Carrie Maldonado – Writer

Freelance writer, wordsmith, and novelist

If you’re a mom, or a kid, or someone who used to be a kid, you probably know about stranger danger (which has been rebranded to tricky people). Did you see the Facebook video that’s been circulating lately about this guy who approaches moms in the playground to see if their kids will leave with him? All the moms said OF COURSE their kids had been taught about strangers and would never leave with a stranger. And so this guy whips out his puppy (Duncan) and within three seconds lures each kid away to what we viewers imagine would have been torture, mutilation, and death had it not been a staged event. Of course I shared it, because we all need our kids not to get lured away from the playground.

I was at just such a playground the other day when this lady came up to me and introduced herself and asked me to try to lure her kid away. I asked which was her kid (he was right there) and agreed to do it. The first thought that went through my head was to wonder if this was some sort of elaborate set up to distract me so someone could steal one of my amazing and incomparable kids, so I really just did it half-ass, keeping an eye on my three the whole time.

It was disturbingly easy. I went up to him, said hi, asked if he liked bubbles (he did), asked if he wanted to blow bubbles with me (he did) and so I grabbed his hand and walked out of the play structure. So obviously this kid is just one more narrow miss.

I actually felt bad after sharing the video, and even more so after taking place in the experiment, because I think it may be contributing to scare-mongering. I mean, yeah, all these kids went with a stranger, BUT at the start of the experiment the kids were all right there watching this person talk to their Mom just before he walks over to them, and their moms are in sight so I’m not sure it’s reasonable to assume that they could have ‘easily’ been taken.

My other problem with the real-life experiment (and maybe it’s just a guilty conscience) is that I have been training my kids to worry about tricky people (or tricky persons, as Bisky calls it) and not strangers. I have expressly told them all that the only safe person when they are out and about is a mom out with kids whether they know her or not. So I’m not sure it was a total bad call on the part of this kid at the park to go blow bubbles with me, since I did show up with three kids and a bottle of bubbles. As an aside, when the mom was scolding the kid for talking to me, a ‘stranger’, Bisky walked up and explained to her, “That’s my Mommy, not a tricky person!”.

I’m sure we could debate this whole thing, and to save time and energy, I’ll   concede that child abductions do happen, and it’s better safe than sorry, but I’m not sure worrying about this is my biggest concern. Because I think there are more dangerous things that my kids are facing right now, and I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about it.

I’ve noticed that in just the last month, Bisky has reached a new level of independence, where she wants to be able to make choices on her own, and is getting frustrated when I tell her no. At the same park, on the same day, a group of older kids befriended her and wanted her to play outside the gated playground area. She came and asked me, but was visibly surprised when I said ‘No.’ Which resulted in tears, arguing, and demanding to know why. I am a huge proponent of explaining why to kids but not on demand, and not in the moment, necessarily, so I just left it at ‘no’. But it made me realize that we’re on the cusp of elementary school, and friends, and freedom and she’ll be exposed to things that I wish she wouldn’t be. Such as:

  • Kids who think it’s okay to not listen to parents.
  • Adults and kids who think our belief system is wrong, narrow-minded, foolish, dangerous, stupid, bigoted, etc., etc., etc., (without asking us a single question first, mind you) and who ‘shame’ my kid for her enthusiastic love of Jesus.
  • A society that whole-heartedly endorses the sexualizing of young kids (demonstrated by the size 4 and 5 dresses I found in the store with the same peekaboo cutouts for little girls as the teen styles).
  • A culture where my public school system dictates to me that their policy about my kid’s mandatory physical attendance supersedes my parental judgment about their state of health and/or emotions.
  • A world where people can host very popular YouTube channels depicting child abuse or other flat out despicable things and get a million followers who find this sort of stuff funny, acceptable, and/or in any way endorsable.
  • A society where children are bullied 24 hours a day on social media to the point of suicide for the way they look, believe, befriend, or any other social step or misstep.

I could go on and on, but today I’m a lot more worried about the world abducting my children’s joy, happiness, faith, and confidence.  And I don’t have a solution. I agree with a popular blogger I read recently that says it’s not fair to expect our kids to be salt and light in the world today, and it’s not really a matter of telling them to get out there and practice the principles I teach them. It’s too big a job, and they’re not equipped. And as much as I’d really, REALLY, like to go off the grid and live in the wilderness somewhere and just opt out of ALL of this, I probably can’t right now.

And I do take great comfort in realizing that every generation thus far has survived the gloomy and dire predictions of immediate social decline by their predecessors so I’m sure that as my kids brave their way into a foreign, scary (to me) new world, they will live, love, laugh, dream, cry, get hurt, hurt people and all the other ‘human’ stuff that as much as I’d like to protect them from, is what makes us all who we are.

What do you do to protect your kids from tricky people, or tricky situations?

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