“Mom, have you seen the movie It?”
My first grader asked innocently on the way home from school.
“Yes sweet pea, why did you ask me that?”
“Gio has seen it. He told me about it during center time.”
As I dismissed his inquiry he chirped on in the back seat about the boy’s yellow rain coat and his toy boat. Reciting the entire, ‘then the clown tore his arm off’ opening scene. But it wasn’t the bloody details or disturbing recollection of events that made me upset. It was my six year old’s next question that made me feel sick, ‘but we don’t have bad people like that in our city, right mom?’
We were standing in the garage, his Marvel backpack in my hand. And I knew that I couldn’t gloss over what came out of my mouth next.
So I did what every parent does. I winged it. Came up with the best, most honest, just slightly terrifying answer that I could. Because while I can lie about Santa, The Tooth Fairy and that surveying Elf on the Shelf, I’m not going to lie about something that can potentially harm my child. Bad people are real.
‘Actually, we do honey. There are bad people everywhere. But your dad and I are here to keep you safe.’
I watched as he processed my response. His little eyebrows furrowed above his huge blue eyes, ‘So, there’s like clowns in the sewer?!’
Motherhood. I stopped reading What to Expect halfway through the second trimester of my first pregnancy. But I do love connecting with real, living, breathing moms who are throwing Jell-O at the kitchen wall just like me. So in an attempt to better prepare parents who might face the same question as me, here are a few talking points to keep the clowns at bay.
Be honest…kind of. Kids don’t need every terrifying detail, just enough to make them remember the point you are trying to get across. There are bad people. They aren’t worried like your parents are about making sure you are comfortable and warm and happy.
Set boundaries. I mean physical and people limits. My kids know they can’t go out the back door or into the backyard without a parent or a babysitter because we have a lake. People, even good swimmers, can drown and we won’t hear you scream if you are out there by yourself. Period. I also don’t let a laundry list of people pick up my kids. It’s their parents, grandparents, aunt or one other close family friend that is allowed to pick them up from school, a birthday party or a sport. They understand that they just can’t hop into a car with someone. Even if they think they know them. Even if they are nice, or have a puppy, or a trunk full of suckers.
Keep it simple. My rule with the kids came from Aunt Darlene. “Make sure you can see me. Because if you can’t see me, then I can’t see you.” I was at my daughter’s soccer game with the two boys a few Saturdays ago. My oldest, Ryker, went to kick goals on an empty field with some kids from his class. Just a few minutes later they were across the field playing hide and seek, and I could barely see him. We implemented the new rule right there, but boys—especially mine—are kind of in their own world. Which leads me to my final point…
Track ‘em down. We have just entered the every week and weekend is full of soccer and football games. Different kids play different sports, have different schedules and different groups of friends. Multiply that times three kiddos and it’s all about zone defense. So, I went to my moms-of-many-kids tribe who unanimously recommended the Gizmo watch. There are several versions based on your cell service and capabilities, but it’s priceless in terms of maintaining some sense of control.
I recently had lunch with a colleague who has four kids that are slightly older than mine and–as he pointed out–not in jail, yet. He also doesn’t sugarcoat any story that he shares. Not even a single sprinkle. He reminded me that parents have to take things as they come. Kids, technology and all the things that can royally mess them up change daily. So, with those warm and fuzzy thoughts in mind: what are some ways you keep out the killer clowns?