Stranger Danger

03/11/2015

Volume #212

I knew it was bound to happen but you never really see these sorts of things coming. JoAnn asks me, “If a guy you don’t know offers to buy you candy what would you do”? It’s a loaded question from the get go, I just didn’t know where she was going with it when she asked. Of course there is only one correct answer and when I saw the sheepish look on Kate’s face when she heard my answer confirming her mothers it was obvious she made the wrong call. She and her good friend walked down to a local store that sells candy. They had a about a dollar each which was more then enough to satisfy their quest for sweets. When they arrived back home with cash in hand all proud of themselves they had a bit of a rude awakening. Apparently an older gentleman in the store at the time had purchased the candy for them. They just thought he was a nice guy but hadn’t really put together all the things either of their mothers had been telling them for years. Do NOT ACCEPT CANDY FOR STRANGERS. (Yes, this is what they meant and when that statement comes into play). They both said he seemed nice enough but when asked if they knew the man they had to confess they did not and had never before seen him. Thus he fits into the category of STRANGER.

 

Now we’re not the type of parents to panic right away, OK one of us isn’t. JoAnn called the store to speak to the clerk to query her but she was already gone for the day. Luckily one of Emma’s best friends parents are both police officers so a friendly conversation could be had without over reacting and actually making the call to the police. After all there is the chance it was just a nice grandfatherly older man from a different era that just didn’t see the harm in buying some treats for a couple young girls. When I was a kid we were never taught to fear or suspect strangers and we would have been over joyed if someone ever bought us candy.   Kate is nearly twelve so you’d think she’s have used better judgment but even she told us she though it may have been wrong but they weren’t on the street, they were in the store with the clerk right there so they felt it was OK. I can see her argument but that’s how these things start. The kind older gentleman who see’s you next walking home from school stops his car to talk and you recognize him from the store, (no longer a stranger) and he offers you a ride home then who knows what happens next. That’s the stranger danger your mother has been warning you about. It was the first time I had that pang that being the father of girls is going to be a lot more complex then I thought. As I dropped their sister off at Sparks later that evening I saw a police cruiser in the parking lot of the arena and I nearly went over to talk to him but decided we needed to first hear from that clerk and talk to our parent police officer friends before any real investigation happened. We may live in a sleepy bedroom community but not that many months ago by a ravine between our home and the friend Kate was with in the candy store a guy tried to pull a woman into the woods but she got away and screamed for help. That’s less then a 1 KM from our home as is this candy shop the girls were visiting so you can’t say it can’t happen here.

 

The conversation JoAnn had with the store clerk the next day at least confirmed this was merely a case of a kind-hearted man in the wrong era. A local grandfather who plays lotto all the time at the store always leaves some of his winnings with the clerks to be distributed to any kids buying candy. Normally this is 100% anonymous but on this occasion the kind gentleman was there to see it happen. Apparently he was a bit embarrassed, as he’s not looking for recognition. It’s kind of sad that a good-natured gesture in this day in age has to be treated with suspicion but that’s the era we live in these days. Quite honestly I don’t think it’s less dangerous these days as it was when I was a kid, there were creeps around then too, it’s just social media and the speed with which stories can travel have made even small local events world news.

 

I still recall dumpster diving behind a strip mall not far from home with a friend back when I was all of about 7 or 8 when a guy stepped up on the edge of the dumpster and he offered us chocolate bars. He looked like a high school kid we thought so we took the candy happily and then he asked Jo (short for Joan) to help him out. Of course she said, as this was a good guy he just gave us a full size chocolate bar each. He took her hand in his as he pulled out his penis and used her hand to stroke it till he climaxed. Neither of us really understood what was going on as at our age sex was the furthest thing from our minds. Once he was done and departed we stopped to examine what came out of his penis with a stick, we had no idea what it was. We then just went back to digging in the dumpster eating candy and never spoke of that incident again. Till I wrote it here now I’ve never shared it with anyone. It wasn’t till years later I realized what had happened that day and I often wonder if Jo recalls that day herself. At that age we both looked like boys especially since Jo was such a tomboy the creep probably didn’t even know she was a girl and it probably really didn’t matter, she was just standing closer to him so he grabbed her hand. If I was closer this may be a story about my own personal sexual assault. I haven’t seen Jo in over four decades but now the gravity of that incident and the fact I’m the father of four girls weighs in my mind. I sat and watched a female minor be sexually assaulted and I didn’t do a thing other then eat a chocolate bar. I hope if anyone is witness to something like this with one of my own daughters that they’ll actually speak up and say something.

