Thursday, May 21, 2009

You always trust your gut

Yesterday, as we do every day that it is nice after school, we prepared ourselves to head to the park just down the street from our house. The kids gulped back their sliced fruit, eager with anticipation for what was to come. Things 1 and 2 raced out the front door, donned their bicycle helmets (hey, I've instilled safety first in these boys!), and raced down the street. I struggled to keep up with my two speedy cyclists as I barreled down the road with two one-year-olds in our red Radio Flyer wagon.

The park, a mere two hundred metres from our house, is a complete ray of beauty in our busy neighbourhood. It is wide, open, hilly, grassy and bursting with various areas in which to play. There are two sets of swings, one for older children, one for babies and toddlers, and two climbing play structures with slides. There are trees and paths for hide-and-seek, a gigantic hill for tobogganing in the winter, and paved paths for rollerblading or biking. It's a serene little piece of existence nestled in this mostly peaceful community.

As the Things and I closed in on the edge of the park, I abruptly noticed a strange man sitting on one of the benches beside the large play structure. I didn't recognize him, and I didn't know him. (And I am *that* nosy and chatty mother in the neighbourhood who knows everyone, chats to everyone, is up on all the gossip, and is aware at every moment of her park visit which child belongs to which parent or provider.)

My eyes did a quick scan of the park to see if the man was accompanied by any children.

He wasn't.

He had a small coffee cup sitting next to him on the bench. He was also smoking. This made me uncomfortable, as the Things have basically never seen anyone smoking before. (I'm not sure why that is, I think it's just the way circumstances have worked out for them at this young age and in today's more health-conscious society.) His clothing looked worn and slightly ragged . . . largely uncharacteristic for this middle-income neighbourhood.

I instantly resented that he was taking a small piece of innocence away from my park. My safe haven. Our sanctuary.

I refused to make eye contact with him. I couldn't bring myself to do it. I instantly, with my whole entire being, didn't trust him. I wouldn't - couldn't - shouldn't give him the benefit of the doubt on the very same afternoon that I had just learned that a man and a woman had been arrested for the murder of Tori Stafford. But that police had still not found her body.

Has our society evolved to the point that I cannot possibly fathom that this man is just out on a beautiful, sunny afternoon enjoying the natural beauty of our local park? Am I so tainted with negativity, skeptism, and fear that I automatically passed judgment and assumed he had bad intentions? That he was watching my children, preying on them, searching for clues to identify us and try to decipher where we live, which house is ours, which car is ours, what time do we go to sleep . . . at what times of day we are most vulnerable?

Yes, it has. If it happened to Tori Stafford, then I'm afraid it could happen to any of our children. And the only way to be vigilent and feel confident that we are doing our ultimate best as mothers to protect our young is to be suspicious, doubtful, untrusting - and to make others earn our trust. To make others work for it.

And so, yesterday afternoon I left our neighbourhood park with a heavy heart. I stayed glued to my children's sides the entire time the man sat on the bench, not allowing them to run free and play until he had left, walked to the edge of the park and was safely out of my line of vision. If he was just a man taking a break in his day, stopping for a moment to pause this insanity that we call life and enjoy a cup of coffee and a cigarrette, then I apologize.

But my gut told me something else, and once you become a mom, you always trust your gut.

17 comments:

amanda said...

oh the power of the mom gut...it's crazy isn't it??

Loukia said...

Good for you for trusting your mom gut, Shannon. He sounded totally out of place, if you ask me. I would have been concerned and skeptical about him. Especially with the terrible news about that little girl. And there was an almost abduction in the east end a little while ago, too - a man walked in to a daycare (I think it was a daycare) and tried to take a little girl. Staff wouldn't let him, and he left. Scary as all hell! I worry constantly about my children's safety, and I am always outside with them, and nearby them at the park. I hover, for sure. Also, they're still so young, so of course I do not leave them alone, but the thought of sending my son to school next year worries me constantly!

Amber said...

Have you read "Protecting the Gift" by Gavin de Becker? If you haven't, I highly recommend it. He would agree with you on trusting your gut, and making others earn your trust. Discounting the cues you pick up on for politeness sake is not the way to go.

Capital Mom said...

I've had that moment too at our park. Now I wish that I had gone up to the man and let him know that I saw him and was watching him. I am just too shy. But next time I feel like that I plan to make the person aware that I am there and ask his name and make him uncomfortable.
Good for you for trusting your ut.

Peggy said...

I would have done the exact same thing!

You're SO smart, in trusting your Mommy instincts! We gotta protect our 'lil baby cubs, right? :o)

Chantal said...

Your gut is the way to go.

BeachMama said...

Stick with your gut, there have been a few incidents in our city lately. If you were wrong, you were wrong but you would never forgive yourself if you didn't keep an eye on him and something happened. Good for you for staying, I would have turned and went home, calling Hubby on the cell as I went...

Jen said...

It is sad but the bottom line is that it is better to be safe than sorry.

Rebecca said...

How scary. Way to trust your gut. If he was just taking a break, he doesn't know why you left, but if he wasn't...you more than did the right thing.

I live in Orleans and with everything happening like Loukia said, I hate not being comfortable in our own neighbourhoods. How sad. But my family's safety comes first.

Shan said...

Always best to trust your gut. Scary stuff. Especially right now.

cabadov said...

I agree, it's sad that we try to raise our kids to be open and non-judgmental of others yet the world isn't as nice as we'd like it to be sometimes and that colours us. Don't get me wrong, I would have done the same thing you did Shannon, but sometimes I hate it that other deviants have brought us down from our happy, carefree life in the park. But it would be nothing compared to the guilt if I had let my guard down, due to politeness, and something had happened. You're wise to stick to your gut.

Kami's Khlopchyk said...

I hear you, trust no one is my mantra. I am with Beach Mama, I would have left. I am chicken like that.

Great post!

Anti-Supermom said...

Shannon, you wrote what many of us mothers feel when we see someone out of context. Good for you, it makes you so honest, so human and well, gutsy.

That's what my gut is telling me about you~

Anonymous said...

I am reading this article second time today, you have to be more careful with content leakers. If I will fount it again I will send you a link

Anonymous said...

It is useful to try everything in practice anyway and I like that here it's always possible to find something new. :)

Anonymous said...

I really like when people are expressing their opinion and thought. So I like the way you are writing

Scrapbooker said...

When I saw Crafty Mom I was thinking it would be about scrapbooking! Still a good post and photo of the butterfly craft. Thanks!

 
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