Today Noah went in uniform to Parkway Presbyterian church to talk to a gaggle of 6-year-old Brownies about stranger danger. My friend Laura's daughter is part of the troop, and safety was today's theme. So naturally I volunteered Noah to be the guest speaker.
He was surprised by the number of questions they asked having to do with the gun; he was more surprised that one of the girls could identify the pepper spray on his belt, which looks almost like a mini can of spray paint with a special nozzle.
I was reminded of my childhood safety training, imparted mostly by my mom. Growing up in L.A., I was taught to be extra cautious (for instance, not to take stickers from big kids because some drug-laced ones had been going around). When I got old enough to walk home alone, I'd usually carry a sharpened pencil or a pen to--I don't know, use as a weapon? Write little clues to leave along the trail if I was abducted? It wasn't until I moved out of L.A. that I realized that most elementary and middle schools actually don't have six-foot-high chain link fences surrounding them.
Periodically my mom would go over procedures related to stranger danger. Once, in maybe third grade, we were driving along, just Mom and me, and she asked "Now what would you do if some man tried to grab you?" To which I immediately replied, "Kick him in the balls." Needless to say, that's not precisely what Mom was expecting. "Oh, also scream 'I don't know this person!'" I might have added, to soften the blow of unexpected vulgarity springing from the mouth of a 45-pound nymph with the physique of an overgrown preying mantis.
I also got to select a code word that only my parents and I would know, that they would pass on to anyone who needed to pick me up from school in the event of emergency. Naturally, I chose "diamond."
Laura laughed heartily when I told her this, and then she told me about what her daughter wanted to do for her science project: "Umm, something with the weather, like how it goes from sunshine to rain and snow. And unicorns."
"She might be smart," said Laura, "but she's still six."