Thursday, June 20, 2013

Keeping Them Safe

When my big girl was little, about six or seven years old, she went with her brothers and her father to watch Simchas Beis Hashoeva in Crown Heights. I stayed home, with whoever was the baby at the time, to prepare for Yom Tov.

It was crowded and hard for little ones to see. So my big girl and one of my boys climbed up one of the police barricades that lined the street. She loves music - she sang before she talked - and she was thoroughly enjoying herself.

I don't remember the details - it was so long ago. There probably weren't very many details. My big girl was standing on the barricade, when she felt someone touch her - inappropriately. She turned around, but didn't see who it was, and assumed she imagined it or that someone brushed against her by mistake. She turned back to watch the dancing, and someone touched her again. Again, when she turned around, she couldn't see who it was, and she turned back. When it happened a third time, she climbed down and went to stand near my husband.

She didn't think to say anything about it until they were driving home, and then she just mentioned it casually. It didn't seem to be a big deal to her.

My normally mild mannered husband was livid. He wanted to turn around and go right back there and kill the guy who touched her. He didn't. He was still able to think clearly enough to realize there was no way he'd find him. And kill him.

My kids were so surprised at his reaction, they still talk about it sometimes. They couldn't understand it. In their minds, it was a tremendous overreaction. They still think he overreacted. All these years later, all those conversations about good touch and bad touch...about personal safety, all those stories they've heard over the years - they still don't fully get it.

My little boy loves seforim. He collects them, buys them whenever he has any money, and spends hours in the local seforim store. When his friend told him about the very large library of seforim in his shul, my son couldn't wait to check it out.

Last Shabbos afternoon, he headed out to the shul.

"Don't stay there if you're the only one there," I warned him. "Or if there's only one other person."

"Or two people," my husband added. "Come home if there are only two other people there,"

My big kids snickered. Here were their parents overreacting again.

"You'd think I was going to a dangerous place," my little boy laughed. "I'm going to shul."

They all laughed.

This summer, my little boy is going to camp for the first time. I'm worried. I always worried when I sent my kids to camp. Sure, I'll talk to him before he goes. It won't be the first time we've had that conversation. I've talked to him about all of this many times. As I have with all of my kids. But I really don't think he gets it. I don't think he can. I don't think any of them did, and I wonder to what extent they do - even now.

If they can't understand why I don't want my little boy alone in a quiet shul, how much do they really understand? If they think a father's anger at the person who touched his little girl is an overreaction, how much do they grasp? Do they really get it?

And if they don't get it, how safe are they? I can talk and explain and tell him everything I am supposed to, but will that protect my little boy? Will anything protect him? If he doesn't really grasp it...if he can't understand the safe is he?

I will do my part. I will talk to him. And I will overreact when I feel it is necessary. But it's not enough.

I am asking You, Hashem - begging You - please watch my little boy, and all the other sweet and innocent little boys and girls. Please protect them and keep them safe. I am sending my little boy away from home, away from my care, and I am entrusting him to You. Only You can keep him safe. Only You can protect him.

He is Your child - these are Your children. Don't let anyone harm them - please.


  1. My parents were paranoid before there was even such publicized reason. In my case, I was scared out of my wits of the outside world, but I would admit that as a child, I would accept the word of an adult over my own instincts.

    That's children for you; in the end, some things cannot be avoided. Like any hishtadlus, there is only so much one can do, and pray to the Eibishter for the rest.

    1. That's what scares me. I think most kids accept the word of an adult over their instincts.
      But you're right. We do what we can and we pray for the rest.

  2. I think any child can't fully get it. You're looking at it from a different perspective than they are. But aside from warning them, I think the best thing you can do for your children is give them the assurance that it's safe for them to come to you if they feel uncomfortable about anything that's happened. Of course they need to know how to react if touched, but they also need to have a safe address for AFTER. And you've definitely given them that by your "overreaction."

    And amen to your last line!

    1. No, a child can't fully get it. And, as Devorah said, I don't want them to ever fully get it. I don't want there to ever be an "after".

  3. Kids will always be kids...and innocent kids will not be able to fully get it no matter how much they are spoken to. Let's hope and pray they stay innocent. You don't want them to get to a point where they really get it.

    Your children are lucky to have you-for so many reasons :) This post is another one of them! You are able to speak to them about this and not shy away from things that too many parents leave hanging because of discomfort or whatever. And when you give them the it comes from you, you make them feel that you are the safe place for them to go to IF chas v'shalom something happens that makes them uncomfortable. I hope you never get to that...but like I was're kids are lucky. :)

    That is a beautiful prayer. May Hashem answer it for you and for all the parents sending their boys and girls away from their protective homes...and keep all these children safe.

  4. Honestly, not really anyhting to add. It's a terrifying thing to even have to post this. I'll reserve my comments about your last line. :)

  5. It's honestly terrifying. Just this past week I found out that a guy I know is in trouble with the law for sexual misconduct with a minor while he was a counselor in an overnight camp. There really isn't all that much one can do as locking your kids up isn't an option. One can only hope and pray, as well as educate their children about what to do if god forbid such an event occurs.

    1. This is what scares me. This guy you know...would you ever have imagined he would do that? Can we ever know who would?

  6. Good for you for being a vigilante pro-active parent. Sometimes role modeling will help your child understand how to react. I don't mean do something inappropriate, chas v'shalom. I mean tell him, "If someone does/says this, you react by saying/doing this". I also think Artscroll has published a beautiful children's book that addresses this is a sublte, refined manner.
    Any way we look at it, it is painful to us as parents that we have to educate our children about evil in the world. And almost teach them to be cautious or suspicious about all adults. But B'H most kids are matter of fact and can handle the "talk", and most kids, I hope, don't have bad experiences.
    I wish the schools would FINALLY address this as a campaign across the board. Every yeshiva kid knows about shmiras halashon, let's teach them about privacy, kedushas haguf, also.

    1. I hate to say this...but that's exactly what I'm trying to do - teach them to be cautious or suspicious of all adults. It doesn't seem to work, though. Kids are trusting.

      And I'm not counting on the schools to do anything about that...

  7. Great post and I agree with everything you say but want to point out something. you said:

    "My kids were so surprised at his reaction, they still talk about it sometimes. They couldn't understand it. In their minds, it was a tremendous overreaction. They still think he overreacted. All these years later, all those conversations about good touch and bad touch...about personal safety, all those stories they've heard over the years - they still don't fully get it."

    I think if you have little kids, over-reacting in front of them is a bad idea. If a parent wants open communication with kids, it's best to show trust and love. Being over reactive might cause anxiousness, a reason a child might clam up. Just a thought.

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