My Way to Promote Child Safety, Keep Grown Men Away From the Park!
A few weeks ago at my son's T-Ball game, something a little scary happened (and it had nothing to do with his team's Bad News Bears style of playing). At some point during the game, I noticed a middle aged man carrying a small dog in his arms, standing next to our bleachers, watching the game. I glanced over at "our team's" bleachers, looking for perhaps another person he was with... and then to the field to perhaps a child he was actually there for... Something seemed off... Strange. I felt like he didn't belong. It was a thousand degrees out... He didn't have a leash, a bowl of water or anything "parent" like with him indicating that he was there watching/waiting for a child he knew (a water bottle, a bag of snacks, a bag AT ALL, etc.). He appeared to me to be lurking....
All of a sudden, as parents around me are rooting for our team and shouting their child's name, I realized that I didn't want my son's name being yelled. I was gripped with paranoia... I didn't want this crazy man with a fluffy little dog knowing my boy's name! What if this guy is a predator...? What if this dog is his "candy" that he uses to lure the children in? Believe me, my son's focus on the field is pretty non-existent. A dog could easily make him lose his train of thought-- at first base -- and run off the field. I've seen it happen, trust me. All I could think about though, was WHY IS THIS MAN HERE?!
Eventually he left... before the game was up and without a child or another adult from either of the teams' bleachers. Did this confirm my worst suspicion?
Then it happened again a few weeks later... Only this time, it was another man.... and he was without a little toy prop (dog). Midway through the game, he strolled in and stood next to the bleachers. He too made no contact with any adult and didn't seem to be rooting for one team or child in particular. Dressed in an odd (and creepy) looking all-black outfit (again, it was seven thousand degrees out), AND a fanny pack, my "WTF is wrong with people" radar went WAY up. First of all, let's address the fanny pack thing here. Unless you're running or walking in a marathon, or maaaaaaybe rocking one as chic as Rachel Zoe, NO one should ever, I repeat EVER, carry a fanny pack! It screams CREEP CENTRAL!
Secondly, if you're a grown man and at a park on a weekend day, unless you're there to run/walk (and are actually doing so), you have NO business stopping and staying to watch children play... on a playground, on a field, on ANYTHING! HONESTLY. I mean that. It's not like any of these kids are worthy of scouts. This is T-Ball! They suck!!! And even at the 8 or 9 year old level, if you're a legitimate coach or scout, then you probably aren't showing up with a) a dog and b) a fanny pack and sunglasses from 1962. KEEP AWAY.
I realize I tend to live in a state of "the world is coming to an end,” (friends and family cue your nods here)… But honestly, my gut says something was off. Believe me, I'm all for a world where kids play freely and without adults... where we feel safe enough a la Lenore Skenazy and the Free Range Kids movement to let our children roam without fear. I WANT that for my son. I want that for his life and mine. But I'm scared to let my guard down. I'm scared about trusting strangers and the big (possibly) bad boogy man....
Do you think I'm right? Do you think I have a reason to be concerned or nervous?
Share your feelings and experiences about this too!