 

JoAnn has been very clear about what is and isn’t acceptable. She was quite graphic in letting them know that NO ONE touches you in certain areas. If anyone does you don’t keep it quite you must speak up. If this takes place in public you need to be very vocal and get the attention of anyone around. It’s if this happens in private in what you hope is a safe place that things get a bit more difficult. She’s even been so careful to tell the girls going on a sleep over that if they ever feel uncomfortable around males they don’t know to just call and she’ll come get them, any time of the night. Statistics tell us most sexual assaults on minors happen in these sorts of environments. It could be an older brother, or a friend of a brother or an adult in the home. JoAnn has been very watchful of whose homes the girls go to sleepovers with. Generally we always know the parents and the one time we didn’t recently I think she only let Emma go because it was a slumber party with 5 other girls. There is strength in numbers I suppose.

 

Times have changed but I think the real change is awareness. We just didn’t know to even say anything back then in the 70’s and I was certainly never given any sort of talk about predators as a kid. I never saw this situation played out on TV, we didn’t have the Internet sharing stories of abuse. It just wasn’t getting any coverage back then but you know it was happening,

 

I hope our girls who have all been warned about stranger danger are never afraid to speak up. Even though Kate and her friend took the candy from the store clerk at least they told us so it’s obvious they already knew it was odd. They were warned to never accept gifts from strangers so this seemed to fit the bill but it was the third party of the store clerk that seemed to skew their perception if this was in bounds or not. Since this specific scenario was never mentioned we can’t blame them for not really knowing and maybe we need to add a few caveats to what’s taught to Sam and Dani in the very near future.

 

No one was physically hurt during my experience 4 decades ago but that fact I still remember the incident in the dumpster but I don’t recall my friend’s last name tells me the incident was bigger and did leave a lasting mark. It did change me, I just didn’t realize it at the time. I just hope the guy we never reported didn’t go onto bigger crimes later in life because it was so easy for him early on, like giving candy to a child. A part of me hopes he’s seen the inside of a cell but then I’d know someone else was assaulted and maybe that all could have changed if he’d been shut down early. I just hope the guy didn’t become some Clifford Olsen type just because he had success getting his rocks off as a teen. When you speak up about an assault like this you’re not just standing up for your own personal safety you’re paying it forward to any future victims this abuser might take. I’m so proud JoAnn took the bull by the horns and have clearly street proofed the girls. Even when they did take the candy they deep in their hearts actually did know it was peculiar. I wish we could live in a world where suspicion towards kindness wasn’t our first reaction but it’s always better to be safe then sorry. It’s also fine to say “No Thank you” when you’re offered something and after the reaction to this incident I have no doubt that’s exactly what Kate will do in the future. You don’t have to outwardly fear the person or be rude; you just say, “No thank you, my mom told me not to accept gifts from strangers”. Any adult that doesn’t respect that comment should be feared but in this day in age you should just be proud because you know that kid has parents that have taught their child well. I’m not claiming we’re great parents or blaming my own parents for not equipping me with the info I needed, it was a different time, and they didn’t say anything but then again what parents did back then? I was 7 out on my bike, dumpster diving with a friend miles from home behind a strip mall. We won’t let our kids leave the street and the one place we do let the older girls go in our neighborhood they are offered candy so do you blame us for being over cautious? I didn’t think so.

Too Much Information

06/25/03

Volume # 5

Entering the third trimester is both a magical time and the scariest of realizations that this is all really going to happen. Up until that small bump showed up on JoAnn’s tummy we were just reading books and making plans for the arrival of some imaginary beast called a baby. But now it was really starting to look like she was pregnant and all our make belief was in fact reality. Mind you JoAnn has been eating a lot as of late with great regularity so the tummy bump may just be the early stages of Teamster gut but she claims it kicks.

 

I say she claims this because I’ve never actually felt the so-called kicks first hand myself. She tries to get my hand on her belly to feel the little punter but it always stops the second I touch her. Ziggy isn’t even born yet and already she hates me. How does he think that makes me feel when she won’t put on a demo for dad, we may have some serious father son, father daughter bonding issues already. I’m two months out from delivery and already he won’t listen to me, how’s a dad supposed to feel? I’m a failed father before she’s even out of the maternal compound.

