Adult Friends

My younger son recently started attending the summer camp program that my older son has gone to for several years.  Each day, I’d check with him to find out if he had fun, and more importantly, if he was making new friends.  I learned the names of several children he called friends, which brought me comfort that he was adjusting well.

 Last week, both kids talked more about their bus driver, who takes all of the children to off-site events several days a week.  I didn’t think much about it, until my younger son informed me that the bus driver sat by him during the movie – and that he was his “friend.”

I'm watching

Now, I’ve watched enough America’s Most Wanted and evening news stories to be more than a little disturbed by this revelation.  Calling his bus driver, whom I’ve never met, a “friend” is a bit too chummy for me.  Of course, this man could simply be a kind person who loves children…or he could be a sick person who preys on them.  I just don’t know.  As a protective mom with trust issues, my mind settles on the latter.

 Casually as I could, I peppered them with questions, gauging my older son’s annoyance level as I went along.  I knew if I asked too many questions, they would quit telling me anything because it’s not worth the hassle.

 They didn’t say anything indicating that made me think anything inappropriate had happened (or would happen), but I’m still not thrilled with the idea of this adult “friend.”  I talked to my older son separately and told him that I don’t want either of them alone with the man at any time.  He asked me why and I just said, “because sometimes adults act nice to children to earn their trust and then hurt them.” 

 I had to let him know I was serious, but I didn’t want to scare him with the details of the horrible things that could happen.  I also didn’t want to come off as accusing or suspecting the man of any wrong doing.  There’s a fine line between being cautious and being paranoid.  I’m straddling that line right now (and I have a horrible sense of balance.)

Have you ever been in a similar predicament?  What did you do?  If you haven’t, how do you think you would react? 

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36 thoughts on “Adult Friends

  1. SuziCate June 7, 2011 / 7:20 AM

    I think all parents run into this at one time or another, where we are suspicious yet we have no reason for accusations. Fortunately, most situations are innocent, but as a parent you have to keep in mind that there are people out there who do hurt children. I think talking to your children without accusations or appearing overly suspicious is the best route. Sounds like you handled it appropriately though I’m sure it doesn’t ease your mind much.

    • jannatwrites June 7, 2011 / 4:59 PM

      Thanks, SuziCate. It’s good to know I’m not completely “out there” on this, but you’re right – my mind isn’t at ease 🙂 My hubby and I talked about it more and he’s going to go meet this bus driver when they have their next afternoon activity. My hubby is suspicious of everyone, so if he’s cool with the guy, he’s probably okay!

      • SAS Fiction Girl June 7, 2011 / 9:09 PM

        That’s good that your husband is going to check it out, and here’s why I say that: I’ve noticed that guys (young ones, usually) will hang out with a wide variety of other guys, no matter their quirks. So when I see that a man is ostracized by his male peers, there is often a very good reason why. Whether the guys know something or sense something and exclude the person as result, they seem to have really good instincts. I’ve seen this behavior in action (actually focused on a man who turned out to be possessive/controlling/bordering on abusive to his girlfriend) and it is a thing to behold.

        • jannatwrites June 7, 2011 / 9:24 PM

          Interesting, Jen. I’ve never paid attention men and their number of friends. It sounds like it could be as reliable as having the man pass the family dog inspection (if the dog growls, the man’s out.)

          I think my little one may be having some trouble making friends because he whines (a lot) and cries easily. Of course, this is what I see when he’s at home, he could be different in the real world.

  2. Debbie June 7, 2011 / 7:58 AM

    Yikes, Janna, I’m with you — I’d probably freak out! I don’t think we can be too careful these days. There are adults who hurt children, unfortunately, and those children never seem to outgrow what’s done to them.
    I’m sure your kids’ camp must have adult supervisors/counselors. Perhaps a word spoken in confidence to one of them while dropping off or picking up your sons would be appropriate? Nothing accusatory, of course, just a word of concern (and perhaps a gentle suggestion that they try harder to involve your boys in group activities with the other campers, rather than sitting with the bus driver?)

    • jannatwrites June 7, 2011 / 5:07 PM

      The counselors are all college-aged students (from what I’ve seen.) They look really young (which is a sign I’m getting older, but that’s beside the point ;)) I’ve thought about talking to them, but I didn’t want to come off as an over-protective freak of a parent who watches too many sensationalized news stories. That’s why I tested the waters here to see what others thought. After hubby comes back with his report on the bus driver, this could very well be my next step. Thanks for offering your suggestions, Debbie!

