When my children, ages 12 (daughter) and eight (son) wish to walk to a friends house in our neighborhood, they walk together. I believe in safety in numbers. They have a two-way radio and my daughter carries her cell phone in case the radio fails. Often timeís one particular friend will walk to our home and meet them and they will walk back to her home to play.
My children know never to talk to strangers, that grown-ups do not ask children for directions and to run in the opposite direction of any car that approaches, among many of the other safety guidelines in place. They call on the radio to let me know when they arrive at their friendís home safely, and they call when they head toward our home. I was feeling confident that we covered most of the bases involving safety when walking in our neighborhood.
I was wrong. I was lucky that this time fate would knock on my door in the way of a lost Bratz doll shoe to show me what I was missing. My daughter had returned from playing at her friendís home when she realized that one of her Bratz dolls was missing a shoe. She called her friend who was out to dinner with her family and promised to look for the shoe when she returned home later that night. My daughter worried it would be dark when her friend returned home and feared her dolls shoe would forever be gone if she did not look for it immediately.
I encouraged her brother to help her look for the shoe but being the typical little brother, he decided his legs were too tired to help. I silently cursed his oppositional and defiant behavior and reminded him that had he lost a toy his sister would help him. Well, that did not work, thankfully!
Instead my wonderful husband-to-be agreed to go help her look. He quickly armed himself with his best and brightest Maglite, his hat, his police scanner and he was good to go. Out the door, they went and 30 minutes later, they were back and the search was a greater success than expected. My daughter not only found the lost shoe, but one of her Bratz doll purses she was not even aware she had lost. Bill my fiancť was eager to speak with me alone. He made me aware my children had been taking a shortcut through a neighborhood park and wooded area, including a new subdivision fence line and woods, and coming out maybe two blocks fewer than, if they stayed on the road.
Never had I imagined my kids might take a different route to their friendís house. We had played in this neighborhood park several times. I did not like how isolated the park felt, even though the park backed up to several houses. The few times my kids had wanted to play in the park with out me, they had to be with two or three other friends. I had only been in the wooded area one time; it is full of dirt bike paths, hilly, and closed off. My children knew when they went to the park they were never to go near the woods.
When I asked my daughter about the shortcut, she had no idea how dangerous choosing to cut through the park might be. She felt because she was with her brother and her friend that it was safe. I explained that although there is safety in numbers that does not apply when you place yourself in an area where no one can hear you or help you if you are in trouble.
I had learned a valuable lesson from the shortcut experience. We have a new safety rule for our home. We predetermine what route we will use to go to and from a friends home, and we do not change that route unless we first discuss the change with everyone involved.
The reason I expect us to follow this rule is if she did not show up at her destination, I would be looking for her along the route she should have been walking. I told her that not in a million years would I have dreamed of looking in the park or the woods for her and her brother had something happened that day.
My children understand I am a protective and sometimes downright overprotective. Fourteen years ago, October 22, 1992, my second son Jacob was full term stillborn cord strangulation. Before Jacob, there was Jonathan died September 11, 1990, because of a Molar pregnancy. I realized with the death of my sonís that I cannot protect my children. I can however teach them to protect themselves.
I do this by giving them the gift of knowledge and helping them develop a solid sense of self. This way if they find themselves in a crisis, I know they will know what to do by intuition and they will act on what they have learned instead of hesitating and wondering what they should do. Please talk to your child today. Do not wait until it is too late.