Teaching Kids About Safety: Sometimes It's the Stranger Who's in Danger
This one goes out to the guy in the elevator who has no idea how close he came to being mauled to death by two small children and their babysitter (who is actually their mother but is so youthful in appearance and demeanor, I’m sure you thought it was their babysitter). This is for you, sir.
True: We may have been a smidge on the antisocial side when we stepped into the elevator that day. It had been a long afternoon. We didn’t say hello or ask how you were doing or pass out party favors and ask for song requests. We just settled our collective gaze on the floor.
It didn’t occur to me that maybe you were waiting for me to say something. (You seemed busy anyway, cramming that granola bar into your mouth like a tree into a chipper-shredder.) But I did pick up on your hostility when I sensed your head turn and aim right at our little three-person huddle. Not a quick gander, mind you. A lingering, purposeful glare from two feet away, for a full minute.
I don’t like being stared at. Moreover, it ain’t cool to stare at my offspring. So you were already giving me the heebies before you piped up with this:
“HELLO to you, too. YEAH, I get it. Strangers are DANGER, right? Especially with ‘kids’ around.”
(Quick note here, Creepy McCreeperson: You don’t need air-quotes around “kids.” They’re not “quote-unquote” kids, dumbass. Not metaphorical kids. Actual kids.)
Pause. Now I need to back up to the night before, so you have some context on why you almost died in the moment following that comment.
Perhaps you’ve heard some of the news reports lately about some guy who’s been driving around attempting to snatch kids out of their front yards? We have. So we had just that evening before had a family chat about what to do in that case. In as matter-of-fact a way as possible, we ran through a few situations: What if you’re in the front yard and someone drives up? What if they say they know your mom or dad? What if they have a gun? Same instructions, no matter what: SCREAM and RUN.
Brother and sister followed me around for the next two hours posing scenarios such as: What if the stranger is on the roof? What if the stranger is hiding in the mailbox? What if the stranger has an invisible car? What if the stranger pulls his face off and he’s really an old lady in a mask and she looks like Mrs. Claus?
Me: Scream and run.
Her: But first, I should probably poke his eyes out, right?
Me: Nope. Just scream and run.
Him: I could do like this in a really deep voice, “You will BACK AWAY NOW OR I WILL LOOK INTO YOUR BRAIN AND MELT YOUR MIND.”
Her: Or I could punch him and punch him and punch him until he throws up all his guts, and swing my bookbag and cut off his legs and be like, BAAHAHAAAA! [wild karate moves]
Him: And I could be like, “I WILL SET YOUR SOUL ON FIRE!”
Me: Just scream and run, babes.
That night, my husband and I chuckled, knowing that our son was probably upstairs practicing firestarter-eyes in the mirror while our daughter was carving a shiv out of a doll’s leg to stick in her sock just in case.
So you see, sir, when it was just the four of us and “Rhythm is Gonna Get You” on Muzak in the elevator, you probably didn’t realize what you were up against. You could not have known you were in the presence of not only a mama bear willing to go all kinds of apeshit on your ass to protect her cubs, but also a child who believes he can kill you with his thoughts and another who fancies herself Chuck Norris. Otherwise, you’d have known that using the terms “stranger” and “danger” with this crowd was like cracking a bomb joke right next to the most violent little TSA agents at the airport.