Words of advice and experience from a friend/volunteer of OneVOICE and a mother of three on parenting with awareness and confidence without scaring your kids.
Here is Part 1 of 2 from Sara:
A few months ago, I took my kids and their 3 friends to an elementary school park to play during my son’s t-ball practice. With 5 girls in tow, the estrogen was high enough to make my 6 yr. old son run to his dugout. To kill time, my girls decided to teach me how to play foursquare. Now if anyone knows me well, they know I’m competitive. I had never heard of this game in all my years (don’t ask how many) and of course these girls decided to take advantage of my lack of experience. As we played, the rules became comfortable, my game face went on and I shut out all distractions from the world to kick some butt. Now, I realize it’s foursquare, and that’s pretty lame, but let’s be honest…I said I’m competitive and I don’t like to lose, even in foursquare.
Please don’t judge.
I was queen of foursquare for probably an hour and a half when I decided it was time to check on my son’s practice. As I started walking the 10 yards or so to his dugout, I turned to look back at my girls, still playing foursquare, but I froze in my tracks. Just a few feet from them, I noticed a man walking slowly next to them, taking pictures of them with his cell phone.
Mama Bear claws came out and I hustled myself back over to the girls, ready to pounce. As I was walking toward the girls, the man backed away and put the phone up to his ear as if he had a phone call. I wasn’t sure if I had jumped to conclusions or if this man was simply dialing his phone.
As I started to approach him, someone stopped me and advised me to be careful because this man has had a history of sitting on the swings, watching the little girls play and there was suspicion that he was up to no good. I was told that whenever this man had been approached by a concerned parent, he has taken off running.
At that point, I wasn’t concerned about being a small boned female…my blood was pumping and I had words to say to this man. I turned to approach him and he had vanished. I searched around the corner and even in the bushes, knowing that there was no way someone could just disappear from the site in 30 seconds. According to witnesses, my suspicions were right and one man was ready to jump in and get rid of the creeper his own way.
Thank God for men who care enough about kids to act, even for someone they don’t know.
What shocked me the most was the creeper’s close proximity – he seemed to not consider the risk of a mom being in such close proximity. How long had he been near us and why hadn’t I noticed? This prompted me to be more aware of my surroundings and to teach my children the same.
I know that kids can listen to cautionary words from a parent and it can go in one ear and out the other. So, I made a game of it (of course I did because I’m competitive, remember?).
The next day, we ran into the grocery story for milk. As soon as we left, I asked them about our cashier: Was it a boy or girl? What color were they wearing? How tall? How old? Who was in front of us? Who dropped the box of cereal when we walked down the aisle? They could only answer one question. So, we now frequently play the game of memory when we get in the car to and from places.
My kids are learning to pay attention to detail, to be more aware of situations around them—in a fun way. I didn’t have to put the fear of God into them, but they remain confident as they watch and look around. We also have competitions (are you shocked?) to count the people we see on our way to the car, so I know they are looking all around them as they walk through parking lots. Teaching confidence and alertness to kids is a great alternative to teaching them fear and paranoia.
Let’s face it, there are scary stories out there sending fear through our veins, causing us to consider all the “what-ifs” as parents. Take your knowledge and turn it into instilling confidence into your children. Focus more on what you and your child can do than on what a bad guy can do. Building your child’s inner confidence is not only beneficial for dangerous situations but also for a healthy self-esteem!