I was taking a walk with the kids. Which means collecting rocks, hugging trees, avoiding cigarette butts, dodging patches of phlegm (side note STOP SPITTING, it’s disgusting!), and my anxiety ratchets up with every step.
Nora is running to each tree in the parkway, skipping between them, as she turns to me breathlessly, “I just love trees!” At her current height, I just know she’s hugging dog piss markings every time.
I breathe deeply and keep an eye on the dogs off leash nearby, the neighborhood college kids that run over us as they stare at their phones and smoke clove cigarettes, and the cars that don’t stop at the corner.
We walk Nora’s letter for Grandma to the postal box. She glows with pride that she can reach the blue handle now and drop the mail on her own. I mentally note to help her scrub her hands really well when we get home.
It’s the farthest point away from our house on the walk when Owen decides he’s done and sits down in the middle of the sidewalk to scream. Just then two elderly Jehovah Witness women with Watchtower pamphlets approach us.
JW1: “You look like such a sweet family-”
Me: “Thanks, have a good day.” (Translation, “F&$% off, I’m parenting here.”)
JW2: “Would you like to have something- ?” Fluttering propaganda in my general direction.
Me, holding a now screaming two year old Owen, gestures with his flailing form, “My hands are full.”
JW1: “Would you like a copy darling?” As she puts her arm around Nora who is trying to get away from her.
I am mama bear’s blind rage. “GET YOUR HANDS OFF OF HER!” It’s hard to translate incoherent rage so I think that’s what I said.
Nora responds quietly,”No, thank you. We’re busy.” I swoop in-between Nora and the woman while holding a thrashing Owen as I try to shuffle us away.
I wait a minute or two, as I frog March us home, to launch into a discussion. I’m trying to calm down but struggling with so many internal conflicts and how to explain all of this to her.
Why would anyone, why DOES anyone, think they have the right to touch a child? To touch anyone without their consent?
Why did that woman feel she had the right to harass us?
How do you teach your kids to be aware and safe without scaring them into being paranoid and wary of all people?
So I explain that she can yell “NO” in those situations and run. That she needs to ask me before taking things from strangers. That just because someone is smiling and female, they’re still a stranger. That religious people are not necessarily safe.
Nora, “Ok, mama, alright… No re-weird-iss people. I’ll say “no”.”
Apparently I say “weird ass people” and “religious people” quite often in relation to one another so she created a combination that comprises both ideas.
My work here is complete.