He’s nearly five and I, until last week, had not yet had the “Beware of Strangers” talk with the Kaiser. This should really be the “Beware of People You Think You Know and Trust” talk, as statistically, it’s far more likely for a child to be hurt by someone you know. I didn’t go there, but this is totally a work in progress.
So sometime last week (perhaps watching the ever-uplifting Dateline), I realized it was time to have the talk. I don’t know when it’s time for anyone else; I just had the feeeeeeling that this was something the Kaiser needed to hear. Upon discussing with Jed, we both came to the horrifying realization that if someone offered the kid a train, he’d be in a white van before you could beat the shit outta said someone. That’s a frightening thing.
Critics of the “Stranger Danger” slogan argue that children don’t ‘get’ it; they identify bad people as scary or ugly. This makes sense. I don’t know that I did a good job with age-appropriate lessons. Again, I fumble through this as I do with every-damn-thing else. Instead of vague concepts, I tried to offer specific scenarios and how to handle.
It’s not a comfortable discussion. The kid was very serious as he listened. When I was done, he simply asked why.
“Because not everyone is good, Cole.”
He nods. “I don’t want to meet any of the bad people, Mommy.”
And it made me sad. That’s heavy shit. Before this discussion, my son has never had a worry about anyone. Ever. You call it sheltered; I call it… childhood. He’s never had cause to be afraid. I don’t want him to have cause to be afraid, but it’s time to learn that not all people have good intentions and the world is not always a pretty place.
A friend of mine has a ten-year-old son, and I trust this woman so I ask her about this. Here I offer you our joint, synoptic wisdom on the basics of stranger awareness:
- If your kid is going into the bathroom without you accompanying, you shoulda already had the creeper discussion.
- There are perverts in the toy isle.
- Just cause they’re your neighbors doesn’t make ‘em good people.
- Not all bad people are ugly.
- If a stranger offers you ice cream, a train, or asks you to help them find their lost puppy, go get your mama.
- While effective, a taser in a Thomas the Train backpack is too cumbersome for regular outings.
- We will kill a motherfucker. No, seriously.
In other news, my pal Aimee is getting wicked good at photoshopping: