Times they are a changing or … are they?
This week’s topic is one I’m struggling with a bit, as I try and string together cohesive sentences that will properly convey my thoughts. If you are a faithful reader of our publication or watch the news, you will understand why this is tough.
In the last couple of years the number of ‘alleged’ child predators which have appeared in the pages of our paper has been a bit disturbing. Truthfully, we are indeed a small town, but we are not exempt from bad people, disease or misfortunes.
The most recent two have hit me a bit harder as a ‘mommy.’ As the mom of a Scout and two elementary aged children it’s safe to say this topic now has my attention. This is not the place where I will argue or entertain if either men are guilty or innocent, it makes no matter here.
These instances now have my antenna up just a bit as I now ponder how to discuss the topic with my children. They were born and raised in this town and like many of your children … They know a lot of ‘grown-ups.’ This is a fact which should bring comfort and reassurance, which it still does but there is now a very serious ‘however.’
These two men after all were in positions of trust. They were not in a park bathroom where most of us won’t allow our children to go unattended anyway. They were waiting in the ‘safe’ places we send them. That sentence now prompts a chuckle. Naïve we are to think any place is indeed ‘safe.’
Statistically children are violated or abducted by someone they know, someone they trust. So the question … the concern I now ponder and struggle with is how to keep them safe without making them jaded.
I love kids. Some of my best and most favorite conversations are with children. Their honesty, their unrequited gift of telling it as they see it is simply refreshing. Oh, sure there are times it catches me off guard a bit or makes me a bit uncomfortable. Their words however are never ignored, as I realized early on that they are the most honest words I will ever be fortunate enough to hear.
Their purity and innocence is what makes them so appealing to the ill intended. That’s sad and sick all at the same time.
So now what?
Truthfully, I have no clue. Sure, open conversation will have to continue as it always has. The focus will not be placed exclusively on Substitute teachers and Scout leaders. I happen to know many of both and they are stand up people or ... are they? We really have no clue, not any more than we do a cousin, Aunt or Uncle. The predator is not exclusive to one title or category; it can be anyone.
That is the lesson. That is what we each (as parents) must remember when speaking with our children. They must not be paranoid or fearful, but rather cautious and smart. Children are naturally more intuitive than adults. I’ve read it’s because they have not yet been jaded by the disappointment and naysayers of life. Perhaps there is also something to be said for teaching our children how to both listen and understand that ‘feeling’ that comes in our gut.
Maybe I’m simple. I’ll accept that. I have come to learn with parenting that sometimes the things which are toughest to teach are the ones which require the least amount of thought and the most practical and organic approach.
To some, that in and of itself may be a naïve approach to parenting. This is what I know. I know that my mother did not once open a book for guidance on how to ‘parent’ me. I know that she did not consult with social media to help her be ‘better’ equipped when facing her child. I know that she relied much on common sense and life lessons to guide me and teach me all that she knew. Honestly, she still does.
The basics of parenting and teaching our children have not changed. The abundance of resources are now what both boggles and challenges the over taxed mind. This is not my place to judge, but rather simply offer: approach this in a way which works best for both you and your child. Be comfortable with your words and most importantly don’t allow yourself to be managed by fear.
Teresa Hammond is a former reporter and current circulation manager for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.