  3. momsomniac June 7, 2011 / 8:16 AM

    I’d feel as you do; I would also talk to the counselors. And I would ask if the bus driver has a child at the camp.

    I am a terribly silly (and short) adult who is often asked by children if I am a grown-up or a kid. Usually after they ask me to guess what’s in their pocket or what they got for their birthday and I answer “A giraffe? Wait no – a hippopatomus????” As a result, there are MANY children who refer to me as a “friend” who often don’t process that I am present with my own kids. I know there are men who enjoy the company of kids as much *and as innocently* as I do, but they are treated with a much higher level of suspicion (and before we had 3 kids, stay-at-home Dad Mr. Coffee got “the eye” ANY time he took M to the playground).

    I do hope that’s the case here. But I will admit, the lurking terror would be in my heart as well. In fact, even without an adult friend to worry me, fearing what you fear here keeps me up on many many nights!

    Hugs to you and good luck!

    • jannatwrites June 7, 2011 / 5:16 PM

      I’ve seen the bias against men, as well, Momsomniac. It’s sad for the dads out there! The reality is that gender doesn’t make someone safe or unsafe. Where I live, it’s coming out more often of women (often teachers) having relationships with their male students. The counselors are young college-aged kids and I’ve not gotten a bad vibe from any of them (male or female,) but they haven’t been referred to as “friends” either…

      • Momsomniac June 8, 2011 / 9:30 AM

        Sadly, I did encounter several predators at an early age, and was lucky enough that I was only in their sites BEFORE they escalated to actual physical activity (and in one case, I was slightly too young to be on the radar).

        That said, I think it has given me decent “radar” for this. There is only one person in my sons lives right now that I am suspicious of, she is female, and a parent. There are reasons I cannot oust her from our lives (that I won’t go into because this would identify her, and this is a very SERIOUS thing to suspect about someone) but they are not allowed to be alone with her either. I do think they are safe with her UNTIL they are teens, and I am aware I could be VERY WRONG, but I am not taking that chance.

        • jannatwrites June 8, 2011 / 11:07 PM

          That’s a tough situation, Momsomniac. Since this is a person that cannot be avoided, I think it’s good that you are cautious to prevent something from happening. Personally, I’d rather be wrong in suspecting someone than wrong because I DIDN’T suspect them.

          I wish you the best in keeping your children safe 🙂

  4. SAS Fiction Girl June 7, 2011 / 9:23 AM

    Because of the high level of awareness these days of child predators, many child-centered organizations thoroughly screen the folks who work for them.
    That doesn’t guarantee someone won’t slip through the cracks, of course, and for that reason parents do have a right to set boundaries as you did.

    It’s important to remember that not everyone who works around kids is out to get them. And I am not sure I understand the significance of asking (as a commenter suggested) whether the bus driver has a child at the camp. CHILDLESS (like me) does not equal PREDATOR. Also, PARENT does not equal SAFE. How many children are sexually abused by their own parents? Plenty. And sometimes those abusers pick on their kids’ friends, as well. So let us put to rest the notion that a childless person is automatically trouble. The fact that we don’t have kids of our own does not confer upon us a sexual attraction to children (who, by the way, are among some of the uncleanest creatures on earth at times.)

    At the other end of the trust/fear spectrum is the fact that because I am single and trustworthy, I’m often the one called upon to babysit while everyone else goes out and has fun. So…that’s not cool either.

    End of rant.

    One approach you could take is to tell your children that you want them to spend their time at camp making friends with kids their own age. After childhood ends, there is plenty of time left to hang out with the grownups.

    • momsomniac June 7, 2011 / 10:37 AM

      SAS Fiction,

      I didn’t mean to imply that parent meant safe. I apologize that it came across that way.

      I know that all you say is true. Of my adult friends who have watched my kids, NONE have children (and they volunteered, and I gratefully accepted). My sister has no children and she is certainly not a predator, nor is her husband. It is my understanding that most child predators are married men in their 50s, and often they have kids. I don’t know that those stats still hold, but it rings true for every predator that crossed MY path as a child.

