There was an incident on Wednesday.
For those of you that follow my twitter account, you probably already know that I turned up at Pickle’s after school club to collect her at 5.30pm and she wasn’t there.
Worse still, it was only my presence that alerted the staff to the fact that SHE WASN’T THERE. They HAD picked her up after school and brought her back to the club (it backs on to the school playing fields) and then at 4pm they had walked her and a few others over to have gymnastics in the hall, a privately run after school class.
Trouble was, that at 5pm when the after school club person responsible for picking her up, arrived at the hall, she just picked up one child and promptly forgot Pickle.
I know this, because instead of immediately getting one of her staff to run through the fields to get her, the manager opted to stand wondering what had gone wrong and then ask the person responsible why she hadn’t picked her up. “You didn’t ask me to” was the reply. Brilliant. Sounds like a robust system is in place to ensure children are safeguarded!
I of course dashed over the fields with my 3-year-old running alongside (bless him) in the dark, in thick squelchy mud and with my heart in my mouth. Nothing feels as good as seeing a flash of a familiar coat through the glass of the hall door and the realisation that your precious daughter is safe.
Needless to say. I’m fuming and we are progressing this with the after school club.
Of course, I know my daughter is sensible and the outcome in this case was as good as it could have been. Pickle didn’t run off or attempt to walk home, she went back to the gymnastic teacher who after trying to get her to the club (gates was locked in the field) let her sit in on the next class and left a message for me (which I didn’t get until I was there as I was doing nursery pick up when she called).
The worse case scenario is one I can barely think about. I’m not one for being overly protective. I don’t believe there are more children abducted now than there was when I was a kid, but never the less, I am aware of the risks. All of my decisions are based on managing a risk against the positives. My worse case scenario would have been if someone, known to Pickle, maybe only once or twice, maybe a mum or dad of a friend, someone who had volunteered for reading, perhaps someone who is regularly in and out of the school, chanced their luck that day. Let’s assume they know about the club. They know kids wander in and out. They know parents can be late and some kids rely on pick up from childminders or after school clubs. There is full access from the street to the gym (there has to be) and maybe, just maybe they just wandered in, ready with an excuse if someone asked, but ready to take advantage of a situation.
Then they could have just told Pickle that I’d sent them to pick her up.
You see, I hadn’t work out how to have that conversation yet. She’s always been safe. I’ve never left her anywhere where she has been sitting around or waiting or vulnerable. I thought I’d have another year to discuss this. I didn’t know how to broach the subject with her without being too complicated or too vague or too detailed.
In the morning after the event I went and sat with her on her bed and asked her what she would have done in the above situation. I used a friend of hers dad as an example.
She told me she would have gone with him.
So, I thought on the spot and gave her the names of 6 people (3 couples) who are the ONLY people she should EVER go with without me telling her that its ok. I had to boil it down to as few people as possible. I had to think of the people who might turn up at the school if we were both in a car accident or are dealing with an emergency with The Monster.
I reiterated. “YOU NEVER GO WITH SOMEONE UNLESS I SAID IT WAS OK”.
She asked what would happen if she forgot she was going with someone. I told her I’d rather she didn’t go with them but that from now on I’d put a note in her bag, so if she was ever unsure she could check.
To be honest. I thought about it off the top of my head. I have no idea if I’ve even done it right.
Have you had the stranger /friend danger conversation? I haven’t even talked to her about people approaching her who she doesn’t know yet.
How did you handle it? Do you have a book you can recommend?
Needless to say, we are going to keep drip feeding the same information over the next year or so. Make sure she properly remembers.
I just can’t take the risk.