Last week, my eight-year old crashed on his bike. He plays drama to the hilt, so even a stubbed toe comes across as I’m-about-to-die, with a pain level of 85 on a scale of 1 to 10. I always check for broken bones and send him on his way- lingering will just encourage him to cry longer.
He’d just lost the scabs on his face from a skateboard crash a couple weeks prior, so I wasn’t surprised when he came hobbling in the house with my older son right behind him. Doubled over, my younger son announced he fell on his bike. He lifted up his shirt, and sure enough, there was a scrape. (With the way he screamed, I expected his intestines to be hanging out of the wound or something equally horrifying.) After I sent him to rest on the couch, I caught sight of a car outside.
“Um, why is there a red car in our driveway?” I asked.
“An old lady gave him a ride home,” my older son said.
My eyebrows shot up to my hairline. “What? You know you’re not supposed to get in the car with strangers!”
“She’s an old grandma,” my younger said through whimpers.
So I went outside to meet this supposed not-a-creepy-kidnapper-killer-grandma. She didn’t look familiar and I’ve not seen her around. It turns out, she dog-sits for a woman who lives down the street. She thought it was funny that after my son got inside the car, he turned to her and asked, “You’re not going to kidnap me, are you?”
It’s sweet that he had the innocence to think a kidnapper would say, “Why yes, kid, you’re never going home. I’m going to take you, do horrible things to you and leave you in the desert.” I love his innocence, but it’s a dangerous thing. After the woman left, I had a chat with the kids.
To my younger son:
Me: “You seriously asked if she was going to kidnap you- AFTER you got inside the car?”
Son: “She said she wouldn’t.”
Me: “You think a kidnapper is going to tell you the truth?”
To my older son:
Me: “And you let him get in the car?”
Son: “I didn’t want to be rude.”
Me: “You don’t have a problem with rude any other time. This morning, you told me I looked fat.”
It’s alarming to discover they didn’t get the message we thought we’d conveyed. From a kid’s point of view, I can see the confusion. We teach them to respect adults and be polite, but then if one gets too close, we expect them to push away- even if it’s rude. Reading social cues is hard. I know adults who haven’t mastered it.
Yes, we have more work to do.
Now, I’m off to make sure they understand that if someone pulls up in a car offering candy in exchange for help finding a lost a dog, they shouldn’t approach the window and ask, “What kind of candy?”