I was in the neighborhood, your neighborhood, right behind you at the stop light near the grocery store. I notice you have those cute little stick figure family stickers on the back window, names and everything. I love that. Adorable. Mom and Dad, Allison, Justin, Kirby the dog, and Oreo the cat. I’ve been thinking about getting some of those.
Light’s green, looks like you’re heading to the store, me too. I see you’re the proud parent of a Super Citizen at the elementary school a block back. I know right where that is.
Wow, what a coincidence, there’s a parking spot open right next to you.
Go ahead, get the kiddos out, I can wait. Beautiful family. Your kids are simply precious. Little Allison and Justin who go to the school right down the road. I guess I don’t really need anything at the store after all, maybe I’ll see you around though.
Oh, hi again. What a coincidence seeing you here, at school, picking up little Allison and Justin. They’ve been waiting out front here for five minutes already. Well, I’ve got things to do, maybe I’ll see you around sometime. I’ll see the kids at least. I know their names and where they go to school, I bet they’d love someone to keep them company while they wait for you to pick them up. We could talk about Kirby and Oreo, I wonder if you’ve talked to them about strangers.
I’m not really a stranger though, now am I? I mean, if anything happened to Kirby or Oreo or your white minivan got sideswiped near the store and you needed the kids picked up, I could help. I would just say, “Kirby was real sick and had to go to the vet and mom wanted me to pick you guys up and take you there.” Or I could tell them there was an accident and you needed me to bring them to you. They would be upset and want to get there quickly, don’t you think?
I suppose if I wait and watch a little longer I could probably learn your name, dad’s too. Maybe I’ll just ask the kids after school while I’m waiting to pick up my daughter. I don’t have a daughter, but they don’t know that. Kids are great, they make friends so quickly. I would be a great friend.
I’ll wait, I just saw David leave for home, he’s a walker. I only know his name because it’s written right there on the outside of his backpack. Convenient, right? Maybe tomorrow I’ll introduce myself to Allison and Justin . . .
Parents – Do yourselves, and your children a favor, please don’t advertise them. Don’t tell strangers their names by sticking them on your back window, find another way to show how proud you are of them without telling everyone where they go to school. Don’t write their names on their backpacks, if you must, write it on the inside.
Make sure they wait inside the school gates for you to pick them up. Yeah, it takes time to park and walk up there to get them, but at least you’re the one getting them, right? Have a password, someone may know their names, your names, the names of your pets, but there is no way they can know your secret family password. Make sure your kids know not to go anywhere with anyone unless they say the magic word.
If your kids have cell phones, make sure their contacts, and yours, are entered as proper names. Not mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, etc.. Let’s just imagine for a moment someone who shouldn’t have one of those phones has it. Your daughter’s phone, for instance. They scroll through the contacts, they see MOM, they send off a text letting you know she’ll be staying late at school, you ask when you should pick her up, they say, in about an hour.
Now, daughter is waiting after school, but you’re not the one who shows up.
This might sound crazy, but that’s the thing, crazy things happen. Our world has changed, the bad guys have changed, and we have to think about crazy things sometimes to make sure they can never happen.
Let’s think about those cell phones again, what if hubby’s phone gets swiped? You don’t know that. Maybe whoever has it has his wallet too. You get a text from HUBBY saying he forgot the ATM password. Why would you question him? If you have him listed in your contacts as HUBBY or you’re in his as THE WIFE, this scenario kind of makes scary, easy sense.
I don’t think we need to tiptoe around in fear, but I do think we should be cautious. We need to be proactive and take precautions so we don’t have to be afraid . . .
Crystal R. Cook