 

So far everything has been pretty text book with the exception of a little growth spurt having Ziggy about three centimeters bigger than expected at this stage and the possibility of gestational diabetes. JoAnn was spilling sugar and though I just told her to just clean it up the doctor recommended a test that had her drink a glass of nasty syrupy orange liquid then an hour later they tap a pint of blood. At this moment we don’t have the results back yet but JoAnn’s not one to fail a test but she had nothing to study so we’ll just wait and see. The only outcome would be a modified diet plan at more regulated intervals, they tell us it’s really quite common.

 

If anyone ever tells you a pre natal class will be a lot of fun for you and your spouse, run. Get your fishing rod or your hiking boots go camping get tickets to a game or detail your car just be busy the day this goes down because the information that gets pumped into your head over the course of an entire day is not erasable. Up till this day my pre conceived notion of what the delivery of a baby was going to be like has been feed to me by what I’ve seen in movies or on TV, the reality of the matter is very different and far messier. The idea of this class is to alleviate any fears or concerns with regard to the delivery and the first waking days of your new baby and to better equip you for the actual birth but for me it scared the crap out of me. JoAnn too was a little overwhelmed and I think for the first time during her pregnancy a little worried. The nurse that taught the class Lois was very kind and informative but she let us in on things I don’t think either one of us had ever considered. It was a lot of information in a short time and though it was nice to talk to other couples suffering from the same thing ( pregnancy) it made it no easier to sit through. I think for me the low point was when Lois recommended that mom’s put a bunch of maxi pads in the freezer after spraying them with water and won’t it be nice for all you husbands to bring one of these little bundles of relief to your spouse. If I open the freezer months after the birth to get a Popsicle and am confronted by a freezer burnt maxi pad I think I’ll close the door and never go in there again. I’m sure this idea brings great relief to new moms but I don’t think I really want them mingling with our frozen treat supply.

 

When it comes to a woman’s cycle I like a lot of men have a “don’t ask don’t want to know policy” and clearly this was way more information than I was prepared to hear. I know she’ll have just given birth to my child and I will do anything to make the transition in our life easier for her, I’ll take out the garbage clean the cat’s litter box, prepare dinner, wash the dishes, do the shopping, even change diapers not necessarily in that order but I won’t be buying or fetching maxi pads from the freezer. Sorry Hun I love you and all but a man has got to draw the line somewhere.

 

The next main event we had to under go was to pre register at the hospital and tour the facilities where the birth will hopefully be taking place. I’m not a big fan of hospitals on any given day but I see their worth in the community if for nothing else to have debates over their funding and nursing shortage woos. The only piece of advice the nurse taking us on the tour told us that I retained was where to park your car so that’s a bonus when I need it. After that the next two hours were a blur.

 

The fetus removal room was a scary sterile looking affair with no windows lots of cold hard surfaces and as she showed us all the equipment I did get quite light headed and was sure I was going to hit the floor. Of course if your going to pass out and hit your head on a hard tile floor, a hospital is not the worst place for this to happen, “can I try some of that Demerol now please”? I did however much to my surprise stay on my feet and was glad for it because then she showed us one of the other eight delivery rooms, which was much lighter with lots of windows and a far warmer looking place to bring a new life into the world. The only reason she takes the tour to the nasty fetus frightening room is it’s bigger and easier to get the ten couples on the tour into. After the tour JoAnn wanted to know if I wanted to be the one to deliver the baby as she’d gladly pass that honor onto me which lead me to believe she’s not really looking forward to the whole ordeal either. I reassured her as best I could and promised her I didn’t think I’d be able to hear her screams at the end of the hall through the set of doors that separated the delivery room from the waiting area where I was sure I’d be sitting while she delivered our baby.

 

More than ever everything was starting to register that in two months we’d be doing this for real. Up till this point it was fun nesting, planning the nursery picking colors and doing the reno to our home to accommodate the impending change to our lives but doing the class and watching all the video’s of births and seeing the room where this was going to take place was really starting to sink in. We’ve been watching a lot of reality TV on TLC and all the shows about new borns and the delivery all looked a lot less complicated and scary than it really does in person. It’s kind of the same as watching a home improvement show and trying to replicate something Norm Abraham demonstrated so simply with nothing more than a couple hand tools that all looked the same as the ones you have in your own basement, the reality is a far harder thing to build yourself.

 

The more I read and prepare myself for the blessed event the less in control I feel and more scared about the future I become. An even worse thing is JoAnn who’s already been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster was starting to get worried too and up till now she’s been very confident. So now it falls to me, do I step up and stand tall and show her everything will be ok and reassure her, I guess that’s what I should be doing to ease her worry but I don’t know how much good I’ll be passed out on the floor under the bed while she delivers.