      What I meant was that what can SOUND like an adult lurking about can be an adult hanging out with their OWN kids and talking to the other kids. I thought my story after the comment made that clear (that kids often talked about ME as if I was this adult hanging around when I was actually present with my chidlren) but I guess not.

      • SAS Fiction Girl June 7, 2011 / 1:15 PM

        I see what you’re saying. I understood about the story of you and the kids, but I honestly didn’t realize you were referring to the bus driver as well, because (in my mind) I would guess he’s just there as an employee and not also as a parent. 🙂

        • Momsomniac June 7, 2011 / 1:46 PM

          Oh ~ yes, I meant that he might be a really engaged Dad who loves kids & jumped on the opportunity to drive the bus and hang with his kids at camp. (I suppose I could have just said THAT!:)

          Thanks for the response; I felt terrible about it seeming I was implying ANYTHING regarding having or not having children.

    • momsomniac June 7, 2011 / 11:19 AM

      I became a parent for the first time at age 39, so trust me, I do know what you are talking about as far as how folks without kids are perceived (and only one friend ever actually trusted me to watch her son).

      The comment that didn’t set well with you should have come AFTER my story about ME talking with kids to be a bit more clear. Again, my apologies.

    • jannatwrites June 7, 2011 / 5:31 PM

      First of all, I don’t think that everyone is out to get my children (I’m not that paranoid, yet!) In fact, it’s never come up before. The day camp is run by the city and kids from the elementary school they attend go there. I’m more worried about my younger son because it’s his first time at camp and he hasn’t started Kindergarten yet, so he doesn’t have kid friends yet.

      I’m with you on the fact that having children doesn’t make someone automatically okay. I had a (male) teacher in elementary school that would make you sit on his lap to ask a question about the classwork. That was creepy…and would’ve been creepy regardless of whether the teacher was male or female. He also had a daughter in the same grade as me. Nothing ever happened (to me, at least) but then again, I only asked a question once! I never mentioned it my parents because the last thing I wanted was for them to embarrass me by going to the school.

      My best friend and her husband don’t have children (by choice) and her husband also happens to be a teacher. I don’t think they would do anything to my children (or others,) but I also haven’t asked them to babysit my children (mostly because I want to keep them as friends ;))

      I like your suggestion about encouraging them to make friends with kids their own age. I’ll see how that goes.

      P.S. I laughed at your statement about children being the most unclean creatures on earth – so true, and SO not attractive 😉

  5. Aligaeta June 7, 2011 / 9:39 AM

    I had to walk away and think about this for a while. Then I came back and read the comments from others.

    After my oldest daughter graduated from HS it had come out that Mr. E, her favorite teacher whose classroom she hung out in after school with some friends while waiting for drama, was charged for having sexual relationship with one of the students. This was a married man and father of three or four. It was shocking!

    Meanwhile there was a music teacher in the district that was let go for nothing more than fears that something might happen between him and his students because apparently there are a lot of homophobics in my community.

    I worked in another the school district for eight years and was accused of pushing a student. All I recalled of that day when the student was under my supervision was that I had tripped over another child’s foot and stumbled catching my balance. If I had accidentally bumped into this other student I have no recollection. Here my thoughts were: after working so hard toward my education and ability to support my own children if I were to be investigated it would tarnish my ability to work in both education and healthcare. These are lousy paying fields most who work in children and family services, the allied health services and education are the best and most compassionate people who do not get the respect they deserve because there are also predators in our society.

    The kids all enjoyed hanging out with me, I worked recreation and I’d listen to them truly interested in their stories it passed the day, perhaps the bus driver feels the same. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the company of the people you serve. In fact it should be looked upon in a positive manner.

    There you have the other side of the coin. I think you handled the situation well. Let the boys know they are not allowed to be alone with any adult and if an adult makes them feel uncomfortable or touches them inappropriately they need to tell another adult and of course you. While your eyes are on the bus driver it might be the counselor who you should have been watching.

    Wishing you the best!

    • jannatwrites June 7, 2011 / 5:50 PM

      It’s hard to imagine that teachers (whom you entrust with your children each day) could step over the line, but it happens often in our area too. I think that the children and the adults who work with them should enjoy each others company, but I also believe that there are physical boundaries that should apply.

