In today’s world, it is such a fine line between teaching your child to be vigilant so they stay safe and robbing them of the innocent joys of being a care-free child. It is a balancing act and the fine line seems to be moving further and further away from innocence as the sickness in this world grows more prominent.
I was reading a friend’s FB status about a child in her neighborhood who had gone missing for an hour. Thankfully, she was found and the incident was a result of childhood forgetfulness. But as I first read her status and could hear the shrilly laughter and gleeful screams on our neighbor’s trampoline of my own children, a small panic began to well up inside of me. It was starting to get dark and I should make them come in. But I resisted the urge and allowed them to play. After all, aren’t those first few warm, spring nights made for staying up just a little too late? The wonderful teaser of the summer to come. Fears would not rob their childhood fun.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I had run a few errands leaving Lilly, our 18-year-old, in charge. Phoebe, our 14-year-old, was out front reading a book as our new puppy weaved in and out from under her chair to end up a furry, tangly mess sitting on her feet. Phoebe began to notice a man walking up and down the sidewalk. He had his cell phone out and was pacing. He would periodically stop by our neighbor’s driveway which gave the appearance of hiding behind a tree. After about ten minutes the three littles (my youngest) came out to play. When his odd behavior continued for ten more minutes, Phoebe called Lilly out to assess the situation. They were all promptly brought inside and we were called.
Fortunately, we were only four minutes from home and we cut short our errands. The children greeted us and told us he had just left a minute before we pulled in front of the house. David headed the direction they pointed he had taken on foot and I loaded the children and the puppy in the car and followed. David caught up with him at the park, a house and a patch of woods down from us.
He was walking with a woman. As I pulled up he was making excuses and claiming he didn’t really walk in front of our house that long. The woman he was with quickly made it clear she had not been with him and didn’t know what he was up to and understood our concern. David told him, “Don’t ever do that again. It was uncool and unsettling to our children. You should have more common sense then to appear to be stalking or staking out a group of children. And furthermore, don’t even walk in front of my house, ever. Don’t even use the sidewalk in front of it. I don’t want to ever see you near my house again. Got it?” At this point, for good measure, I rolled my window all the way down, leaned out a little and made sure he saw me give him the stink eye. I mean, the Momma stink eye- full and direct- with a hint of a snarl lip- I will jack you up buddy, I-am-a-Momma-bear stink eye.
I hope it worked. The next day we observed him walking down the street and just as he hit the edge of the park’s woods, he crossed the street and walked on the other side of the road. It does bother me the incident occurred at all. I can pull a thousand newspaper articles from the recesses of my brain to imagine his intent and spend my days paranoid. But I can’t. I have to live and I need to let my children play and have fun. So what if while they have their fun, Momma has a hidden baseball bat behind the chair on the porch.