same bed. Someone came in the middle of the night and plucked that child out of a family bed and he was never seen again. Learning this as a child did something to me that I never fully realized until I had children of my own. I constantly have to put down my own fear in the interests of not making my children's world very small. Thank you for writing this, I feel less alone.