A little radio silence over the weekend until now. The hubby was so sick that I literally spent the weekend keeping the girls away from him and letting him rest. Never a way I want to spend a long weekend but he got rest, we got some time with Mimi (my mama) because we cannot risk Ami getting any type of infection. And then the gorgeous weather the last couple days has my mind wandering to spring!
I wanted to share a story that I tried to share on my Instagram stories but every time I tried to tell it live, this big ol' lump in my throat wouldn't let me. Bare with me, this is a long one!
So instead, I put the girls down for an afternoon nap and I cracked open my diet coke. And sat here typing out my story. Not for pity or support but for awareness. Because I got a little of a wakeup call this past Friday morning and everything could have gone really wrong. It left me with a knot in my stomach that is still sitting there. And to be honest, writing on this little space of mine allows me to cope with things in a way I had never imagined. So here goes.
On Friday our home was getting a deep cleaning (yay!!) so we headed out for donuts at our local farm and then a long drive to get that car nap in. Last minute I decided to jump on the highway and head to a store (edited to not include store name, DM me for the name) for some mirrors I have been wanting to look at for one of our bathrooms. With two kids in tow, no real lunch packed, I knew I pretty much had a ticking time bomb, so we toured the Easter stuff and then hit up the housewares.
Finally we saw the mirrors, took some photos and headed to the cashier counter. There was a man, he was so was out of place, his clothes were pretty dirty (think construction worker after work) standing behind us. He was probably in late 30's early 40's and 6ish feet tall. And he didn't appear to have anything in his hands but was standing in line behind us, and he was simply standing too close for comfort. I had Ami in my arms, and was giving Zoe a pep talk about this not being a toy buying trip, he kept making silly comments to Zoe about how cute the toys were and playing peek-a-boo with Ami, but never spoke to me. A part of me was like, at least they are entertained and no meltdowns happening!
But the other part of me kept thinking, WHY THE HELL is this man standing so close.
I sat Ami in cart to get our items on the counter and paid. Zoe proceeds to say goodbye to half the store and I promised her gummies if she got in the car seat without any issues. As we were crossing the parking lot a man called out for us and jogged up behind me. My stomach pretty much turned as I glanced over my shoulder and saw it was him again. But then I looked at the cart and thought, I must have forgotten something?!. He turned right to Zoe and said you were so good today that I bought you this. Whats your name, my name is Michael." Looking straight at Zoe and not me. He kept reaching out to shake Zoe's hand but I put my body between him and the girls. Zoe of course answers him, "my name is Zoe, this is for me. Wow!!!!".
I didn't want to seem rude so I reached out to shake his hand but he did not take it, he kept trying to go around me to shake Zoe's hand. Weird. Right? So f'ing weird. He then turns to Ami who was sitting in the shopping cart "and this is for you cutie, what's your name" Zoe promptly answers, "this is Ami but we call her Birdie". At this point all my mama instincts were screaming GET THE F OUT.
I glance quickly around the parking lot and there is a really beat up cadillac that had the engine running with a man in the driver seat, it was stopped behind us, close enough that I could touch it if I reached out. And I almost panicked. Every ounce of my being was saying my babies and I were in danger. He then said, "Zoe you had my heart right from the start." and he made a final attempt to shake her hand, mind you my kid really wants to shake his hand, because he bought her a stuffed animal. blehhh Can you hear the disgust in my voice? blehhh.
Zoe then replies, "mama we know his name, he is our friend! Can I keep it." I just grabbed her arm and said thank you sir we have to go.
His response, "were is your daddy? is he working?" I quickly answered he is right in that store (he was not) and we have to go because he is waiting for us. I grabbed my smiling toddler, Ami out of the cart and headed toward my car (which was not far) leaving my cart behind. He jumped into the back seat of the car that was waiting and it quickly backed up and left.
It took me about 3 minutes with us safely in the car and the doors locked to build the courage to get back out to grab my diaper bag and shopping bags. And when I did an older woman standing with her keys in her hand, said "that was really weird, are you ok". The only words that came out where, "oh my god, I am glad it wasn't just me that felt something was wrong." I jumped in the car, locked the door and quickly dialed my husband.
In hindsight I pretty much saw this man in every corner we turned, he was never super close but a few times he worked hard to get the girls to smile and made some silly comments. I think the only reason I even remembered was because he seemed SO OUT OF PLACE.
I have cried, and thought and cried some more about this. We have worked so hard to teach my daughter to be friendly, and kind. I've taught her not to stare or be mean. To share. To say thank you , excuse me and to shake hands when meeting someone. We've taught her to stay close when we are out because she may get lost, not because someone may try and take her. Which I am almost certain is what would have happened if my mama instincts didn't kick in right away.
I thought I had time to teach her about bad people, that do bad things for no real reason. I honestly thought I had more time. But what I learned a couple days ago, is that bad people still exist, even if we don't talk about them. The only way I can protect her is by having a plan. I honestly don't know what that plan is, or what I should say to her, or what book is going to help me. I do know that as dramatic as it may sound, that moment right there changed the way I'll be around strangers. And I hope it changes the way you will be also.
Shortly after we pulled out of the lot, my sweet Zoe said, "mama but I was so good, and listened why are you not letting me keep it". It took me a couple minutes to respond and what I said was "baby you were so so so good. but this toy was not a reward from mama, it was something from someone we don't know and well that makes it weird. some people do things that don't make sense but that is what mamas and dadas are here for. how about we get a treat for your good behavior".
Ugghhh I hate having to be so debbie downer on here but I promise to come back and share more on how we can prepare to protect and teach our little ones.
And I hope that sharing this scary encounter (that ended well) opens your eyes a bit and reminds you that you always have to be hyper aware of your surroundings, especially when you have more than one little one to keep your eye on. But I am hoping that you never have to feel the way I felt that Friday morning.