This past weekend my son and I went to the park to play softball. My son’s best friend was planning to meet us after he finished his chores.
Not feeling up to playing ball while we waited for his friend, I suggested he play with several of the other boys in the park. He ran off happily. As I watched him scoot off, I noticed an older man inside the ball park.
I assumed he was with one of the other boys.
Not giving it much thought, I pulled out my laptop and started working. After awhile, I noticed that the other boys had left the park.
The man was still there.
He was playing with my son.
A sixth sense kicked in. This was not normal it told me. What man takes the time to play with a child, a child that isn’t his own, for no apparent reason? Worse, what type of man hangs out at a concrete park without children of his own on a Saturday afternoon?
I quickly packed up my laptop and walked over to where my son was. He smiled and waved. The man, however, did not.
His reaction upon seeing me was to tell my son he could no longer play ball with him. He didn’t look in my direction. Didn’t acknowledge me, although I was staring straight at him.
A small voice told me to take his picture. I didn’t. He walked away too quickly.
I wish I had.
As the man left, my son walked toward me …smiling, carefree, innocent.
I motioned toward the seat near me.
I was scared for him.
No matter how many times we’ve had the talk, I knew it would not be enough.
It can NEVER be enough.
It does not matter how many times he says, “I know”. It does not matter if he rolls his eyes or exclaims he is not a child. It does not matter because he matters.
Our children matter.
We are their first defense against the evil in this world. Because evil exists. Pedophiles exist. It does not matter if you have a boy or a girl. It can happen. Jerry Sandusky is just one of many. And so I sat, and I reminded my very sweet 11 year old, that he is never to leave the park with anyone, he must never give out his home address and on and on.
He’s heard the spiel.
According to the National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW), we have several dozen pedophiles in the area.
Am I scared?
Of course I am!
But he is getting older and I must let go. For now, I prepare him. I remind him. I show him. Because a little fear will keep him safe. A little fear will keep him aware. And that is what I want.
And so I send him off to play with a hug and a kiss.
Because fear can not, must not, contain him.
Let’s talk! Do you think I overreacted? What would you have done in this situation? Share your thoughts in a comment below!
Playground rules prohibit adults without children. Signs, like the one shown below, are posted. If you should see an adult without a child, you can notify the police. The individual will than be fined and removed from the premises.