Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Monster Unseen

I was about ten years old and we were driving down Clearwater Drive in Tampa (Florida). It was spring and Mama had the radio on and they were playing some country tunes and I was singing "I'm just here to get my baby out of Jail" at the top of my lungs. The news came on and the headline was about a missing boy in Lakeland, last seen delivering papers and he had only completed half of his route. His mother told police he left the house every morning at five, was home by six for breakfast and to get ready for school. She never saw her boy again after that lovely spring morning when he left on his bike . I'm sure Spring mornings were never the same to her after that, after losing her boy. I asked my mother, what made him go missing? Did a monster get him? I can still see her eyes in the rearview mirror, they were sad and startled. "I'm afraid so." She didn't whisper it. She didn't shout it. Her voice had a quality of what I now know is resignation. Years later she told me that it was a wicked world even then, and it never surprised her when she heard of the horrors going on, though it sickened her. She told me that later when I had asked had the boy on the bike been found, she told me yes. She just didn't tell me that he had been found dead and abused. I remember the warnings from my parents about accepting candy from strangers, about talking to people we didn't know. Having always been as friendly as a puppy in a butcher's shop, I spoke to everyone. My father would say, "don't be so quick to show your teeth". Don't smile at everyone, that was the warning. Hard to heed when you are happy by nature, when you make friends easily, love deeply, and trust everyone. But it doesn't take long in a wicked world to learn that you can't trust everyone, that simply being a stranger isn't all there is to it. Sometimes the monsters aren't strangers at all. While they seem to come out of the woodwork in movies, with bloodred eyes and sharp pointed teeth, those are make believe monsters. Their claws rip and tear and the harder you run, the closer he gets. If it were only that simple, our children would be so much safer. If monsters wore a face that showed them for what they are, our children would know to cross the street, to get home or some safe place away from the evil. If only. What's important to teach our children today? Don't speak to strangers or listen to them when they ask for your help (for what adult really asks the help of a child?) are certainly important things to teach them. Another important thing to teach them is that you don't have secrets from your parents. Teach them to scream, kick and run if they feel threatened in any way. Don't put their names on their clothes in plain sight. A stranger that knows your name, after all, is not a stranger at all in a child's mind. They never think about the fact that it says Tommy or Debbie right on the front or back of their shirt. Unfortunately for us all, monsters have faces exactly like our own. And we're hearing from them far too frequently these days. Have a little talk with your children. Let them know that you are there for them. No matter what. And warn them about secrets. Secrets can kill.

19 comments:

Adla said...

I'have my eyes on lookout for loitering adults who shouldn't be around the area... I'm paranoid about these things. I think there are many Monsters lurking in this world and too many real stories to account for. The old " DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS " saying speaks truth!

Theresa said...

Like you I have been very friendly to strangers- it pains me not to be, but I am more careful about talking to strangers these days. It is a shame we live in a world we have to deal with monsters and lose our politeness and kindness to strangers.

Mima said...

Its an awful world where you have to think about these sorts of things, but sadly, you are right, it is the world that we now live in. And how can you warn children about the dangers of their own friends and family as that is where much of the abuse found nowadays comes from - where should a small child turn? Awful subject.

kathyann said...

I agree with everything you said and all too often now parents are having to deal with the results of some sick pervorted b.....d,it shouldn't happen but we know it does,Keep your children safe!!!!
Misty over at werestartingfrom scratch.blogspot.com has a post on this subject and she knows only too well it is not always strangers who target children!Take care love from Kathyann and the girls at meg's mum's muffins

Mockingbird Hill said...

First...CONGRATULATIONS!! In an amazing turn of events, your number came up on the random number generator and you are the winner of my Bloggy Giveaway Carnival Prize!! YAY!

Next...I can personally realte to this having been folowed home by a stranger who tried to get me in his car when I was in 4th grade. Was also blindsided in a deserted hallway after school in the 6th grade by a fellow classmate, who had been left back a couple of times, so he was much bigger. I saw him in a crowd about...oh, 26 or 27 years later and my heart fell to my feet. I thought I would fall to the floor right then and there. I never knew how much that affected me...

