You Mean Not Every Candy-Giver is a Predator?

Hi Readers! The folks in this Chicago Sun-Times story are SO old, they tried to give candy to their grandchild’s schoolmates. How clueless! Don’t they know that any adult who is nice to someone else’s kids is probably grooming them for an illicit relationship…or worse? — L

67 Responses

  1. This reminds me of the cute older couple at church that always carried packets of M&Ms to hand out. I remember getting them as a kid and my kids got them whenever they visited. The couple never had kids of their own and so always liked doing things for others. Even now, they will give my parents M&Ms for them to bring to us when they come to visit.

  2. I’m so glad you posted this story, Lenore! I almost emailed it to you, as Sugar Grove (where it happened) is about 5 minutes from where I live. In fact, when the first part of the story broke (and people thought it was real abduction attempt), people I knew were posting warnings all over Facebook and emailing it around. You know…the weird thing is, now that it has been shown to be an innocent thing…not a single one of those people printed or emailed the true story. So, unless their friends saw this follow up story, they still think there is an evil elderly couple out there trying to lure their kids with candy. Only one of the ways societal fears are reinforced.

    What’s also great about this is — the boy did EXACTLY what he should do….and he did it without any other adults present with him at the bus stop!!

  3. ‘Overly friendly grandparents’… offering sweets shouldn’t be ‘overly’ friendly, it’s just plain friendly. How sad that people can’t understand simple niceness any more. I was very glad to accept a sweet offered to my daughter by a nice old geezer on the train a few months back. Lots of older people derive real joy from seeing, helping or interacting with children, but now it appears they have to be discouraged from this simple pleasure by people’s lack of trust and faith in others.

  4. There you go. In some places, people assume an 11 yo boy will fall victim of an elderly couple.
    In other, three 11yo’s rescue a 7 yo who fell over and was trapped in the mud. The kids were fishing crabs (on their own), and found the little one slowly sinking. They rescued him, and that was that. Well, quite. “Drastic” measures have been taken to ensure safety: the Council has covered the swamp up with sand.

    http://www.ideal.es/jaen/v/20110409/provincia/tres-ninos-once-anos-20110409.html

    Sorry. Local news, in Spanish only.

  5. When my sister and I were young (tween-age), we spent our 1970s summers free-ranging around our grandparents small town. (Sure beat being under lock and key in our own suburbia!) In my grandmother’s neighborhood was a VERY old man who lived in a 2-room cabin with no running water. He would call children in off the street and show us his drawer full of candy for us to choose a treat from. We never felt threatened in any way- we could have knocked the poor guy over with a feather- what’s threatening about that? However, it was 10 years later before we told our mom about him. Even then we knew that a parent would over-react.

  6. I don’t know… it seems a little strange to me, offering lone stranger children candy out of your car. I mean, I’m not saying that the the grandparents are prowling pedophiles, but that behaviour does strike me as strange and a little creepy.

    I mean, offering candy to your grandchild’s friends who you’ve met, fine, offering candy at a gathering such as a church or a fete or something, fine, offering candy as a promotional campaign, fine… but approaching and then handing candy to random children getting off the bus? No. Sorry. That worries me a little.

  7. When my 92 yr old grandmother goes out, she has her female helper with her, as well as, her walker; ie she gets around, but she is frail. The highlight of her weekly trip to Publix used to be handing out sugar-free lollypops to children if she encountered them in the isles…. that is, until someone asked her to stop. Seriously, I don’t know what the concern was (food allergies? Then don’t eat it. She’s a predator? Oh COME ON.), but what was taken away from her, social interaction and her ability to make a small child happy and conversely their ability to make her happy and feel appreciated, is disappointing and sad. What kind of world do we live in??

  8. Hey N.

    Sugar free candy makes for terrible farts. That’s what the real concern was.

  9. I’d like some kind of data on how many elderly people want to groom and then kidnap a child. Having kids is a demanding job for most parents; why would people old enough to be referred to as “elderly” want to take on that role, committing several felonies in the process??

