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The Talk

May 3, 2010

I didn't know you meant that kind of action

Well, the time has come for me to have The Talk with my kids–no, not The Sex Talk, which strangely doesn’t intimidate me in the least. The Talk I’m facing here is the one where you tell your kids that there are people in the world who want to lure them into their cars and take them away. I’ve tried versions of this talk before, but now an incident in our neighborhood has made it important that I get a little more comprehensive.

My son’s school is a few block away from our house. It’s a large, diverse K-8 in an urban-ish area of Brookline, MA, with a playground that borders the town’s busiest street. Some guy recently walked up to a kid on the playground, asked him where he lived and physically lifted him up. Then I guess he put the kid down a block or two away and disappeared.

Now, in the past, when I’ve brought this up, my kids–my son in particular, but not much less so my daughter–have loved the topic. Once I get to the basic idea of making noise, fighting back etc., my son gets a far-away look and says something like, “So, if someone tries to take me, can I… hit him?”

“Oh, yeah,” I say. “As hard as you can.”

“And can I kick him?”

“Yup.”

“And bite him? And punch him in the penis?”

“That’s one of the best places to punch him.”

“And rip his ears off?”

“Uh, well–“

“And cut his arms off like in Star Wars? Oh, and I’ll get a rock and hit him on the face! And then I’ll get one of your baseball bats–“

“Well, yeah, that’s all good, but the main thing is to–“

“And then when he tries to say he’s sorry, I’ll take my scooter, because you know how it really hurts when it swings around and hits me in the shins? Well, I’ll take that and I’ll…”

He has a zest for the subject.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s any safer. I think he just likes the idea of being freed from our constant, boring “don’t hit people” mantra. At this point, I think he’s sort of rooting for an abduction attempt.

Life is fraught with peril, of course, and the truth is that parents can never really protect their children from everything (the longer I do this parenting thing, in fact, the more convinced I become that we actually have control over nothing at all). But I think the reason I dread this particular talk is because what I’ll be saying to them, in essence, will be: It’s true–there are things in the world I can’t protect you from.

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