Sometimes I like to load up the kids and run to the park. They like it…I like it…it’s a win/win. Usually things go swimmingly, minus the occasional fit over throwing wood chips, but I had an experience awhile back that I need to bring to light. It was probably one of the most terrifying moments of my life.
I live in a new community in Parker, Colorado. It’s a really nice neighborhood full of nice people. I am so lucky that I get to live here because it is truly wonderful. The playground is nice. The landscaping is nice.
Have I painted a nice picture?
I’m probably one of THE most trusting and naïve people in the world. Humans are great and have good intentions, and scary things are only happen in the news. I’m on the far end of the doomsday spectrum, bordering on ignorant that anything bad could happen to me or my family or friends EVER.
Don’t be like that. It’s ok to withhold a bit of faith from humanity. It’s also IMPORTANT that you do so to protect yourself and your family.
We were at the park, my toddler learning to climb the ladder to the purple tube slide. My daughter asleep in the car seat clicked into the double stroller. They are within a five foot radius from each other, so I’m walking between the two…checking the sleeping, checking the climbing.
I spot a young man walking down the sidewalk towards the park. This is a normal thing. As I was watching him, the climbing, the sleeping…I noticed that this young man did not appear as “normal” as a young man in this particular neighborhood might be. I immediately feel guilty for judging a neck tattoo, inked up arms, dark clothing, and several piercings. I have a tattoo, why are his any different? My activewear is black…quit judging.
I check the climbing. I check the sleeping.
He is walking quickly with intention. I’m not sure what the intention is, but he seems to be on a mission. He also seems to be talking to himself. With my extensive background in scary movie watching, talking to oneself is not usually a great sign, but I figure he might have Bluetooth? I brush it off, thinking he will probably continue straight down the sidewalk passed the turnoff to the park. I feel bad for stereotyping this guy, but I’m pretty sure he is on drugs.
His pace quickens, and he turns onto the path for the park. Uh…he was supposed to go straight. I glance around to notice that there is nobody else around. I’m stopped directly in between my two kids. He has something in his hand. I don’t know what it is, but at first glance it looks like a knife.
This is when I freeze.
What do you do in this situation?
He is almost to the playground. Do I grab the toddler, hastily throw him in the stroller, and go up the path he is coming down (which is the only path, mind you)? Do I grab the car seat and run with the toddler in the opposite direction? What if the guy goes for my baby while I grab the toddler? What if the guy goes for my toddler while I grab the car seat? I worry that if I make any sudden or quick movement, he will know I’m suspicious (again, thanks scary movies).
I gracefully lunge to the stroller as the man brushes by within inches of the car seat. He starts walking along the concrete edging that borders the playground, mumbling to himself. I dash back to the playground to grab my son, gently throw him in the stroller, and start up the path. The man makes a quick turnaround and follows me, now speaking about a radio station I can check out online. I tell him thanks and run.
At this point I see other people. I notice his “knife” is a vape pen. I’m ok. I’m scared, but I’m ok. I’m NOT ok with having thoughts about which kid I should save first.
Long story short: be prepared. If I’ve learned one thing from this situation (and the Lion King) that is it. Be prepared.
How? Well you’re in luck because I have a LIST of things you can do to be safe on your runs/walks/visits to the park!
Don’t Run/Walk with Headphones
I usually listen to a book on tape when I run…because if I listen to music I will sing and be too out of breath. I use earbuds to listen to my novels, and usually keep one in and one out. It’s important to be able to hear while you are running or walking or even hanging out at the park for reasons such as:
- To hear traffic – Sometimes drivers don’t pay attention even though pedestrians have the right of way. There are so many distractions for drivers these days.
- To hear your kids – Sometimes it’s nice not to, but I always want to be ready for any questions or learning opportunities on our runs. Also, I want to nip any tantrums in the bud before things get too crazy…so I like to address any whining about a dropped snack or toy.
- To hear if anyone or anything (i.e. bears) is approaching – you do not want anything approaching you without your knowledge…especially bears. Enough said.
Get Safety Products
After my run I texted my husband because I was feeling so weird. He said, “We should get you some mace.” Great idea, husband! There are so many products out there that are discreet, portable, and effective for keeping you safe. Some mace even has a dye in it that can aid in identification of perps! Stun guns are another option for personal safety, and available for purchase on Amazon. My BFF also told me about a necklace that can be used as a weapon in a tight situation (last resort type situation).
Make sure you are familiar with the product before you bring it along. If you don’t know how to use it, it won’t be effective!
Take a Self Defense Class
This might require a little more of your time, but would definitely be worth your while! Your body may be all you have in certain situations, so why not train it?!
Keep in Touch
It’s so hard with our busy schedules, but letting someone know where you are is never a bad idea. A quick text to the hubby, your mom, your neighbor, your Instagram…being “ON the grid” can ensure a safe return!
Have you ever been in a situation like this? Do you have any additional safety tips?