But anyway...you win, you win, you win..... ;)

Cassie

Tara said...

Good advice to always keep in mind...all of this is just so real today for our kids!

Mary said...

Well put Sandi but isn't a sad world that we live in.

david mcmahon said...

Very good advice, Sandi.

I particularly like what your Dad used to tell you. Here in Australia, doors never used to be locked. Now they certainly are!

And yes, your advice holds true in our household as well.

It's not about creating fear, it's about creating awareness. There is a subtle difference, as we know ....

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

...and the horrible thing is that it isn't always the strangers who'll be the menace so the advice about not keeping secrets is excellent.

It feels wrong to have to live in a world where such evil lurks, but as your mother suggested, thus it has ever been.

Lynn@ The Vintage Nest said...

What David said....It's not about fear it's about creating awareness. And yep...it's framed. :)

A Thing for Roses said...

Your post gave me chills. How sad that we live in a world that doesn't let us trust people. I am a friendly person too so it has always been hard for my kids as I told them not to talk to strangers when they were little, but they would see mommy doing it. Once I was struggling with my baby boy and trying to hold my daughters hand while crossing the parking lot to the grocery store, an older man reached out his hand to help hold my daughters hand. I quickly grabbed her hand and said, "that's okay, and smiled at him." I'm sure he was probably just trying to help a mother in need, but it creeped me out. I always felt bad/weird about that incident. Sorry, rambling.

Lisa

NeereAnDear said...

Well said Sandi... sometimes even us adults are not so quick to realize there are monsters out there....

It is becoming increasingly harder to know if someone "really" needs help or if they are faking it...

A person whose car breaks down on the side of the road... are they for real ... or for that matter the person who does stop to help...are they for real...??

Its so sad that we can not be the good samaritans we were taught to be... to lend a helping hand when one needs it.. breaks my heart

HUGS

JO

joan said...

Hi Sandi,

This is such a good post and such a sad account of the world. I am always friendly with strangers but I am also aware of my surroundings and my inner radar that tells me if a situation is not good. Hope you are doing well.

Penny @ Lavender Hill Studio said...

Great post! Sad to say, some monsters are in the family, church and school. Which makes it even harder for children to comprehend.
Penny

shooting star said...

kids should always be encouraged to talk to parents..and parents should listen to their kids!!1...thats the only way child abusers can be stopped.....coz most of times the child is too afgraid to say things...and the offender more than not can be a family member..uncles,cousins...

Tammy said...

Great post Sandi!

I live near a school and it is still amazing to me at the kids that just have the run of this neighborhood.
I too wish the monsters had some way to let us all know just what they are!

White Cats said...

Hi Sandi,
Yes, there are really monsters among us no matter where we live. After doing all that we can to warn, then we try to assure God's protection through prayer of our loved ones and all others who are vulnerable and still evil strikes.
Like a young student told me once upon the death of a beloved pet. Miss, sometimes all that's left to do is cry...Yes, the cat in my post is my White Cat with black spots the glorious Panda. Cheers, Lena

smilnsigh said...

Oh my Dear yesssssss! -sigh-

And I especially think that part about.... trouble doesn't only come from strangers part, is important. It's told to them always, to watch out for strangers. But trouble doesn't always come just from strangers.

And I also told my grandaughter {16 now but whom we've had here for free day care, since she was 1 1/2 years} to kick, scream, fight, anything and everything... if trying to be abducted. Even if threatened with a knife or something. For the reasons, we all know.

We can not keep children in a plastic bubble. So much of the time, they will be their own saviours, if saving is needed. They must be talked to and warned. Even if it's ..... well, for some, it's hard to do. Not wise to be squeemish...

Mari-Nanci

bj said...

I think we are all becoming more careful about "strangers" and we try to teach our kids and grandkids every thing we can think of to keep them safe. I still worry!
bj