Why does Dad get to help the weirdo, but I have to yell FIRE?

So despite how much work our last camping trip was, we decided to head out again this past weekend for 3 fun filled days of bird watching, dirt digging, s’more eating, and of course playground paradise. A situation that occurred while the kids played innocently at the park, made me realize how important it is to teach our children how to be both cautious and compassionate…

I’m sitting in a lawn chair relaxing. This is glorious. I watch the kids play independently at the park which is conveniently right across from our campsite. As they push each other on the swing I feel a tremendous sense of pride. My 3 and 5 year old are playing together and at this particular moment they are loving each other’s company and taking care of one another. I must be doing something right.

I see James stop and look over his shoulder. Then Jocelyn hops off the swing and is looking in the same direction. What’s going on? I stand up and walk towards the park while trying to figure out what the disturbance is. I look over to where they are staring and I see a blue cargo van (you know the kind with no windows) with a shirtless santa looking man sitting in it. Is he talking to the kids? You’ve gotta be kidding me. I storm over with my ‘mommy on a mission’ power walk.

‘Is that man talking to you?’ I ask the kids.

‘Yeah… but we’re not talking to him,’ James replies.

‘Okay good. That man is a stranger. You don’t talk to strangers, especially when they are at the park.’

‘I know Mom,’ James says while rolling his eyes.

‘Never?’ asks Jocelyn. Alright… I guess I need some clarification here.

‘Okay, if mommy is with you then it’s okay to talk with other moms or dads that talk to you, but never talk to people like that man.’ I’m obviously struggling to set clear guidelines.

‘So don’t talk to old men with beards and no shirt?’ asks James.

‘Exactly. Come on, let’s go to the beach.’ Crisis averted… or so I think.

On the way to the beach we continue the conversation with my hubby. ‘If a stranger like that ever comes over and talks to you or wants you to go with them it’s really important you yell. Actually, you need to yell FIRE,’ my hubby tells the kids.

‘FIRE?’ both the kids and I ask, clearly confused.

‘Yeah… cause if you just yell randomly, people will just think it kids playing. Everyone turns and looks if you yell FIRE!’ Got it… if in trouble yell FIRE.

Later we return from the beach and I look over and the same man is at the park. He must be waiting for a tow truck. The day goes on and eventually the park warden moves him to a site directly across from the playground. That’s great… now I have to be at the park for the rest of the day with a watchful eye on the shirtless santa. Wonderful. Did he just pull out a camera? Are you freaking kidding me? He’s taking pictures of the kids!!!! I rush the kids back to the campsite and by the time I get my husband he’s back in the creepy windowless van.

‘That guy is a serious weirdo. I’m calling the front desk if it happens again.’ I say to my husband.

I look over and I can see that the kids have overheard this conversation. Whoops. James begs to go back to the park and promises not to talk to the ‘weirdo’. Note to self… do not name call in front of children. All four of us return to the park with a watchful eye on the picture taking pervert… oh my, I just did it again. No more name calling. Everything is cool for all of five minutes until I look over my shoulder.  Oh god… shirtless santa just fell over. Is he passed out? Do we have to go and help? My husband decides he better go help and tells me to take the kids back and get his cell phone and bring it to him.

You see, hubby is probably the most kind and compassionate person I know. He is constantly helping others and coming to the rescue in less than desirable situations. I love that I already see these amazing attributes rubbing off on the kids. I see hubby kneeling down talking with the old man. A few minutes go by. It becomes apparent that the man is extremely intoxicated. Oh… now the park rangers are there. Now there’s an ambulance. Hubby stays there by shirtless santa’s side the whole time, listening and helping this man through an obvious tough time in his life. The kids are full of questions,

‘Why is there an ambulance? Did Daddy call that?’

‘Why is that guy lying on the ground. Is he hurt?’

‘Is Dad going to be back soon? I’m hungry. Is that guy coming for dinner?’

‘Why does Dad get to help the weirdo but I have to yell FIRE?’

It takes me a moment to realize that my dear son wants to know why he too can’t help this poor man. It becomes clear that the pervert picture taking weirdo is nothing but a  lonely drunken man who is in need of some help (probably A LOT of help). I explain why their Dad can help… he is grown up, he has a cell phone to call for help, he’s got me watching to make sure everything is okay. I struggle, but I think I get the point across.

I learned two things from this whole experience… how important it is that we teach children to be cautious around strangers, and also how great it is to show the kids what it means to be kind and compassionate. Oh… and that ‘name calling’ is wrong.


Why does Dad get to help the weirdo, but I have to yell FIRE? — 2 Comments

  1. Wow, what a tough situation to navigate with your kids!? I think you did wonderfully. It’s so hard as a mom because I wish there were clear-cut guidelines about who to talk to and why and blah, blah, blah….but there aren’t. I always stress to my kids the power of their intuition in hopes that they’ll pay close attention to it always. Good story, I hope that man will be okay:)

    • I agree… I wish I had clear cut guidelines. The thing is you never know when kids are going to ask you those gosh darn hard questions. I love your comment about ‘intuition’… I will definitely include that in my next little talk with the kids. I think the man will be fine… as long as he steers clear of the whiskey that is.