My son was mistreated in two years of public schooling to such a degree that each day since, even as he grew more secure, confident, and willing to explore I realized that I had grown more concerned and careworn. Add to everything someone trying to snatch him in broad daylight, and the worry became something that sometimes kept me up at night. The realization that my own fear and upset about what had happened to my son needed to be dealt with came the day I was making plans to meet Lydia Brown. It began as a simple question on her part. I was speaking about my son on the phone. She said simply "why don't you bring him along?" She said the campus was beautiful. She thought he would really enjoy it. She added he could come to the interfaith prayer as it would be outdoors so she didn't think it would bother him at all. I was nonplussed. I realized I was terribly afraid.
How odd. I mean I took him swimming on another campus, took him out to Baltimore, to DC. Why was I afraid? What was I afraid of? Not just afraid. Terrified. I was terrified that something else might happen. It didn't dawn on me that I was behaving in an overprotective manner until Lydia asked me to bring him along. Realization dawned unpleasantly, like a sharp slap. I always took him to places I knew or his Dad knew. I realized I was frightened because I didn't know this place at all. "What if something else happens?"
In the summer of 2010, a registered sex offender had tried to lure him away with candy while we were coming back home from a nearby playground. My boy didn't even know what was happening. He just knew something wasn't right. He is nearly a compulsive eater but he would not take candy from this creature. I slapped the man's hand away from my son. He suddenly clamped his hand on my boy and began dragging him away. I fought a tug of war with him for my boy. I kept screaming for help but no one cared. I was surrounded by my neighbors, it was a warm summer afternoon, everyone was outside. They ignored my cries for help. "We've got to get out of this neighborhood", I thought while screaming. I was afraid to let go of my boy long enough to grab my cell phone. Finally I thought "If I let him go and fight the man Mumu might wander off terrified." "But if I don't fight he is younger and stronger and will eventually win." So I lunged forward and tore his arm away. And he ran. I didn't realize my own strength. I fairly dragged my baby home screaming and shouting for help all the way. We contacted the police.
I learned from the responding officer, who didn't seem surprised at all, that these horrid creatures targeted children like our son, because they can't tell who did what to them! He told me he may have been stalking him for weeks, and to change my rigid routines until they had him in custody. No more scheduled visits to playgrounds. No more planned outings for awhile. I described the man. One month later, there was a massive raid by law enforcement to a home in our community. A major drug dealer was arrested. With that arrest, much of the criminal element in the community moved on.
And I thought I was over it all. Until Lydia said, "why don't you bring him along?". I told myself I had to get past this. My resilient son is past it. He's ready to go and explore again. So I made Lydia an offer, an invitation really. It is that this Spring, she would meet my son in one of my favorite gardens, a place we had planned to bring him, but haven't.
He has not been to DC since he was a toddler. The idea of taking him to an unfamiliar place panicked me."What is something bad happens?" I kept asking myself. After weeks of agonizing, I decided to listen to Dory the fish, from Finding Nemo. She thought Marlon the Clownfish had made a very silly promise to his son. The same promise I made to my son, silently, as I kissed his head while he slept. That nothing would ever happen to him.
Now I am counting the days until our meeting and my new mantra is:
"If you never let anything happen to him, then nothing will ever happen to him! Not much fun for little Harpo."