When Jodie Norton, the Utah-based blogger behind Time Well Spent, went to the emergency room last year, she got the scare of her life. Only, the scare wasn't related to her health. According to Norton, while she was in the ER, two of her kids were almost abducted. Thankfully, they remembered the "Tricky People" lesson their mom had taught them and stayed safe. Recently, the story has resurfaced, and the message is as timeless as ever.
It all started when Norton was in the shower one morning and started experiencing unbearable pain, which turned out to be a ruptured ovarian cyst. Somehow, she got dressed, loaded her four kids into the car, and drove to the hospital five minutes away (she says she has since realized she should have called an ambulance instead).
"In a moment of what I deem foggy-thinking 'pain brain,'" Norton wrote in a post on her blog, "I left my two oldest boys–CJ (10) and T-Dawg (8)-outside the ER door on a bench to await our kind neighbor who said he was coming to pick them up and take them to school." The youngest two went into the room with their mom.
But the neighbor wasn't as close as Norton thought, so rather than the five minutes she thought her kids would be waiting, they ended up sitting outside the room for 40 minutes.
During that time, a female and two males allegedly approached the boys and asked them to go into a bathroom to convince their friend, who was supposedly hiding from the doctor, to come out and get treated. Remembering the "Tricky People" lesson his mom had taught him, CJ declined. "Please? You could really save his life if you'd just go in that bathroom and tell him it's safe to come out," the "Tricky People" continued. Again, CJ replied, "No, thank you."
So what's the "Tricky People" concept? It comes from Pattie Fitzgerald, of Safely Ever After, who, among other things, advises that parents stop teaching their kids not to talk to strangers (as they might have to someday) and start teaching them to identify which strangers are the "tricky" ones. One of Fitzgerald's guidelines, which Norton had taught her kids, is that adults don't ask kids for help. "If a safe adult needs help, they'll ask another adult," Fitzgerald wrote.
Finally, the strangers left the boys alone, but CJ witnessed a third adult male come out of the bathroom, get into a car with the others, and drive off. Finally, the neighbor arrived and drove the kids safely to school. It wasn't until that night that Norton heard the scary story, her mouth hanging open.
"Mom, I knew they were tricky people because they were asking us for help. Adults don't ask kids for help," CJ told Norton. The family reported the incident to the police, who promised to review security footage and investigate from there. Now, Norton says she's going to continue arming her kids with more advice, like that it's not necessary to be polite to an adult that is making you uncomfortable in that way.
"When it's all said and done, the phrase 'knowledge is power' undoubtedly applies to our kids keeping themselves safe," she wrote. "We know we won't always be physically present to protect our kids from everything–I'm sure you lose sleep over this like I do. But, we can empower them and give them confidence by teaching them what they can do in these kind of situations."
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