It always amuses me when Maxi-Taxi begins a sentence with “I can’t go to sleep because…” What’s he cooking up now? I think to myself. This better be good. And invariably it is.
The other night he told me that he couldn’t go to sleep because he needed to run around the house (‘do laps’). I said, “It’s sleep time now, Max. Not time for laps.” He said, “But how am I supposed to sleep in all this energy?”
The kid has a point.
Another night he couldn’t sleep because his heart was too soggy. “I’m scared and when you won’t sit with me, my heart gets soggy,” he said. I sat with him. I’m weak like that.
He’s a sensitive soul, so you have to tread carefully when issues of monsters, robbers, spiders, the moon and anything else likely to go bump in the night come up. One false move and it’s matchsticks for the rest of the night. Which is why I found myself on eggshells when the issue of Stranger Danger was raised.
“They come and get you in a white van,” he said. “They snatch you off the side of the road when you’re waiting to cross at the lights. Even when you’re good, they get you.”
What are they telling them at that school? I wondered, crunching away on my eggshells. We’ve always had a relaxed approach to ‘Strangers’. You can talk to anyone you like as long as Mum or Dad or another grown-up you know is with you. We didn’t want our children growing up thinking it’s okay to be unfriendly or, worse, fearful, just because they don’t know someone. It’s not okay to live your life in fear that a random tragedy is going to happen to you. Strangers aren’t to be feared at our place, rather they often offer a lovely exchange in the middle of an otherwise frenetic day.
Of course, when you’re by yourself, you aren’t allowed to even notice them.
I raised the white van kidnappers at the P + C Meeting the next night. “What are you telling the kids about kidnappers in white vans?” I asked.
Mirthful looks were exchanged between teachers. “It’s always a white van,” one said in amazement. “We give them a thoughtful, educative chat about coming to the front office if they are not collected on time after school, they discuss it amongst themselves and the next thing you know the story about the stranger in the white van is doing the rounds again. That white van has been circling the school for decades.”
Hmmm… needless to say, that bit of schoolyard folklore meant that Maxi-Taxi couldn’t sleep and was threatening to boycott school the next day. I had to turn him around quicksmart by asking him why anyone would want to take a kid? Especially one that doesn’t sleep, doesn’t listen and doesn’t eat their vegies? He couldn’t come up with a single reason.
So, the next day he goes to school and all was well. When I saw him that evening his eyes were wide and he was leaping out of himself with excitement. “Mum, Mum! MUM! A Stranger approached me today.”
“Really, an actual Stranger? Where were you? What did they say?”
“I was in the playground and a lady came up and asked me where the Mandarin classes were held,” he said breathlessly.
“And what did you say to her?”
“Well… I said to her ‘Do you drive a white van?’ and she said ‘no’, so I told her they were in the library.”