Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"Don't Talk to Strangers While You're Looking Both Ways Before You Cross A Busy Street While Carrying a Sharp Stick That Could Put Your Eye Out."

Blessings to Heaven, those dedicated searchers in Bountiful, Utah, found lost Boy Scout 11-year-old Brennan Hawkins, hungry, thirsty and exhausted, but alive yesterday. His relieved parents spoke with press early Wednesday, and a couple of things about what they said really jumped out at me.

The first was when his father, Toby Hawkins noted that "I thought that he was the most ill-prepared out of our five children to deal with it, and now I think he was maybe the best prepared." Just when we think we have our kids all figured out, they go and surprise the heck out of us. In a good way, that is.

The second was when Brennan's mother, Jody, noted that perhaps it took searchers so long to find Brennan because he was actively avoiding them.

According to the CNN articles, Jody was quoted as saying: "He had two thoughts going through his head all the time. Toby's always told him that 'If you get lost, stay on the trail.' So he stayed on the trail. We've also told him don't talk to strangers ... when an ATV or horse came by he got off the trail ... when they left, he got back on the trail."

"His biggest fear, he told me, was someone would steal him," she added.

And suddenly, I had a sick, sinking feeling. Why was it that that was Brennan's worst fear, though he was lost in a big, scary woods, without a clue as to where he was or which direction was home? Because that was the thing he was taught to fear most by his parents. And why did they teach him that? Because that was their biggest fear. And how do I know it? Because that was my biggest fear when Savannah was little.

If you look at the teaching that his parents gave him, it was good, level-headed advice that wasn't anything different from what you and I have taught our children. "Don't talk to strangers." "Be careful of people you don't know." It's how Brennan interpreted it in a pinch that was key. "Stay on the trail," plus "Don't talk to strangers," morphed into "Get off the trail when people come through on horseback and ATVs, shouting your name, then get back on after they've left. Forget exposure to the elements and wild animals. The biggest danger here is being snatched by a kidnapper." He was eleven, of course, and we all know that even the most down-to-earth child is prone from time to time to thinking that is clinically insane, especially when under physical and emotion duress.

And who is to say that any of our children would have interpreted our wack-ass paranoid lessons any differently? I might have just as equally managed to twist my daughter's young mind with cautionary tales born out of my own fear. She just never got lost in the woods, so it was never put to the test. We might want to become aware of this when we speak to our children about the big scary world and how to defend against it.

I'm sure Toby and Jody Hawkins have sat all five of their kids down and set them straight on the dangers lurking past the front door. I think they are probably fine parents with good hearts and the best of intentions. Now, they're just having to go back and clean up a few of the past information they imparted that might have been misinterpreted through the haze of human growth hormone and the Sunny Delite hangover.

Just something to think about... what we say, versus what they hear....

Thought I'd blog it outloud, to see what you guys thought.


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