I have been sitting here trying to figure out how to start this post. You see something happened and I just don’t know how to put it into words. How do I explain that one of the things that I love most about my boy , his loving honest personality, is the very thing that scares the crap out of me? And even more important how do I explain what I need to explain to my boy, my BOY who takes everything so literal, who only thinks in black and white, who already has too many fears and anxiety?
I assumed that he understood the concept of Stranger Danger, that he got it. Since he was a toddler we have talked about strangers. Safety social stories were as frequently read as the Cat in the Hat in my home. I knew my boy was friendly but I never worried about him, because I assumed he understood.When the video about the guy trying to take the girl in Wal-Mart vent viral last year… I had both my kids watch it and then we discussed it! They answered all the questions I asked correctly. I ASSUMED he understood!
I WAS WRONG PEOPLE! Something happened that opened my eyes to the reality. And it scares the hell out of me.
After Grace’s girl scout meeting all the kids went outside to the playground to burn off a little steam while waiting for their parents to pick them up. I had to drag Jay along with me to the meeting as I had no one else to watch him. He asked if he could play too… and after going over the rules such as don’t chase the girls, not to run (because of his foot) and to stay within my view at all times… I set him loose along with the other girls of my troop. I watched the kids run around and play, screaming and laughing, the way you do when you are 8,9 or in Jay’s case 11 years old. They were having a good time, and well that made me happy. A mom came to pick up her daughter and I started chatting with her, but still was keeping an eye on all the kids. She was just starting to ask about a possible play date with her daughter and my Grace when all the sudden my heart stopped. I did not see Jay. He wasn’t on the swing, he wasn’t hiding in the tower and then I saw him. He was sitting on a bench chatting away to a man whom I did not know nor did he look like anyone else there did either. I ran over to the bench and grabbed Jay’s hand and rather loudly so the man could hear as well said, “Jay you know better than to talk to strangers.” To which my son said, ” Mom I know his name he is not a stranger any more.” Jay was very confused as we walked away. I quickly called the other girls over as well. Jay went on and on saying how HIS NEW FRIEND told him he was there with his daughter. I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest it was beating so fast because you see the only girls there were MY GIRLS from my troop and this man was none of their fathers! We went inside where I reported the man to the front desk. By the time we came back out he was gone!
I started crying about what might have happened. Jay of course wanted to know why all the waterworks. When I explained to him about how this man was a stranger and how we shouldn’t talk to strangers because we don’t know if they are nice people or not and that it is dangerous… my son said, (Are you sitting down because this is what is so scary and makes you realize just how vulnerable our babies are out there folks)
” MOM how am I ever supposed to make New friends if I don’t talk to people I don’t know? Everyone is a stranger at first. ”
I realized that my boy did not truly understand the difference. I needed a new way to make him understand so I rephrased it and said that there are some people, grownups, out there who we can call TRICKY PEOPLE. Not tricky in a Presto Magic way but in a Trick kids because they want to hurt them way. We talked about how a tricky person might ASK KIDS FOR HELP just to get them alone or TELL KIDS TO KEEP A SECRET FROM THEIR PARENTS (including, IT’S OKAY TO COME OVER HERE BEHIND THIS TREE WITHOUT ASKING MOM FIRST. I told him how not asking Mom is the same thing as KEEPING A SECRET.Basically we re-visited the whole Stranger Danger thing. And I made sure Grace was there too… just in case.
Both kids were terrified! So I had to explain that most people are nice but that we never know who a bad person is or what they look like. They don’t come with a sign on them saying Bad Person here and an arrow. Jay kept apologizing saying he was a bad boy. I told him he was not a bad boy, just a very trusting boy. We talked about how we can be polite but STILL REMAIN SAFE! We talked and talked and talked.
I will no longer assume that he got it! I will keep talking about this ever so often for now on. I would rather be a nag then be the mother who sits back and said I should have kept talking!
When your kids get home from school today… perhaps you might want to revisit the subject again too. You just might be surprised about what THEY DON”T GET!