This time of year I work a lot of hours. Such is life at a candy store. The holiday season is insane. And fun. December alone accounts for about a third of our yearly sales. Think about that for a minute… My poor kids are pretty much on their own from December 1st all the way through Christmas Eve
My youngest is 11, and perfectly capable of being on her own for a bit. Hell, at her age my oldest was full-on babysitting the rest of the kids during date night for their dad and me. But because she is my youngest, and because she is particularly small and sweet and innocent, I do not like leaving Emmy home alone. I could not entirely put my finger on why it makes me nervous. Until this happened… As usual, I was working pretty late the other day. On my way home from work, I called Emmy to check in. Her sisters had taken off early in the evening to do whatever it is teenagers do when they have a license and a bit of cash. And I wanted to make sure she was still alive and doing ok. The conversation went like this:
Me: “Hey how are you?”
Emmy: “Good. The delivery driver came over earlier…”
Me: “Ok, did you answer the door?”
Emmy: “Yeah. He asked if you were home and I said you weren’t. He said he really needed to talk to you… so I told him you would be home at 6:30…”
Me: “Emmy! Do you see why that is a problem??”
Emmy: “…. No?”
I explained to her the dangers of answering the door to a complete stranger. Then telling said stranger that, not only was I not at home, but when exactly I would be back. She assured me it was fine because he was wearing delivery guy clothes, AND carrying a radio. When I told her all of those things were easy to fake, she said “Oh… I didn’t even think about that.”
I thought it was a disturbing, albeit funny story. So I told both my teenage girls about it, thinking we would have a laugh about Emmy’s innocence and naiveté. Both girls, separate from each other, admitted they would have done the same thing.
Reality sunk in. In all of my efforts to be a perfect mom, I have neglected to teach my kids about stranger danger. At least not fully and effectively. How I missed such an important part of parenting is very clearly on me and my own life experiences.
A couple of years ago, I briefly dated a sweet and charming (and very good-looking) man. On our second date we visited downtown Boise. My parents owned a lovely condo in the area, and at the time of the date, they were out of town. I thought it would win me some points to show him the condo, and the amazing view of downtown from their balcony. He was impressed. But after the tour he gave me some pretty poignant advice. He said something along the lines of “I love your parents’ place, but you should not have taken me there. You don’t know me, and you should not have trusted me so easily. Not all men are good men.” It had never crossed my mind that I should be worried about taking a man I barely knew to an empty condo, where he could have completely overpowered me. Luckily in this case, he was indeed a very good man.
This is not the first time I have been overly trusting when I should have been on my guard. My folks are going to hate this, but here we go. When I was 16, I met an older man at a fresh water beach in my area. He was super cute, and seemed super into me (innocent younger girl, duh..) We made plans to meet at a dam a few miles from my house. Late at night. Without supervision, and without anyone knowing where I went. I am sure he was hoping for more, but it turned out to be a pretty innocent night. The reality of what could have happened still haunts me.
For my lack of foresight, I blame my upbringing. You see, I grew up in an abnormally normal household, where I always felt safe. There was definitely conflict. I have five other brothers and sister. Things were chaotic, dramatic, and sometimes violent. I have lasting physical scars from sibling fights, and I know my brothers and sisters can say the same. But despite the chaos, I always felt safe. And loved. In fact, there was not a single moment in my entire childhood that I wondered if my parents loved me. I also never doubted that they would keep me safe. What a gift. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how incredibly rare my upbringing was. I received what every child deserves. And it has had an impact on my outlook on life.
Not everything has been roses for me as an adult. The last three years have been especially trying. In some moments, the people in my very closest circle have abused the trust I so easily seem to give. But I still hold onto the idea that most everyone is good. And I am still trusting. To a fault. And almost all the time, that trust has served me well. I want to trust the people in my life.
I want the same for my children. I do not want them to feel scared in this world. I want them to believe delivery drivers are what they say they are. I do not want them to be scared of strangers. I do not want them to be scared of the people who are supposed to love and protect them. But I do want them to be prepared. And I want them to be safe. So going forward, I have added a sixth family house rule. We now have:
- Clean your room before you leave
- TELL ME WHERE YOU ARE GOING
- No farting in the car
- No farting at the table
- No pooping in mom’s bathroom
- Don’t answer the door to strangers
So far they are terrible at all the rules. I am just trusting that when they do open the door to the next stranger, it truly is a delivery guy who just needs my signature.