  10. My father just passed away a few weeks ago. He had a little lollipop tree in his house, that each child who visited got to pick from. It was my children’s favorite.
    After he passed, my daughter took 15 lollipops from the tree to give to her pre-k class.
    She wasn’t allowed to give them out and tell them about her Pop Pop. They are now a choking hazzard for 4-5 year olds.

  11. @sera– why does that worry you? It’s a public place. These are elderly people who are not likely to grab the kid and sprint off with them without someone noticing. What underhanded motives or dangerous event do you see as possible in this situation?

    That’s the sort of thinking that I just don’t get. What is LIKELY to happen? (Not what COULD happen, because you can go all sorts of crazy with what COULD happen, including alien abduction or sold into child prostitution if you let irrational thought get the better of you.)

    Every time I take my son out and about, people (particularly elderly) just love to come over and greet the cherub-faced little stinker. I think it’s great that I can brighten their day with my son’s presence. I don’t think ill of everyone around me.

  12. @ Sera: I don’t find it strange at all. I grew up in a time where strangers offered me candy, even taking me to the corner store (that’s on my way home) to get me to pick what chocolate bar I wanted. I knew about not talking to strangers, but I also knew that not all strangers were bad, that I learned to distinguish good from bad intentions. I was 7 and nothing ever bad happened to me. This older couple lived in a time that was even more lax than when I grew up. So what they did was completely normal to them, and normal to society in their time. And for all intent and purpose, nowadays, people have made something that’s been normal for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years not so normal. Because everything that isn’t normal (extreme paranoia and lack of common sense) has become the norm. It’s a sad world when the first thing people think is bad intentions. Even more pathetic, that they think it from the elderly. One day they will be that old. And the smile and happiness of a child, any child, is the only thing that brings them joy in their later years. Then someone will treat them just like they treated the elderly in their younger days. May karma slap them in the face, and they go through the humiliation and disrespect they inflicted themselves.

    “…he had been warned not to do that because people would not understand his intent.” That comment resonates within me. Are people really that far gone, that they can’t tell when someone is being nice because they are nice people? That they automatically assume they have devious intentions? As I’ve always said, I hold more reservations towards these parents than strangers doing something nice. Perverted minds beget perverted thoughts. And what is the first thing that these parents think? Perverted thoughts. Makes you wonder who the “bad” people are.

  13. @ socalledauthor: if you and I can understand that. Why is it so hard for others? Oh, yeah, because their tards. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=tard

  14. Yes, once again, the key is to instruct our kids on what to do. When I was a kid, it was beaten into my head that you don’t take candy from a stranger and never get into a car with a stranger. My dad had a scary story that he used to tell to remind us that you should never go off into closed quarters alone with a stranger, no matter what wonderful things he offered you.

    So if an old person would have offered me candy, I would have at least hesitated, looked them up and down, made sure I could run away if necessary, and considered whether the candy looked (a) tampered with or (b) tasty enough to risk a reprimand from my parents. And then I either would have said “thank you” or “no, thank you” depending on my analysis. I certainly accepted kindness at times, not because I was too foolish to know of the risks, but because I could sense good and not-so-good intentions.

    To me, this makes a lot more sense than criminalizing random acts of kindness.

    I also think people would be less paranoid if it were still the norm for kids to hang out together, either with siblings or neighbor kids. Is it just me, or does it seem that there are a lot fewer kids in neighborhoods nowadays?

  15. @SKL: You understand too. That’s pretty much how I did things when I was young. For the first little while, I would say no thank you. And just continue home. But as time passed, and I saw these same people everyday, and they were always nice to me. Saying hello, be careful crossing the street, even helping cross at times, I started to feel more confident that they weren’t bad people. They never gave me candy from their pockets, they would always take me into the store and let me pick which candy I wanted. They paid for it, told me to not spoil my dinner too much, and to be careful crossing the street.

