Safe Zone

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Right around the time I was in high school, the “Safe Zone” movement caught momentum.  Often in the form of stickers on classroom doors or pins on teacher’s shirts, the Safe Zone label indicated that a person or space was a place of safety, acceptance, and support.  As you can tell by the image, this message was primarily targeted at the LGBT community. Even though I wasn’t out in high school and never felt the need to seek out a Safe Zone for any specific comfort or support, just knowing they were there brought me a wonderful peace of mind.  I enjoyed my algebra class a little more because my teacher had that sticker on his desk.

But what if we could expand the concept? Couldn’t everyone benefit from having a Safe Zone? A place where you could fully and simply be embraced?

This idea came to me recently after facing a difficult time in my life.  A time when I realized that so many people, including those I love, do not have a Safe Zone. Ever since, I have been consumed with creating such a space in my home.

In our Safe Zone:

  • You can like any TV show, color, game, clothing choice, or whatever that makes your heart sing and you will not be made fun of for it.
  • In fact, no making fun at all!
  • It’s cool to be different. To have ideas, feelings, fears, and joys.  It’s cool to be just who you are.
  • You are safe to share. Silly, quirky, embarrassing, scary, sad, mad, guilty.  It is safe to tell me. I will listen.
  • Everyone matters. Everyone is important.

Granted, this isn’t an entirely foreign concept or a vast departure from the vibe of our home to begin with.  My wife and I have always been on board with creating a family that operates around the concepts of value and respect. But, something about the label really does something for me, and I’ve noticed a difference in my children, too. For example…

Before:

“Please stop teasing.”

“But so and so did such and such first! And she’s _____!!!!!”

After:

“Remember, this is a safe zone. We all get a break from teasing here.”

::sigh:: “Okay.”

Cheesy? Maybe.  Will I stray from the specific terminology and label in a month or two? Probably.  But, I’m determined to make the concept a touchstone for our family.

When everyone comes home at the end of the day, I want them to be able to breathe.  I can’t be by their sides every minute of the day. I can’t shield them from every bit of teasing, discrimination, peer pressure, harmful social messaging, or other crap they may encounter.  What I can offer, is a safe place to return to.  A place to lay down the battle armor and take a deep sigh of relief.  A place to feel seen, heard, valued, accepted, and loved for the perfectly unique person they were created to be.

If I’m choosing a hill to die on, this will be it.

The other night I was laying in bed with my littlest daughter.  That day I had been faced with the pain and despair that can came from living a life without a Safe Zone, so I was nearly in tears when I squeezed her close and whispered, “Baby, please please tell Mommy if anyone ever hurts you. I will listen. I will be here.”

She took a little breath and said, “Well…today, at the con-pUter, my friend said I was not sharing and he was not gonna be my friend any more and it hurted my feewings.”

Then a tear did fall, and I was glad it was too dark for her to see the smile that spread across my face.

“I’m sorry that happened, baby.  Thank you for telling me.”

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6 thoughts on “Safe Zone

  1. I love this Elise. We do talk about home being a safe place, but we haven’t made it a touchstone. More often than not, I feel as if it would be a great reminder for me as the parent!

  2. As the others said – just perfect. I love how you found a way to say the thing you always have to say “no teasing” and put a new spin on it. And oh to feel safe and loved – if my children feel that, I have succeeded. Beautiful Elise. Your kids are so lucky to have moms like you.

  3. Perfection. Ironically, perhaps because of the LGBT roots, our family naturally talks “safe zone” speak. However, we don’t speak it nearly enough, and need to up it for a while I think. Thanks.

  4. Ohhhhh I love this so much!! I wish there was some “parent” version of this, like a secret network of parents we’d know we could trust without judgment of our kiddos’ differences or struggles. So many times I’m guarded about certain aspects of my kids for fear that other moms will not be so accepting them (or me). We should all wear buttons, or something!! 😉

  5. I love this! I remember when I was in high school and some townspeople were upset that safe zones even existed! They said it was “promoting” and encouraging kids to be gay. Funny, but not funny.

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