Monday, June 30, 2008

Don't Talk to Strangers

My parents raised me to have a crazy fear of strangers. I'm sure most of you can relate. One of the main reasons that I was terrified of going to public school (I was homeschooled until 6th grade) was because I was scared that the stories my mom told me would become true.

I was afraid that one day, a man would walk up to me after school and tell me that my mom had arranged for him to pick me up that day. He would grab my arm and drag me out to his van, and I would never see daylight again.

My mom literally told me about children who had similar things happen to them.

When she was in first grade, she was playing at the park of a local school ground one day. She was walking through an outdoor hallway and suddenly noticed a man standing against a brick wall in front of her. The man had his pants unzipped and was exposing himself.

"Hey little girl, come here," he said, but my mom bolted in the other direction and got home as quickly as possible. She told my Nana what had happened (those of you who know Nana - can you imagine??) and Nana put her in the car and they drove around trying to find the man. I don't think they found him.

I had never met any "strangers", but I knew what to look for: a shady sort of guy, maybe missing a few teeth, with a window-less van parked close by. He might claim to know my parents and would offer candy or stuffed animals to me, but he wouldn't ever give me these promised goods. If I accepted his offer, I would be shoved into his beat up van and be escorted to his secret shack, where I would be locked up for forever.

I learned never to trust a stranger.

Once, when I was about four, I was hanging out on the driveway of my Nana's house in McAllen (near the Mexican border) after dinner with Carolyn, who was probably 2. Nana was there, and so were my parents. This Hispanic man walked up to us and started talking to the adults for a few minutes. When he noticed Carolyn, he made a few remarks about how cute she was, and then tried to coax her to walk towards him. At this point, I freaked out. I started screaming and crying, "Don't do it, Carolyn!!! He'll take you away!!!" and one of my parents had to take me inside and calm me down. They had to explain that he was Nana's gardener and that she knew him and trusted him, and that it was okay to talk to "strangers" if your parents are talking to them, too.

Another time, my mom left my sisters and me in the car after our homeschooling enrichment classes. These classes were held at a church building and were taught by other homeschooling parents. My mom had to go inside for a few minutes so we sat out in the minivan with the door open. A woman carrying a bunch of stuff approached the car and poked her head inside for a few minutes. She told us that she knew my mom (red warning light number one) and then offered us "leftover" candy from a basket she was holding (red warning light number two). Of course my sisters wanted some, but I politely declined for all of us, since it was probably poisonous. I'm sure I started praying for God to keep us safe from the stranger lady and for my mom to get back soon. My mom finally emerged from the church, and recognizing the stranger lady as a homeschooling friend, she talked for a few minutes. I began to wish she would offer us candy again.

In addition to our regular stranger education, my mom made my sisters and me read a book called My Body is Private. I had no idea what the concepts in the book had to do with anything, and thought it was a dumb and boring book. Apparently, if someone was touching me and I felt uncomfortable, I was supposed to say "Stop: my body is private!" and the person was supposed to obey me. It wasn't until years later that I understood what the book was actually talking about.

I am thankful that my parents made me afraid of strangers, even if it caused unnecessary panicking. I'm sure that my parents' teachings saved me from some pretty horrible situations.


Austin Cox said...

Where did this come from? I am amazed at the ramdom things that pop into your head. Oh, I just got out of my Trading Risk class and it is going to be a doozy. I can't wait to see you tomorrow!