    There are fewer kids in neighborhoods, not because they don’t live there, you just don’t see them because they are locked in their house never to wander off without adult supervision. Parents’ trading in their child’s future for their own self gratification. I often wonder if this is part of the reason why so many kids can’t wait to leave the nest. Some so much that they leave way too soon, and end up on the streets.

  16. @Eric, I use my cognitive functions daily. No need to be insulting because I come to different conclusions that you do.

    @Sera — I’m with you! I and my child smile at elderly folks daily. We talk to all kinds of people. We like to think we make their day. We politely say “no, thank you” to offers of treats from people we don’t know. This is the behaviour my mother taught me, in the 60s, and her mother taught her, in the 30s. In small towns. We didn’t accept rides from strangers, either.

    Though I am not afraid of every person who greets my son, I would be disturbed by anyone, elderly or otherwise, offering him anything from their vehicle, especially if he was alone. It’s not appropriate behaviour and I don’t think it ever really has been. I agree it’s a bit creepy.

    As for “can’t I tell when someone is being nice because they’re nice people”? People take advantage of each other all the time, so I guess we’re not all as good at that as we’d like to think. And, well, the elderly being human beings like the rest of us, they have the same range of nice or not nice as the rest of us. Assuming otherwise is really being ageist.

    In this case, great, the child did exactly what he should have. Yay for his parents, who must have taught him well. And I think it’s great that the police investigated. Sounds like they acted on their findings appropriately, too…no charges laid, right? And kudos to the Chicago Sun-Times for publishing the whole story, not just the scare-mongering part.

  17. @Sera – I’m with you. Unless there is more to this story that wasn’t reported, this is weird. I’m not saying that its a case of kidnapping or pedophilia or anything with a bad intent, its just weird.

    Its one thing if the situation is something like the grandparents were at the bus stop waiting for their grand kids and when the kids got their, gave candy to their grandkids and then offered candy to everyone else. Or if someone is at a candy or cookie counter and buys a treat for a kid. Or a shopkeeper or food vendor who wants to give a free treat. That doesn’t strike me as weird.

    But if some random, unknown person came up to me on the street and offered me something – candy, food, beverage, or whatever – no way would I take it, and I wouldn’t encourage my kids to either. Kinda like the person who stands on the street corner asking for hugs. That weirds me out too.

  18. “They never gave me candy from their pockets, they would always take me into the store and let me pick which candy I wanted. They paid for it, told me to not spoil my dinner too much, and to be careful crossing the street.”

    @EricS – I see nothing wrong with this behavior at all. The article made it sound like the grandparents were sitting in a car giving kids candy from their pockets. Not doing what you described. If the behavior was what you described, I don’t think anyone would have seen the problem.

  19. I think it’s a law in Germany that every woman over the age of 60 must carry candy in her purse to give out to children. When my son was a toddler and preschooler, and he was on the train with me or my husband, at least one “Oma” (grandmother) would come up to him and give him some candy. Judging from the way the Omas smiled at my son, I could tell that giving him a little treat gave them pleasure. Even walking around town, older women would stop, reach into their purses, and pull out a piece of candy for the little ones that she saw.

    Wow, I’ve been thinking the wrong things all these years. It never once crossed my mind that the sweet Oma handing my son a piece of chocolate on the train or street was really a perverted pedophile or kidnapper. (palm slap on forehead)

  20. Also, judging by the way this article is written – it sounds like the grandparents were virtual strangers to the kids. A boy wouldn’t go tell the police that Bobby’s grandpa tried to give him candy, he would either say thanks or no thanks. Instead, he reported to police that a person he didn’t know was handing out candy.

    Perhaps a better move by the grandparents would have been to set up folding chairs on the sidewalk and have a bag of store bought wrapped candy on their lap and greet all the kids who got off the bus and their parents. Do this enough times and everyone knows you and you know everyone. Its endearing and special. Sit in a car and do it once and awhile – its creepy.

