Imagine it is the second week of school and you are finally comfortable letting your 4th grader walk the small walk to the bus stop (the same one he has been walking with his brother for the past 4 years) to meet his friends . . . alone.
Now imagine the morning when, on his way out the door, he tells you that "there is a man in the house by our bus stop who swore and yelled at us yesterday."
"There is a man who yelled at us from his window at the bus stop yesterday. He told us some bad words and told us to shut up."
"Were you in his yard?" I questioned. You never know, maybe the entire bus stop was in this man's yard - banging on his window and playing a rowdy game of tag . . . you just never know.
"No, we were on the sidewalk. At the bus stop. Waiting for the bus." Wyatt assured me.
Wyatt is the moral police of our family. For him, there is only right and wrong - absolutely NO gray area. I learned this the hard way when I was trying to sneak a bag of M&M's into the movie theater years ago, I think he was five at the time. He saw me put the candy in my purse before we got to the theater and asked me why I was hiding it. I tried to answer him, justify the fact that some rules were meant to be broken, but he was having none of it.
And he was right.
I haven't snuck candy into the theater (with him around) since.
So I knew that he was telling the truth. And when I walked him to the bus stop this morning, and he didn't even want to walk on that side of the road (the same side as the bus stop) until we'd cleared the home where the yelling came from, I knew I had to do something.
The other mothers (you know, the responsible ones who stand at the bus stop with their children every single morning) validated his story and we had a long chat about what happened. They told me they'd called transportation, and the police - but nobody was doing anything about it.
Not doing anything about it?
This man harassed children (that was the exact word Wyatt used when describing what he said) in front of mothers! What do you think he would do if provoked, if the mothers weren't standing right there, in plain sight? I don't even want to think about it.
I called the police station and explained the situation. First, the officer told me that another parent had phoned about the incident. Then, she advised me to call the school. Call the school? They aren't the police. I was confused. I pressed on.
"I've never called the police or filed a report, so I don't know how to go about doing something like that, but there has to be something else we can do. This person is possibly unstable and lives in a neighborhood, surrounded by children. My kids use that street all the time to get to the park, their friends homes and school. They should not be afraid in their own neighborhood."
"I understand," the officer said, "what I can do is make a request for extra patrols."
She gathered my information and I thanked her. Then I asked her what, exactly, were my options in a case like this? If this person is a danger to the neighborhood, what am I supposed to do?
"Call 911. Tell your kids to call 911. Don't wait until it's the next day. Call 911."
It was like being told your sunglasses are on top of your head after you've spent the day looking for them all over the place.
Being the wife of a firefighter, I know how 911 works. I've used it (believe me) plenty of times when my kids were infants and fell off their changing table (which happened once) or down the stairs (which happened once). The emergency services are there for us, and they don't mind at all responding to a call and having it be nothing. They would much rather do that than not be called and have something horrible happen.
I hate living in fear that the worst case scenario will happen to my children. I have always prided myself on being able to let them be kids, to let them experience life on their own when they've proven that they are responsible enough to handle it. I don't want to live in a world where a 10 year-old can't ride his bike without a helicopter parent by his side. He should be able to go an adventures with his buddy, explore, think, just be.
And now I'm back to square one. Scared. I hate feeling this way.