Should you ever need a handy guide for surviving as a hostage, rest assured, Wikipedia has you covered. Complete with ominous cartoons involving a masked man with murderous rage in his eyes and his hand clapped over the captive’s mouth, the web site offers 20 “simple” steps to make it through being taken against your will.
I’ve never even gotten the wind knocked out of me—much less abducted by a cartoon villian—but as I scrolled through Wikipedia’s tips, I realized just how applicable hostage-surviving tactics are to surviving parenting.
1. Regain Your Composure. Calm down! says Wikipedia. “Your adrenaline will be pumping, your heart will be pounding, and you’ll be terrified.”
I spend most of my time terrified of parenting. Whether it’s worrying about Internet-viral stories of unvaccinated children poisoning the herd or BPA in my sippy cups, I try not to let the fear creep in. But it does. From the Internet. From a car that follows me too closely while I’m driving (I have kids in the backseat, for God’s sake!). From the other kid in the waiting room who’s holding a vomit bag. There are a million disastrous scenarios I envision on a daily basis. And those I can’t even begin to envision usually end up as a Facebook story that gets shared over and over (I’m looking at you, secondary drowning story).
2. Be Observant. “Never let your guard down.”
As I type this, I’m sitting in one room while my children remain suspiciously quiet in the other. I would go in and check them, but I don’t want to know who’s coloring on the wall at the moment.
However, when I see a child about to vomit, I remain vigilant. If anyone gets near me, I quickly back away … to avoid the spray.
3. Keep a Survival Attitude. “Be positive … the odds are with you … That said, you should prepare yourself for a long captivity. Some hostages have been held for years, but they kept a positive attitude, played their cards right, and were eventually freed. Take it one day at a time.”
This needs no explanation. It’s Parenting 101.
4. Put Your Captor at Ease. “Cooperate within reason with your captor.”
“No needles aren’t scary.” “Yes, vegetables are so delicious!” “Yes, school is fun!” “I love going to the dentist. So will you.”
We tell our children little white lies to make them believe what they need to. I usually fall prey to bribery in the grocery store. (Yes, if you’re quiet the whole trip, you can have a cookie when we get in the car.)
5. Keep Your Dignity. Wikipedia advises us to remain “human” in the captor’s eyes. “Do not grovel, beg, or become hysterical. Try even not to cry. Do not challenge your abductor, but show him/her that you are worthy of respect.”
This is easier said than done.
Sometimes, after a long day of fussing, after the kids are in bed and I’m holding a glass of wine, I look in the mirror and wonder when I turned into a parent.
6. Try to Communicate with Other Captives. “Depending on the situation, your communication may have to be covert, and if you’re held for a long time you may develop codes and signals.”
Luckily, my co-captive and I have the advantage of time on our side. “If you look out for each other and have others to talk to, your captivity will be easier to handle.
After 15 years together, we have the “knowing looks” down pat.
7. Stay Mentally Active. As much fun as it is to be home all day with my children, if I don’t have adult activities and conversation, my brain turns to mush and I feel like the walls of my house are closing in on me. There are only so many times I can answer my daughter when she asks me what sound a dragon makes.
8. Blend In. This is my greatest triumph. The article advises you not to stand out to your captors, particularly when you’re being held among a group of other captives. As someone’s mom, I do my best to blend into the walls, the woodwork, anything. This works really well when anyone has a dirty diaper, needs to use the potty or needs a nose wiped. If I’m extremely stealthy, sometimes they run past me … to their dad… to ask him for help.
And, finally …
9. Try to Escape Only If the Time is Right. Since it’s apparently frowned upon to go shopping while you’re alone and have small children napping upstairs, as soon as my husband is home from work, I volunteer for errands. The grocery store? Great! Pick up dry cleaning? A pleasure.