Wednesday, June 6, 2018

"Come with me, little girl"

That thing happened. The one every parent worries about while simultaneously believing it could never happen to their child. Because their child would never walk away with a complete stranger while their back was turned never to be seen again, right?

My children are safe and everything turned out fine, thank goodness.


That thing happened. And this story could've had a very different ending.

I was talking with one adult, and another adult - whom neither I nor my child had ever seen before - beckoned my daughter with a smile and wave from behind my back. And she went. Without a moment's hesitation, she went. I turned around just in time to see her disappearing around the corner without a single glance back at me.

Upon further (and somewhat frantic) investigation, this person "luring" my daughter turned out to be a nice lady who only wanted to give her a toy to play with while Mommy was busy, but my daughter didn't know that. Trusting soul that she is, she just followed. And I didn't know that. Discovering the truth didn't stop a sickening pit from opening up in my stomach when I realized how close I could've been to losing my daughter forever. Had this person not had good intentions...had I turned around two seconds later than I did...that could've been it.

My daughter would've been gone.

It still makes my heart pound, even now.

Before everyone jumps on me for not teaching my kids Stranger Danger, let me assure you that I do. In fact, only four or five days before this incident, I talked through this article with my kids and we discussed and practiced multiple "abduction scenarios" and what to do in each situation. And the "what to do" is almost always the same in cases where an adult tries to lure a child: Talk to mommy or daddy before going anywhere with anyone.

Someone asks you to come check out the baby bunnies in their car? Ask mommy or daddy first. Someone wonders if you can help them carry their bags into their house? Ask mommy or daddy first. The assumption is that an adult who wants a child to do something secretively, without asking their parents, is up to something.

But that assumption isn't necessarily accurate, is it? The woman who "lured" my child wasn't a bad person, but because she wasn't, she didn't think about her actions. She knew she meant my child no harm, so she didn't consider what she was doing.

We, as adults, need to help the children in our lives by reinforcing the "what to do." None of us want a child we know to be abducted, it's one of the worst things we can imagine, and yet we don't always think about the implications of our own actions toward children because we're "nice people." We know we're not doing anything wrong. We know a child has nothing to fear from us. So we do whatever we want.

But there are people out there who are not nice. People watching for opportunities to lure a child away. We need to make it clear to our kids the difference between a "good guy" and a "bad guy." The difference is a good guy will tell the child to talk to their parent before doing anything. A bad guy will not.

The lady from my story didn't encourage my child to ask Mommy first. She wasn't a bad guy, but she should've either asked me herself or had my child ask. And that's my point here. All the "good" people out there need to be on the same page, telling kids to ask their parents, helping them make good choices, NOT trying to sneak around behind a parent's back, so that if a "bad" person comes along, the child will easily be able to recognize something is wrong.

I can't watch my kids every second of every day, and I'm guessing I'm not the only one. So please, all you good guys out there, make sure you're acting like it.