Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Stranger Danger

The other night, at basketball practice, one of L's friends asked me if he could borrow my phone to call his Dad.  Practice had been cancelled, and he needed a ride home.  Sure, no problem, here's the phone.  So he calls his dad, who tells him to call his sister.  Sister gives him grief, so he tells her he'll find a ride home.  

This 14 year old kid is pretty savvy, and he wasn't concerned about his lack of ride.  He knew we'd give him one, if he was willing to wait an hour and a half.  So we settled down on a bench, M, Sam, and me, watching  L practice ball.

We shared the bench with an older man, who immediately struck up a conversation with us. He was your average grandpa type, waiting for his grandson to finish practice.  Because Sam sat between the grandpa and me, he bore the brunt of the conversation with this talkative gent.  I felt a little bad for the kid, but better him than me.

Turns out this old guy, who is friends with the neighborhood crossing guard, recognized Sam from his time hanging out with the crossing guard.  The polite chit chat becomes more animated as Sam recognizes him too.  Grandpa asks Sam his name.  

Of course, from the moment the conversation began, I'm thinking to myself, "what's this weirdo doing talking to Sam?  Doesn't he know that's a no-no?  And now he's asking him for his name?"

I may be a little paranoid.  I'm not sure.

So of course, dumb kid that he is, Sam gives him his name.  Well surprise, surprise, grandpa's name is Sam too!  This is great!

At this point, I'm no longer watching L play basketball.  My eyes may be directed at the court, but my ears are all on the conversation going on next to me.

That's when I hear, "well I can give you a ride home, we're leaving right now."

"Ok, thanks." says Sam.

Are you freaking kidding me?

So now I'm on high alert, all the worst case scenarios running through my head.  

Think, NW, think, I tell myself.  How can I keep this from happening without totally giving it away that I'm completely freaked out.  This cannot be unfolding right in front of me.

"Sam, L's Dad is going to be here any minute," I interrupt.  "I can take you home then."  It's the best I could come up with.

But Grandpa is already heading out and says, "You coming?"

Sam gets up and begins to walk away.

That's when I stop him and say, "Sam, are you ok with this?"


So I let him go.

Here are the thoughts that rolled through my head as I watched them walk the entire way across the field to the car:

  • Sam's fourteen years old, 5 feet tall, and sturdily built.
  • Grandson is with them and will probably remain with them as they drop off Sam.
  • Grandpa isn't exactly abducting him.  I mean, I would be a key witness...
  • He's not my child.  I can't force him to stay.

What would you have done?

After practice, I told BH about the whole incident.  We are of the same mind about child safety, so he was as floored as I was at Sam's judgement (the jury's still out on MY judgement).  Which, of course, made us think of P and his often questionable judgement.  


I gave myself a few days to calm down before I approached P about Sam and what happened at practice.  P knew exactly who the old man was, also because of seeing him with the crossing guard. (I gotta tell you, that in itself, is kind of creepy to me).  The crazy part is that P also thought Sam would be fine, because they all recognize this man.  What the heck???

That led to a discussion about what he should do if he's ever stranded somewhere.  Which then led to a talk about criminals sometimes being people you know or think you can trust.  I made him promise he would never, EVER, take a ride from someone without first checking with us.  Even if they say we said it was ok.

P thought I was being rather ridiculous, and he started teasing me about all the different types of people he could and could not get a ride from.  In the end, he agreed to the promise.

If I survive my boys' childhoods, it will be a miracle.


Laura Shanklin said...

This is one of my worst fears! With six kids, getting everyone to every practice/lesson/event was sometimes difficult to coordinate. We had a "super secret family password" that was drilled into my kids' heads every single day. They could not get into a car-even a police car- if the driver didn't know the password. Not always convenient, but definitely safer. They are all in college now, and I have different worries, but I am right there with you feeling the creepiness!

Number Whisperer said...

Laura, I can't believe I haven't thought of a password! They'll be embarrassed, for sure, but they'll be safe. Thanks for the idea.

Rebeccah Connelly said...

Ooohh...that's a tough one. I think I may have just insisted he stay with me. I tell my kids that I would rather be wrong than sorry. But it is hard to say unless you are in that position, so I'm not coming down on you. Need to implement the password system myself - good idea!

Number Whisperer said...

Rebeccah, it was such a tough call! P spent the night at Sam's house when they were 12, and his parents let them go skateboarding at 10pm in front of their house. That's way more relaxed than we've been, so this whole time I was trying to think of how they were going to react as well. It's hard to be an uptight parent in today's world... :)