This is something I never imagined I would write. Today, one of my greatest fears, and one of those of any loving parent was realized. A moment that probably changed the way my son feels about things forever. I won’t go into detail about what happened. For the sake of his privacy, I will simply give enough information to help understand why I’m writing my way through my feelings tonight.
This morning, while my son was waiting at the bus stop for his high school bus, a strange man approached him with his genitals exposed, demanding sexual favors. My son who has pretty small stature, was very lucky in that the man went away when my son got out his phone and the bus arrived soon after. He told the guidance counselor what had happened and they contacted law enforcement, and the search for the man is ongoing. He also has a counselor who he sees regularly and had a session with after the incident (I’m a psych major, I think everyone needs to be in therapy). The school has also changed the bus route so that my kids will come straight to and from my front door.
Tonight, I’m struggling with every anxiety I’ve ever had as a parent. I’m broken by the realization that all the times I’ve had the hard conversations with my kids, taught them everything I knew to keep them safe, avoided them being in potentially dangerous situations, taught them self defense techniques to protect themselves and escape an attacker, and still…. I STILL can’t keep them safe. I thought, surely, walking less than half a block to get on the bus to school would be safe. Surely, in this small town, it’s safe to do that. But this kind of thing can happen to anyone at any time because there are sick people out there.
I know that my son will be okay. He’s highly intelligent, very resilient, and probably one of the strongest people I know. But the thing that breaks my heart is that after today, he’ll never be the same. He may live with this fear in his heart any time he sees a strange man. He might adapt his line of thinking from an innocent one to one of how to escape or defend himself . He had to grow up in the most awful way today, and what this man took from him is something he’ll never get back.
Hold your babies extra tight for me tonight, folks. But also, teach them what to do if they are ever in a situation where they are made uncomfortable or afraid.