In 2009, 4 days before Halloween both children were ages 5 and 7. My then 7 year old thought it was funny to run ahead of me, when I'd told her a multitude of times not to go more than 3 driveways away from me on the sidewalk. Nor turn a corner without my seeing her.
At the time, a predator that I'd testified against many years before had been released early, yet he was found dead 7 months just prior to this on the day we predicted he'd come after me and finish the job.
My husband weeks later revealed that he would forever remain amber, where I'd revealed, that I would remain on red for the rest of my life.
So on this bright warm 70 degree sunny Wednesday before Halloween 2009, myself and our 5 and 7 year old were walking back from school a few blocks to our minivan. My 7 year old began to run. I warned her, "Three driveways is all. No more." She looked at me and smiled. She ran off. I called to her. She stopped a second looked back, grinned and she forged ahead and around a corner. Where I could no longer see her. My heart skipped a beat. For I knew who was still out there to harm my family. And my line to my children was, "If I can't see you. I can't save you."
Upon my calling her name and her hiding, not responding. A little blond headed boy apparently standing near where she was, heard my voice. He looked at me and called out and said, "She's hiding right here behind this bush."
I thanked him and my 7 year old came out from hiding and around the corner and grinned with incredible ego. She seemed somehow proud of herself. I knew she had a facial expression issue, so I didn't take it personally. But what I did do, was make her a deal.
I offered incentive PT, like in Marine Corps Bootcamp, when you've done something rash.
It was either that or grounding her from Halloween. She knew I meant business. Because her and sister had done things that they were warned about the year before that were inappropriate and cost both children turning 4 and 6 back the year before (2008) their birthday parties. And I threw great parties. Usually as much as 35 children embraced my back yard, ran in and around our acre. Two to three different cakes I made, tons of candy for "The Great Candy Hunt" in our backyard. And so much more. Many parents loved hiding the candy. It was a joy.
So, that day in 2009 before Halloween, she picked incentive PT, not knowing when the exercise would be finished. Trust me it was a gentle exercise in walking up and down a block while I calmed me down, then giggled inside myself and thought, 'she won't do that again.' I was correct. After the exercise, we walked up and around the corner to the minivan. I hit the buttons from afar to have the one sliding door open automatically for our 5 and 7 year Olds. They got in. As they had, I reached over to secure each of the buckles on their car seats. And I did, I decided to leave a mental indelible mark on their minds about safety and vulnerability. What came out of my mouth as I calmly and slowly secured their respective car seat buckles was, "Do you know what I used to be? What I used to do? What I'm capable of? And my responsibility to you?"
They stared at me with blank looks. 7 year shrugged. I stated, "I was in the Marines. Right?" Oldest nodded. I asked what do Marines do?" She responded, "They march." I smirked, wagged my head and said, "You saw what we do that looks pretty. You saw me fire a weapon at one time." She nodded. I came back with, "What Marines do is protect you. We kill people to protect you and others. Yes, we kill people." The almost grin of hers stopped. I added, "So, if I can't see you. I can't save you. I would save any child at any time if I saw danger. That's my job. And it always will be."
I was so stunned that I said that. I thought I was a horrible parent. Days before Halloween, I consulted two police officers I knew, told them what happened and asked them, "Am I a horrible parent?" Their replies separately was, "More parents have to be that honest. That's good parenting. " I was stunned with their responses. Both were married and had children. ---Jody-Lynn Reicher