This story can be found in my book, “The Majorettes are back in town”
Putting aside the current politically correct, social and ethical storm of the bathroom gender issue, we should step back for a moment and realize that from the instant children were invented, mothers have always worried that some type of boogey man will try to harm, snatch or frighten their precious offspring in all sorts of places, not just public restrooms.
There’s really no way to look at a person and tell whether or not they are demented enough to harm a child. I’ve known both a clean-cut man who was caught by the FBI for child molestation and a startling-looking person who is as trustworthy as can be.
It’s precisely because we can’t judge a book by its cover that I decided to teach my boys the “Ransom of Red Chief” self- defense plan so they would be on guard with everyone, no matter what their appearance may suggest. You remember the O. Henry story where the kidnappers grabbed the redheaded ten-year-old boy from Alabama and held him for ransom, only to discover that he was a stinkin’ terror who drove them crazy. In the end of the story, the two kidnappers were forced to pay the boy’s father to take him back.
As painful as it was to push Southern manners aside, I taught my boys it was okay and essential to scream, hit, bite, scratch, gouge and kick anyone who dared cross the line of decency. My goal was to make any potential predator rue the day he ever laid eyes on my child. If anyone actually attempted to snatch them and run out of a store, my sweeties were instructed to repeatedly poke the eyes of the kidnapper while screaming, “This isn’t my daddy!” because we’ve all seen crying children being carried out by a man and thought, “Poor Dad, he’s got his hands full with that one.” But then again . . . was he really the Dad?
The other thing I taught my children to scream was a word I wasn’t even allowed to say as a little girl, but somehow screaming, “Pervert!” shocks the offender and often causes them to turn and run. I instructed my boys it was OK to scream this word at the top of their lungs if anyone ever fit the description of what we very carefully reviewed and deemed to be a true pervert.
A nice Southern gentleman in the men’s room who smiled and said, “Do you need help reaching the paper towels?” was not classified as a pervert and therefore shouldn’t be verbally bombed. However, if a man tried to view, touch, or discuss anything normally covered by a swimsuit, he would be a candidate for the full-blown Red Chief treatment.
By the time the boys reached the age where they were too old to go to the ladies room with me, and wanted to enter the men’s room alone, they were well equipped to handle any trouble they encountered, but just in case, I pushed my own good manners aside and stood directly outside the door with arms crossed, memorizing the faces and glaring at any man who came in or out while my precious babies were in there. The issue of whether or not the boys washed their hands was suddenly my secondary concern.
Child predators have notoriously targeted children who are meek or can be easily intimidated. By training your child to be bold, spirited and outspoken, they have a better chance of standing up to evil. Role playing and discussing what they would do in a bad situation empowered my boys and I suspect there was a super-hero part deep down inside them that secretly hoped someone would try to mess with them so they’d have an excuse to open up a kid-sized can of whoop-butt on some deviant adult.
We’re living in a strange, scary world, but equipping a child with the courage and tenacity of little Red Chief is a good first step towards protection. And if you think Red Chief can pack a punch against a predator, you should see his mama.