Around the age of 8 my mother gave me nightmares from “Stranger Danger”, especially after the disappearance of Adam Walsh in 1981 from a Sears department store. Unfortunately she got a little graphic in scaring us, and I have an overactive imagination. SCARY!!!! Now as a mother of three children I understand what was behind her over zealousness to keep us safe.
Now, I’m the mom that watches her child like a hawk at the mall play area. If I can’t see them because they went around the corner I move to have them in my line of sight. My eleven year old son begs me to let him take a walk around the block. I cringe each time he asks, but realize that I need to let him spread his wings. I’m not ready, but after giving me the puppy dog look and telling me “I’ll just go around the block and come right back” I relent. Of course we discuss the rules in depth:
- if a stranger approaches on foot RUN in the opposite direction – NOT EVEN TO HELP GIVE DIRECTIONS. Or ask a question. What if they need help to find their lost puppy or grandchild? NOOOOOO. I DON’T CARE – RUN.
- If a car begins to slow down, don’t wait for them to stop – run in the opposite direction. RUN.
- You have five minutes. If you are not back by the time the alarm goes off – YOU ARE GROUNDED for the rest of your life. Okay, I don’t think I will go that far, but he doesn’t need to know that.
- Take his cell phone with him. Yep, he’s 11 and has a cell phone.
Today my heart weeps for the parents of Hailey Owens. Yesterday her parents let her walk home from a friends house. She never made it home. A stranger asked her for directions. She started to walk away, but then she took a step towards the man. He grabbed her, and threw her in his truck. Someone saw her snatched, they tried following the truck on foot, and in a car. They even got the license plates of the vehicle. Unfortunately for her, it was not enough. Three hours later – JUST THREE HOURS they found the truck. They found the man driving the truck. They found Hailey. Dead. Gone.
I am numb, and she isn’t even my child. I am numb with grief, and outrage. Tonight I stayed with my two little ones as they fell asleep. I didn’t want to let my eyes off of them. Part of me wants to go and pick them up and snuggle them all night long. I can do that. Hailey’s parents can’t.
I’m angry! I’m angry that the alleged perpetrator worked as an athletic coach. He worked at a school district as a paraprofessional in a school for grades k-8. In a school district just about three hours away from where we live. Every day he worked with children. EVERY DAY. He didn’t have monster written on his forehead. Background checks come with the territory of working in our school system – yet this doesn’t stop horrible things from happening to our children.
I can’t keep my children in a bubble, but the next time Dee asks to take a walk by himself around the block I am going to tell him no, or maybe I will just join him. I am a smother mother, and probably will be for some time.