      I remember when my older son was six, he had a well-check appointment, and as the pediatrician checked him over, she said that the only people that should ever see his “privates” were his parents and the doctor, but only if his parents were in the room and said it was okay. When we left, my hubby quizzed my son while driving home about who was allowed to see his privates, and he said, “my parents, the doctor and my teachers.” My eyes grew big as saucers and I looked at my hubby. He calmly asked if a teacher had ever seen or touched him and he said no, to my great relief. Of course we had futher discussion to clear up the confusion.

      You are right that the person who is on our radar may not be the threat at all – it could be someone (anyone) else. That thought isn’t comforting, but it is reality. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Aligaeta. I appreciate your input!

  6. pattyabr June 7, 2011 / 11:04 AM

    You are not being too cautious. Interestingly, there have been reports and indictments of adults who worked in the same places where my children went to grade school, worked alongside, and involved in sports or extracurricular activities. It happens. When these reports have splashed into the local papers I’ll ask my now grown children if they knew that adult, etc. The two adults in the grade school setting, both my children couldn’t even remember an encounter with or who they were. (SIGH of relief). One person my son had worked alongside in a job setting and was really shocked. The final adult accused in the papers was a beloved teacher of my daughter’s and was shocked and saddened. She never found anything to be inappropriate ever.

    In my church, my husband and I work with children, we now have to take classes about appropriate/inappropriate behavior towards children and get a background check completed.

    I think it would be extremely difficult to be a teacher these days, especially without experience in dealing with children from preschool to 12th grade and having good mature boundaries – emotional and physical. But you are right as a parent to be the monitor. It’s also difficult being a parent in these times when these issues are all around you and they catch you and your children by surprise.

    • jannatwrites June 7, 2011 / 8:10 PM

      It’s hard for me because I don’t want to hurt an innocent person’s feelings by suggesting I think they would even consider doing anything inappropriate. However, I don’t know who’s innocent and who’s a potential threat to my children. Just like you’ve described in the examples you gave, my biggest fear is that someone will pass under my radar, despite my best efforts. I don’t want to be shocked or surprised to find out that a person I trusted was not worthy of it.

      Thanks for adding your input, Patty. I’m glad that you shared your experiences both as a parent and as someone who works with children.

  7. nrhatch June 7, 2011 / 11:19 AM

    I would want to meet the bus driver and find out how long he’s been helping at the camp. I might ask about the movie to see how he responds:

    My son mentioned that he sat with you to watch the movie . . . did you enjoy it?

    And I’d do what you did ~ encourage my sons to make friends their own ages and not spend time “alone” with the bus driver.

    • jannatwrites June 7, 2011 / 8:22 PM

      I don’t get home from work early enough to catch the bus driver, but my hubby does. Thursday is the next off-site activity, so he’s going to check it out. I talked to my younger son again tonight and it seems he’s having trouble making friends (older brother may not be helping out here.) Tomorrow I’ll chat with my older son alone to get his perspective on how his brother interacts at camp. My fear is that not having a circle of friends makes him an easy target.

      Thanks for your suggestions, Nancy. The direct approach is good, so he knows we are paying attention.

  8. crumbl June 7, 2011 / 11:20 AM

    I can understand your angst, JT. There is a lot of malevolence in the world and kids make convenient targets.

    I don’t have kids, I never wanted kids, I don’t particularly care for kids; however, I did date, years before LRHG, a woman who ran, from home, a day care, so I was subjected to them. Found myself thrown into the oddest, most, for me, uncomfortable, situations. I picked two of the kids (twins) up from kindergarten every day, we had them sleep over when mom had to travel on business (and they really didn’t want to go home), I took them to skating lessons, mom would call me at 10 PM when they wouldn’t listen to her and go to bed … etc.

    I’m not, by any means, kid friendly, but it doesn’t mean I’d ever do anything to hurt one. Maybe the bus driver is just a nice guy who likes kids. Maybe not. Err on the side of caution, but keep an open mind.

    • jannatwrites June 7, 2011 / 8:32 PM

      Crumbl, I laughed at your wording, “subjected to them” – it sounds miserable! I wonder if kids are like cats – they gravitate to people who show no interest in them? I think I’d avoid the phone after getting an after-hours call because the kids wouldn’t go to bed. I hear duct tape is frowned upon, but there had to be some other way she could get the job done…

      I’d like to think the man just enjoyed being around children. I do hope that is the case.

