My sleep was interrupted last night by an alert from the Emergency Broadcast System. With a forecast of potential thunderstorms and severe weather, I rolled out of bed to make sure we didn’t need to head to our safe spot.
Weather wasn’t the issue. The alert was sent out for an Amber Alert for a missing child.
At that moment, I felt relieved that it wasn’t severe weather bearing down on us and a sense of heartache at what a family must be going through at that moment. It reminded me of how delicate life can be and how things can change in the blink of an eye.
I know I can’t save Shortcake from every type of pain and heartache that is headed her way (heaven only knows the number of times she’s fallen down recently as she tries to put together the logistics of walking). But I also know that as a parent I have a huge responsibility to make sure she’s safe as we face the world together.
I’m probably being over-protective, but there have been a few instances in the last month that put me on high alert.
One was a recent trip to Sam’s Club. Shortcake and I were running errands while Mommy was at home with a stomach bug. In a vain attempt to keep Shortcake and Daddy healthy, I decided we needed the industrial size package of Chlorox wipes. I intended to make sure that every surface that Mommy touched was immediately wiped down to prevent the rest of the family from getting sick. (SPOILER alert: This didn’t work).
As I put Shortcake into the cart, an older couple approached me and told me how cute Shortcake looked. They smiled at her and said hello to us, asking her name and how old she was. I didn’t share her name and I rounded up her age, saying she was almost a year old.
I figured that our encounter was over at this point. That is, until the woman pulled out her cell phone and asked if she could take a picture of Shortcake.
Red alert alarms began going off in my head. I smiled and politely replied that that would not be happening today.
The woman proceeded to point her phone at Shortcake and try to take a picture anyway. At this point, I threw politeness out the window and began to block Shortcake from her phone with my body. This proceeded to tick off the woman and her husband because they only wanted a picture.
At which point, I wanted to point out that only her immediate family got to take random pictures of her. Instead, I hastily moved away, making sure they couldn’t take a picture of Shortcake.
Was this an innocent request? Was I being rude? Did I really care?
It could well have been that they found Shortcake cute. Or that her outfit was cute. But honestly as they asked me to take a picture of her, I had visions of them wanting to take Shortcake for some reason and my having to go full Liam Neeson from Taken to find her. (Because I totally would, even if I don’t have his particular set of skills).
My nervous feelings became so overwhelming that I completely forgot the original purpose of my trip and immediately left the store, checking over my shoulder often to ensure that they weren’t following me to my car for some nefarious purpose.
As I drove out of the parking lot, I felt silly and like I was overreacting.
But I’d rather offend some strangers than have to face an Amber Alert being issued for my little girl.
The next incident came a few weeks ago. I was strapping Shortcake down in her car seat to take her to an appointment when an unfamiliar vehicle rolled up. Rolling down the window, the guy asked me if I’d received the e-mail from the HOA about termite inspections that morning. He then asked if I’d left my back gate open so they could do their inspection.
I replied that I hadn’t received the message.
“You should go and open your gate,” he said.
“I’m sorry, not right now,” I replied. “I’ve got an appointment and I’ve already got the baby ready to go.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” he tells me. “You just go in and take care of the gate. I’ll watch her until you get back.”
At this point, the alarms were going off inside my head big time. Like the picture incident, this could be an innocent request to help out, but it came off as far too creepy and inappropriate for my liking.
“No, that won’t be happening,” I replied. “We have an appointment and are going now.” I then closed and locked the car door and went around to my side of the car, phone ready to call the cops. He drove off and so did I. I circled the block and came back to make sure I hadn’t just revealed our home was free game for a break-in. Good news: It didn’t happen.
These two incidents just remind me that you can never be too vigilant when it comes to parenting. Or it could be that I’m just being overly paranoid.
I think the real lesson should be – think about if and how you approach someone with kids. What you may think is a perfectly reasonable request can be considered creepy and completely inappropriate. a