I live on the same street as a registered sex-offender. That should not raise any eyebrows. There's no real shock factor here. Sadly, it's common.
The lump-in-the-throat shock hits when random moms lend their children to me, without ever meeting me, speaking to me, and most importantly, knowing where I live or who I live with.
These gems of parenthood might as well staple signs to their kids' foreheads.
"Kids on Borrow, Strangers Welcome!"
It is never my intention to borrow other people's children without establishing a relationship, or at minimum, an agreement of terms prior to the child being anywhere near my home. Under no circumstances would I choose to be responsible for the care of another child whose parents I have never even met.
Somehow, choice or not, it's my all too frequent reality. Community mom
to the rescue. That would be, me. Because no matter how hard I try, I keep finding myself a victim of (naive, at best) dumb choices by either part-time or no-time parents.
There is a whole other breed of parents that don't even try to claim ignorance.
They actually boast their smart (stupid) parenting choices based on the fact that they "trust their kids." Translation? I couldn't tell you. I don't speak "psychotic."
If I had to guess, I'd say these parents think that not being able to trust strangers is not a concerning factor if they are sure they can trust their own children.
Really, parents. Get a clue!
We should trust our children.
We should teach them how to make good decisions about their own welfare. We should give them a little rope. We should give them the skills they need to decide on their own that they can't always trust others. More importantly, even when they do, they should take precautionary measures.
I wholeheartedly disagree with parents who willingly and deliberately put their children in harms' way as some sort of tactic to gain their child's love and approval by demonstrating an unconditional trust, for anyone, including their kid.
Last Summer, a boy who I didn't know showed up at my door looking for my son.
He asked to come in. "Let's call your mom first," was my immediate response. I did. I asked his mom if it was okay for him to come in. She said, "Sure!" I then asked, "would you like my address?" She said, "No. He knows how to get home."
I asked her if she wanted my phone number because it was blocked. She
didn't. I asked her what time I should send her son home. Whenever, was fine with her.
While her son was in my home, he told my son the code to the security
gate at his building, where they keep the spare key outside, and who was home
at what hours and where they keep the cash! The kid was bragging about how lucky he was that his mom trusted him and belittling my son with insinuations that I don't trust my own.
When the boy finally left, I cried for him. My son, didn't need me to explain why I was crying. He hugged me and said,"you're a good mom."
There have been quite a few similar episodes over the last year. Kids have been
left without a ride at school or community events. I've intervened. Just last week, I had a family member pick my older kids up from school. They came home with another boy. The boy's parents do not know me. My oldest son was on a soccer team with their son.
Perhaps, they know of me. Nonetheless, they don't even know my name. They didn't know where I live. They didn't say when they would pick him up. They didn't speak to me or the family member that picked up all the kids. When they finally did call to ask for directions to my house to pick up their son, they didn't even want to come to my door. They asked me to have their son go outside when he heard them.
I was changing the laundry when they arrived. Their son flew out of my door. I ran after him (and the car) as soon as I realized the boy had fled. He was gone in the car and I never spoke to his parents in person.
For the record, the children that have recently ended up in my unauthorized and non-consensual care have all been between the ages of 10 and 12. To me, their ages have little significance. Whether referring to a young child, pre-teen,
or teen, I believe that the parental expectations and safety precautions should
be the same.
- Know where your child is going. This includes an address.
- Know who your child will be with. This includes anyone who your child will be
exposed to during their visit or outing.
- Have a contact phone number AND an emergency contact phone number.
- Discuss the rules with your child. Leaving the location, going on the internet, time expectations, etc. are all important topics.
- Discuss your rules with the other parents or supervising adult.
- Make sure that the other parties agree to ensure that your child is not allowed to break any of your rules while in their home.
- Talk to your children about the difference between trusting and valid concerns about others.
- Make sure there is a seatbelt available for your child if s/he will be transported in a vehicle.
- Teach your children how to filter their conversations so they don't accidentally disclose important and potentially dangerous information to others.
- Trust your children if they merit it. Don't trust everyone else.
Before writing this post, I emailed the school principal regarding my growing concerns for lack of parental safety practices. I did not disclose any children's or parents' names. I offered to create and teach a free training seminar for parents: "Get Connected — Stay Connected."
I would do this because I am, after all, like it or not, "community mom." I doubt my offer will be accepted. There will probably be some bureaucratic objection and excuse.
Nonetheless, I'm putting this out there. If any school, PTA, school district,
superintendent, community center, or non-profit organization that can see
beyond the red-tape and straight into the heart of this growing safety epidemic,
wants my help, you've got it.
Get in touch with me. Let's make it happen. Let's not sit idly by until the next tragic breaking news story comes out about another child gone or lost.