  9. SAS Fiction Girl June 7, 2011 / 1:22 PM

    Well, I can’t wait to hear from Janna to see whether we made her feel better or freaked her out even more. 🙂

    • jannatwrites June 7, 2011 / 5:53 PM

      I feel much better. I’m calling the police now.

      Only kidding 🙂

      I did like the back-and-forth discussion between you and Momsomniac clarifying the intent of her comment. I’m glad you guys felt comfortable enough to engage in the dialogue!

      • Momsomniac June 8, 2011 / 10:05 AM

        I have (gratefully) found your other readers/commenters to be VERY receptive to clarification and dialogue. It’s a refreshing thing to find on the internet. So far, I have found that your commenters all have really fun blogs too – I read a thriller on SAS’s blog yesterday and really enjoyed it.

        Please keep us posted on what happens here. This is something that I think all parents worrry about.

        • jannatwrites June 8, 2011 / 11:13 PM

          Jen does have interesting stories. The only problem is that she needs to post more of them 😉

          I’m so glad so many “nice” people hang around here. It makes blogging so much more addictive fun!

  10. carldagostino June 7, 2011 / 1:47 PM

    they seem to be nice so they might hurt you seems OK enough caution to give a child. Kids are pretty hip to this at a very early age. In Miami I don’t have to worry so much about them(grandkids) being picked up – it’s that far too often screeching stray bullet from the drive-bys. I have used “It is not good to be alone with any adult that is not a family member. Always have at least one friend with you at all times. If you are alone and the adult falls down, you won’t be able to help the person if you are alone.”

    • jannatwrites June 7, 2011 / 8:46 PM

      Miami sounds like it can be rough. We have certain areas of town that are more prone to the drive-by shootings. Luckily, our area of town is quiet.

      I hadn’t thought about telling them they should have friends with them to help the adult if they fall down. Clever. Thanks for the idea, Carl!

  11. Carol Ann Hoel June 7, 2011 / 2:45 PM

    I think it is normal to be concerned, and I think you handled it well. I suppose the bus driver had to sit somewhere during this event, yet, I understand your questions. I’m not sure what you should do. You did caution the boys, so perhaps this is enough. If camp goes on for the entire summer, you may need to satisfy yourself about it in some way. Blessings to you, Janna…

    • jannatwrites June 7, 2011 / 8:58 PM

      You’re right, the bus driver would have to sit somewhere. I’d prefer it was behind the children, though 🙂

      The camp does go the entire summer, so I’m hoping he is able to make friends his own age soon. It’s only been a couple weeks.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts about it, Carol.

  12. widdershins June 7, 2011 / 4:56 PM

    Think about going straight to the horses mouth and talking to the bus driver. State your concerns and take it from there.
    You’ve got nothing to lose, and a great deal to gain by a face-to-face chat.

  13. jannatwrites June 7, 2011 / 9:07 PM

    I agree that there lis much to be gained by the direct approach, but I’m not comfortable because I don’t want my concerns to come off as accusations. My hubby, however, has no issues saying what’s on his mind and isn’t bothered by how the other person reacts.

    I handled the second grade discipline issues and phone call from the principal…I think I’ll let hubby field this one 😉

    Thanks for visiting and sharing your suggestion, Widdershins!

  14. Blossom Dreams June 15, 2011 / 3:05 AM

    I don’t have children, so can only imagine how difficult it must be….and your concerns, sadly, are very real in this world we live in.

    Chances are, this driver is a good soul and could possibly be another good role model for your son…some of the best lessons I learnt in life are from other adults, and not from my own parents.

    I think if I were in your position, I would quietly do a bit of research on the man; it would not hurt and it would put your mind at ease. Also, the fact you son refers to the man as a friend, does not mean that the man sees your son as a friend – he might just be being nice to all of the kids in the same way.

    Chloe xx

    • jannatwrites June 15, 2011 / 7:51 PM

      I really do hope he is a good soul, Chloe. I’m still not completely at ease, but I don’t have enough reason to be overly worried yet. I know that probably doesn’t make sense! We’re watching from a distance and encouraging friendships with children – there’s not much more we can do right now.

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