  21. I spent some time living in China. One day, after finishing my work for the day, I stopped at a candy store and got some gummy candies before getting on the bus and going home. On the bus was a little boy, about 6 years old, sitting with his grandmother. I had my bag of gummies, and I asked his grandmother if I could give him one. She said yes!! I held up a gummy frog and a gummy shark and asked him which one he’d like. He chose one, I ate the other, and I felt good about being nice to a cute kid. Nobody treated me like a weirdo, either. It was a very refreshing attitude.

    But then, stranger danger isn’t an idea that’s taught in China.

  22. @AnotherAnon – Again, that’s not weird. You were sharing your treat that you were enjoying. I would allow my kid to take candy in that situation too.

    That isn’t creepy.

  23. D’ya guys remember an old British TV series called “Tales of the Unexpected” that used to play late night on American TV in the 80s? It was a bunch of weird and spooky stories, usually with a twist ending, written by Roald Dahl.

    Anywho, there was this one that really freaked me out and stuck with me. A young girl is approached by a creepy old man, but she’s able to get away from him. Then a kindly old lady offers to take her home, she just needs to stop off at her place first. They arrive at the old lady’s home and are greeted by — oh no! — the very same old creep who she got away from earlier. They were in on it together!! A little old lady no less, who is supposed to be nice. Thankfully, seeing that made me realize the truth about “nice” little old ladies. I vowed never to be fooled again! NOT!

    Lenore’s often said that people are confusing nasty television shows for real life and conducting their lives accordingly. It got me thinking, could the degree of free-ranging children in a nation be reflected in how little TV they watch? And conversely, helicoptering in how much TV a nation watches?

    I think from what we’ve read here, we can agree that the Scandinavian countries score high on free-range, US and UK low. Well, take a look at this graph, the UK and US watch the most television, and the Scandies are at the bottom. Just a thought, and I figured it might be interesting to throw it out there.

    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/med_tel_vie-media-television-viewing

  24. Tuppence, little old ladies can be dangerous! True story, when my father drove cab in New Orleans, the worst robbery he ever had was from a little old lady. Frail and helpless until she got a knife on him. He spent the next day or so (according to my mother) trying to work out how that had happened to him.

    But you know, she didn’t give him any candy. I think he got cheated🙂

  25. I’m not saying old people can’t be up to something. I was fondled more than once by a dirty old man. BUT the people who did that sort of thing to me and my siblings were not strangers. We were very free-range and a stranger never, ever tried any nonsense when I was a kid.

    I guess you could say that an old guy giving a child candy at the bus stop several times would eventually be seen as “not a stranger.” So perhaps we need to teach our kids to beware of “grooming.” Not sure how that conversation should go with preschoolers, other than the tried-and-true “don’t take candy.” Maybe “don’t take candy from someone who is a stranger to ME unless I am there.”

  26. @ Frances: I don’t mean to be insulting to anyone. I’m just stating fact through experience and observation. Anyone that is insulted, is only because they find some truth to it, which means they’re beliefs is partially flawed and therefore can’t accept it. Just like when people feel guilty. They feel guilt because at some level they are. There is no difference now than 20, 30, 40 even 100 years ago. When you look at people as a whole. People haven’t changed in thousands of years. What has changed is technology. News is easily distributed by all sorts of mediums. So every little thing that happens, the world knows. Then the world starts to fear that it’s an epidemic (when in reality statistics show we have less crime now than in earlier years). So one friend tells another, and because of their own fears, they make an issue of it. Then they spread their belief to other insecure, paranoid parents. And so on, and so on. That is what has happened in the last 20 years. Since the boom of the internet. People have become more fearful. So no, how people think today isn’t normal. By hundreds of years standards.

    If some elderly person offered my kid a candy from their car, I wouldn’t freak. Because my kid would already know how to deal with that situation. He’s very intelligent, he’s street smart already, he’s confident and I trust him. NOTHING bad has happened to him. He tells me everything that has happened to him that day. If ever there was something that needed to be addressed, we sit down and we go through it. So that next time it happens, he’s well equipped to deal with it. At the end of the day, we all have peace of mind, we don’t shun the world, and we don’t fear it. At the same time, he’s learning how to be sociable, caring, forgiving, and understanding.

