Saturday, April 7, 2007

Just a Few Laps

I still cannot fully wrap my mind around what happened to my son yesterday. We live in a townhome and our front yard is a shared courtyard. On a typical day there are several parents chatting and children playing--it's a very friendly block. My family alone constitutes seven of the children who play together so it usually feels busy and pretty safe. The houses face in toward the courtyard, we have helpful conscientious neighbors, and full-time security.

Yesterday was different.

There was a quiet lull in the afternoon. Young children who had been playing vigorously went in for naps and quiet time. Older children were away with friends. I went in to tidy-up and my 9 year old son asked if he could skate a few laps around the courtyard. "Sure, just a few." I can't see my son at the far end of the courtyard, but I can watch as he nears the house and rounds the corner to skate another lap. Not long after he went out, he came back in with this odd report.

A bearded grey-haired man whom my son had never seen before called out for assistance. He was at the street corner away from the highly-visible main courtyard. He stood alongside the end home where there is no window and he is surrounded by mostly empty carports.

"My dog had a couple of shots today and is being uncooperative. Will you call my dog? Just say, 'Come Koba!'"

My son kept his distance, but called the chiuaua-sized dog and the pup went to him. Then my son turned to get away.

"Wait! Come this way so my dog will follow you over here."

"I have to go home," my son replied as he continued to skate home. He told me immediately what had happened. I looked around outside and saw no one. I hoped it was an innocent neighbor with bad judgment (we have taught our children that adults should only ask adults for help, NEVER children). Just to be safe, I called the police to give a report and an officer came out to our home to take it down.

After all of this, one more very interesting detail came out. During the entire encounter, the tiny dog was on a LEASH! What??? Yes, a leash that the man was holding. I had assumed it was a free-roaming dog, but NO! This was a tiny dog on a leash that the owner had in his hand. Why on earth would a grown man ask a little boy to lead a tiny dog when the pet was already on a leash? I don't want to think about it, and yet I can't stop thinking about it. It is too suspicious.

I know that bad things happen to good people, but I am so grateful that yesterday we were spared. I am glad that we prayed as a family for protection that day and that my son obeyed a prompting to get home and tell his mother what had happened. You can never tell your children too many times what to do and to have them practice it. Even then, children are taught to respect adults and to be helpful and kind--they are so naturally trusting--they need their parents' protection. And although I was close by, I wasn't close enough to have prevented that encounter. No one in my courtyard will skate alone again--even for a few laps.


Elizabeth-W said...

What a scary situation!
Somehow I have neglected to tell my girls the part about adults only asking help of adults, not children. We're due for another conversation about safety. A few months ago I think it was Throughly Mormon Millie did a post on creepy neighbors. As soon as I read it, I called my six year old to me, and told her the story. She's about to hear yours now.
Are you keeping your eyes peeled for older guys with small dogs? So you can accost him and tell him to keep his leashed dog about 50 miles away from you? That's all I'd be thinking about anyway.
So glad that everything turned out as well as it did.

Toni said...

That is scary! Glad he did as he was told and came home! I have always told my boys that a grown up that you don't know doesn't need your help. Being 'rude' could save their life.

Anonymous said...

jennifer! oh, so creepy and awful about the dog leash! so glad that your boy knew to get away from him! the would've and could've been's are hard to think about. so glad he is okay. hug him tight and happy easter. show him the funny easter cartoon i put on my blog. it will make him (and you) smile.

blessings to you and yours this Easter day :)

Shari said...

OH JENNIFER! Scary, scary, scary! Yes, TOO suspicious. Thank goodness he is OK. I will be on the look out for that man. Scary story, but THANK YOU for sharing it. Oh, I love your kids and I just want to run over to your house and give them all hugs! (but then they'd think I'm will you do it for me?)

EMily said...

oh my goodness. you really can't be too careful! So glad your son was cautious. and thanks for sharing this as a reminder that as parents we just can't overemphasize those basic principles of safety.

Jennifer B. said...

Thanks for your concern everyone. Because my son is fine, it almost seems like nothing happened. (Except I will be contacting our school and homeowners' association to let them be aware.)

Emily -- Welcome. I'm glad too. Thank heavens my story has a happy ending.

elasticwaistbandlady said...

We live in the fourth largest city in the country. Couple that with living on one of the busiest streets in the neighborhood and you better believe we've had the safety talk many times. We've also listened to 'The Safety Dance,' many times too. But that's a whole nother issue.

My Papi channels the foxy Fox Mulder and tells the kids 'Trust No One.'

Glad that the whole jennifer b. barefoot family is safe and sound!

Elizabeth-W said...

Guess who couldn't sleep last night? Wrong. You thought it might have been me. Nope. It was my six year old. She'd been in bed about 30 minutes, and came out and got on my lap and started crying. "I don't ever want to be taken away from youuuuuu!!!"
This happened last time we had a talk about safety. I don't think I'm scaring her but I think she's just a ponderer. This morning the second thing she said to me after 'good morning' was some of the plans she'd been making about ways to keep herself safe. Now if I could just get her to communicate all this to her little sister...

Jennifer B. said...

Poor thing! I hate to think of her sad or worried--hopefully it will grow into a confidence that she knows how to keep herself safe.

Anonymous said...

hi jennifer: i left you comments on your posts "why i blog" and "toddler fun." very cool what you wrote. i am getting a kick out of reading your writing style.

all things good this day :)

Jennifer B. said...

Thanks Grateful -- you're kind =)

compulsive writer said...

Thanks for sharing this story and the lessons learned.

I'm thankful everyone was OK.

Justine said...

Holy cow, what a story! Similar situation happened to a good friend of mine a few months back.

It's just so easy to assume nothing like that will ever touch your life. We have just got to teach these little people to follow those promptings! Good mom!

Anonymous said...

hi jennifer: awwh, your comment to me made me smile tonight :)

i am glad you or i happened upon your/my blog the other day. i'm having fun communicating with ya.

good mind.

God bless :)

Jennifer B. said...

CW -- Thanks. We're so happy to be safe.

Justine -- Thanks Justine. I still feel so sad that he was outside alone, but I'm glad he remembered what to do.

Grateful -- Glad we "met" too.