Walking to the corner I keep an eye on the other end of our road for the bus. Eventually it comes, lumbering down the street to drop off our kiddos from another day at school just a quick 3 suburban blocks from our front door.
The pavement wet from last night’s rain, I clutch the handle of my shabby umbrella and wait. A neighbor’s silver car pulls up, much like he did the other day, window down to speak with me. Last week he did the same, to assure me my kids got off the bus and are coming. I’m not sure if he thinks I don’t own a watch, I’m blind and cannot see their bobbing heads coming toward me, or I’m just too lazy to go all the way down to the bus stop. I prepare to wave him off again, but he stops and says, “I told them to get in the car – that I would take them home, but they said you were on your way.”
A thousand thoughts flew through my mind.
I only know this man from the bus stop. I am certain he is fine, that there is no actual danger with this person, he was only trying to be kind since it was raining out. He has a child in the same school.
“YES! That is correct,” I say pointedly, more firm than polite at this point, as he continues on his way.
What if they had gotten in the car? What if the guy was a creep? What if they thought because we had had a couple of morning bus stop chats with this man and his son that it would be okay to go with them? Last night on the news a student at a nearby school was flashed at the bus stop. When was the last time we chatted about tricky people and stranger danger? OH MY GOD. This could happen so damn quickly.
I march quickly up to meet the kids and drop the umbrella to squeeze them both so tight as my throat constricts. “I am SO DARN proud of the two of you!”
Hannah, fumbling with her backpack straps looks up and questions why. I look at Jacob and smile. “The neighbor guy just told me he asked you guys to get in the car and you said no. That was the EXACT RIGHT THING to do!” Jacob grinned and related his version of events – all of which Hannah claims she didn’t hear, evidently ignoring her brother and his conversation as they were walking off the bus. We reviewed our family safety plan, that if we set a time and place to meet – that’s what we stick to. We don’t get in cars with neighbors, even if we’ve had a conversation or two, even if they are friendly. We talked more about the tricky people concept. It was a great opportunity to water those seeds I planted months ago, while praying I would never need them.
I am relieved this was not an actual situation, but being prepared and having the tools in their little tool belts will continue to keep them doing the exact right thing should a real situation present itself.
I breathe. We walk home. We do homework.
They move on.
I watch them and play with them and find I really don’t mind the 453rd game of monopoly quite so much today.