Being a mom to two teenagers, I know that one of the biggest issues facing us parents these days is the safety of our children, which includes a multitude of aspects such as safety at school from bullying, feeling like they fit in and are accepted, confident to be themselves without the fear of being ridiculed or shunned, and safety on the internet and in our communities just to name a few.
As safey just seems to be a huge part of our everyday consciousness, I feel it's safe to assume that most or all of us have done our best to tell our kids how to make smart decisions about how to keep "safe", and we do so with little or no frame of reference because we grew up in an era which basically involved ending the neighbourhood's evening hide-and-seek game to go home when the street lights went on, or walking home from school alone to an empty house, to make our own lunch...at age 8.
But have we ever really asked our children, "What is your safe space?"
Well, a teacher at St. Mildred's Lightbourne School in Oakville implemented an art initiative called "Our Safe Spaces Project", which invited students from grades 6-12 to reflect about the spaces and places in their own lives. "Students were encouraged to think about where, when and with whom they feel most welcome, accepted, and comfortable and then to photograph their "safe space" in a way that communicated that feeling to the viewer."
Over 600 students, from 17 schools, took part and submitted a photograph depicting what a safe space meant for them. Some entries were then chosen for enlargement and now all images are on display in the Our Safe Spaces Project exhibit, in the ScotiaBank Contact Photograpy Festival in Toronto, at Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw Street, from May 2-15.
One of the photos chosen for enlargment, and featured in the festival's catalogue, is entitled "The Sacred Mala", and the photographer is my daughter. Excitedly, we went to the opening night of the exhibit last week and it was extrememly eye opening to see through the eyes of these hundreds of children exactly what makes them feel safe in our world today. There is something about a photograph, and these photos in particular, that enables you to be the photograhper and stand in that space where that child felt such love, safetly and acceptance. The images varied widely and were all wonderful starting points for a deeper discussion of this prominant issue.
Elsa and her photograph on exhibit, along with some of the
hundreds of other photos that were on display.
We all spend alot of time and energy making sure our kids are "safe" no matter what their ages and stages. I know in our household we've done everything from making sure the Iphone tracker is on when they are out at parties, to having them text when they arrive safely at the hotel on a school trip, to letting the school know if there is bullying. Yet, because of this exhibit, I'm also seeing that we can try and protect our children from danger on every level, but what Elsa wrote truly struck a cord. Maybe it's not about being a helicopter parent who hovers, tracks and tries to make sure everybody plays nice, but about letting them know that at least in our prescence they are seen and accepted for who they are. It's about giving them the feeling that no matter what curve balls life throws at them...as we know it does...they can be safe in the knowing that they can confdently handle whatever comes their way.
If you have some free time go and check out this groundbreaking exhibit, or perhaps ask your children the question these students were asked and have them take their own "safe space" picutre! As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and this time those words won't be safety instructions from us.