Saturday, February 5, 2011

Safe Side

Generally, I try to keep things pretty light around here. I figure there is enough negativity out there in this world that I don't need to add to it. After all, I can look to my left and my right and see hurting people. Can't we all?

Sadly, the world we live in today is fallen and full of bad things. As a parent it's my responsibility to teach my children to be safe and navigate through this life as best as I can. It’s also my job to preserve their innocence for as long as possible. That is not an easy job for sure. Not only is it not easy, but, for me anyway, it's scary.

I don't like to think about the what if's too much. The fear of what if can be too gripping sometimes. And THAT is exactly what Satan wants. He wants me to be afraid to educate my children and prepare them for the bad things, because, that's when they are vulnerable. And, sadly, innocence is not something you can give back.

So, how do I do this?
We monitor what they watch on tv, the movies they watch, things they are exposed too… even experiences and people. Not because we are judgmental or critical, but because their innocence is precious and only lasts a small amount of time as it is.

Like most parents we have talked to the kids about strangers. We have told them to never talk to them or go with them. Never to take things from them or get close to them. We even purchased a dvd on stranger safety and planned to show it to the kids one day.
But what does a stranger really look like to a child?

Now, let me say, my children are all ok. We just had an experience last week that has left me shaken, rattled, rocked. Whatever you want to call it. It has also left me humbled and grateful to my Lord for his mercy, protection and guidance in our lives.

Some might say that what we experience wasn’t a big deal, that I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill. But it has been gnawing at me since the moment it happened, and to me that says something.

So this is what happened.

Last week I had an errand to run after I picked the trio up from preschool. Now, I go lots of places with all of my kiddos all of the time. I know what to expect from them and from those around us. Most of the issues arrive from others around us. Anyway, before we get out of the van I always explain what we are doing, who we might see, how long we might be there and what I expect from them behavior wise. Everyone has a spot on the stroller they are expected to hold on to and for the most part they do exactly what they are supposed to do. This day was no different.

We went inside the building and took our spot in line. We were behind 1 man and the place seemed a bit deserted. The building was very grand and ornate inside and had a large staircase in the center. Because of the openness an grandeur of the downstairs area, it had a great echo. Something Bud took full advantage of after about 5 seconds.
See, he doesn’t like to wait.
He wants out to run and play. Sitting in his stroller is sheer torture for him if it’s not moving. So it took about 5 seconds for him to start writhing about and screaming at the top of his little lungs. For the record, he is L.O.U.D. so it didn’t take long before everyone noticed- all 4 people in my line of sight.

One man in particular made his way over to us. He worked there and was dressed very nice and was wearing a name tag. He seemed to be in a position of authority. He began to talk to Bud, sternly, but playfully. Bud calmed down and seemed intrigued by this man giving all of his attention to him. Everyone else was still following all of our rules and they were being so, so good.
Pretty soon after things calmed down with Bud (btw, the man was still standing with us while we were waiting our turn in line), Monkey See asked about the staircase. It was a very large and grand staircase and he wanted to know where it went and what was up there. I explained that it went to the upstairs offices and there were probably people working up there. He wanted to know if we could go and see and I told him no, we were next in line and we didn’t have any reason to go upstairs. He was satisfied with my answer.

The man is still with us and heard the entire exchange.

A minute or so later-yep, still waiting- Puddin asked if she could go upstairs and see what was up there. I told her no, it was almost our turn and we would be leaving soon. Besides, we didn’t have any business that would take us upstairs. She was fine with the answer too.
A few seconds later, the man employed there, wearing he name tag, that seems to be in a position of authority, offers to take her upstairs and show her around for a bit.


I was shocked. As I type it, it seems harmless. Maybe it was, but it certainly did not feel harmless. As soon as the words left his mouth a wave of sickness came over me. Instinctively, I wanted to get out of there and get my kids back in the van as quickly as I could.

He just heard me say 2x that we would not be going upstairs and then this 40+ something man, a complete stranger, offered to take my 5 year old daughter upstairs, by herself to show her around! For what purpose??
There were no tantrums, screaming or crying, no defiance on the part of my children. No need what so ever for him to try and make a situation better by offering to take a child by herself where I could not see her.

It seemed like it took me forever to answer him.

It seems like I just stared at him in amazement for minutes.

I wanted to answer him calmly and I still wanted to be nice (why?? What is that about??) I should have told him right then and there NO- you have no business even making such an offer- you are a grown man asking to take a small child away from her mother to a secluded place! Don’t you know what kind of world we live in???

I didn’t say any of that. Instead I calmly said, No thank you. We are staying together. She has no business being upstairs where people are trying to work. He then said, “Are you sure?? I don’t mind!”

I just kept thinking, please hurry up and let us get out of here- please let this man go back to his work and leave us alone- and PLEASE no one ask to go potty right now!
Well, no one asked to potty (thank you, Jesus!) and we finally got our turn, but our “friend” did not go back to work. Instead he moved up in line with us and continued to stand there with my children.
I gathered them all around, did a head count and made sure everyone was on their spot on the stroller so I could see them and tried to quickly take care of my business. He offered them candy- I said no, not until we were finished with our business. Once we finished he held out the candy bowl and let each of the get a piece – I cringed.

Finally we were able to leave. I wanted to run out the door. I just felt so unnerved and unsettled. It seemed like it took forever to get the kids strapped in the van because I was shaking. I was trying to be calm but I knew I had to say something. After all, this was a “teachable” moment for sure.
Once we were strapped in the van and silently prayed “thankyou” and tried not to cry as all of those what if’s started to flood in my mind. So, as calmly and as ‘normal’ as I could I started some questions with the kids.
I said, “Wasn’t he a nice man?” Puddin said yes, he sure was. The boys agreed.
So my next question was, “Do you think he was a stranger?”
Puddin looked confused. The boys didn’t say anything.
So I said, “he was nice and he gave you candy, he even offered to show you around. But, did we know him?”
Her response was shock. “Momma! He was a stranger! “
Her idea of what a stranger was, did not match up with what she just experienced.
Needless to say the drive home consisted of lots of discussion about strangers and what they do and do not look like. How they might or might not act. And how yes, sometimes they are nice and wouldn’t hurt you, but other times they might be nice at first, just so that they can hurt you.
I remembered the video I had purchased and Hubby and I decided we had waited long enough to show it so we watched it that evening. It was really good and helped make things a little more clear for them about who and what strangers are and what they should do in certain situations.

Do I like that I have to show this video or share this story?
No. I can’t stand it.
I wish that children weren’t seen as prey in the world we live in, but they are.
I don’t know the statistics for children who are abused or attacked, but I know it happens and the people doing it aren’t always the “boogie man” types. Sometimes they are acquaintances, neighbors, people of authority, etc….

I don’t know I the man in our story was good or bad. I do know I don’t want to find out. Gambling with my child is not a game I wish to play. I urge you to get the video and watch it with your children. As parents, we need to educate our children and be educated ourselves. Awareness is half the battle.
In fact, I stumbled on a blog last week that I had never been to before. This broken hearted mother was sharing her tragic story and how they are handling it as a family. Horrible.
Maybe God led me there to make me aware- heighten my senses that can become dull sometimes by everyday life.
Be aware and do everything you can to keep your precious children on the safe side.
And if you are a safe adult, please never, ever offer to take someones child to a secluded place where the parent can't see them. That's just not smart!
Here’s a link to the video if you are interested. Amazon also sells the video too.

be safe!

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