    @ Elissa: that’s what YOU would do. What would be your basis to “runaway” from this person? Exactly. Now your fears become your children’s. They grow up fearing the world just like you. How do you think that will affect them as they get older? Based on the way people think these days, whether they gave it right out of their pocket, or they walked the child into a store, they WILL think the worse. After all they are total strangers. Stranger danger mentality. It’s sad, but true.

    @ Tuppence: I think that media plays a huge role in who people think and view things. It’s like we’ve been saying. It’s just fact that before the internet, there was never this much paranoia among parents. There were rarely TV shows that depicted crimes against children. There were some shows that had an episode about crimes against children. But not to the degree that it is now. But it’s not even all about media, it also has a lot to do with how people take these news, stories, shows, gossip, etc… People are letting their fears over power their common sense. Let me make one thing clear, it’s not that people don’t have common sense, but that they don’t use it because their fears rationalize things for them. So although they do have common sense, they act and respond to things as if they don’t. That’s why we say “people don’t have common sense”. For all intent and purpose, because they don’t use it, it’s safe to say they “don’t” have any.

    ANYONE can be dangerous. ANYONE. That includes little kids. But does that mean we should start thinking EVERYONE is dangerous? Again, this paranoia mentality of people these days is liken to OCD. OCD is NOT a good thing. People have been conditioned to think the way they do, they can be reconditioned to think the way we used. There is nothing about our society these days that warrant paranoia. It’s people’s own fears that dictate how they live and deal with life, not the world. Just like anything else, you have a choice. You can choose to live in fear, your can choose not to. It’s one’s own choice. But one is far more beneficial than the other. The other messed up thing about fearful people, is that they are selective of what they choose to fear. More often than not based on what is convenient for them. ie. A mother can be over protective of her kids. But would choose to j-walk on a busy street, with kids in tow, because she’s too lazy to walk to the lights and back down again on the other side of the street. Yes, I see this constantly. I’ve asked and that’s what some have said. Some I’ve confronted about it, and either they will look down and mumble, like a child that was scolded for doing something they know they shouldn’t have done. Or they would get all defensive, mumble beneath their voice, and storm off.

  27. When I was 8-9 years old, there was a couple that lived in our neighborhood and they ran a candy shop *GASP* out of their house! Literally! You went in the front door, to the left was their couch and TV and to the right was a glass counter filled with candy. They sold penny-candy, full-sized candy bars, cans of soda, and ice cream (in the summer). All of us kids stopped there after school if we happened to have any spare change on us. None of our parents had any problem with it at all, and we kids never hesitated, thinking that they might harm us or take us away (as so many parents teach their children today). They were just a nice couple who supplemented the husband’s income with a side business.

    And this wasn’t back in the 50’s either. I’m only 30 years old, so it was late 80’s/early 90’s. My, how quickly the world has changed…..

    (P.S. Forgive me if my sentences seem clipped and a bit hard to understand. I’ve been sick, and am heavily medicated. LOL)

  28. Oh my gosh, I couldn’t stop laughing after reading this article. How ridiculous.

  29. @Eric: your link to the definition of “tard” is, actually, insulting (albeit mildly amusing), because you’re implying that anyone who doesn’t agree with you deserves a label that means they don’t think. And I don’t agree with you either that people can only feel insulted if there’s some truth in the insulting comment!

    I wouldn’t “freak” about this incident, but I still think it’s weird. It’s not at all the same as someone approaching my kid when he’s with me.

    I don’t live my life consumed by fear,. I don’t watch much TV either. But I work in health care, and I see some pretty compelling stats and some pretty damaged individuals, and I talk to kids about abuse…and I think a healthy degree of suspicion is actually important. We need to make decisions based on reality, not fear, but also based on reality, not blind trust. Some of the “good old days” weren’t so good. Some secrets were kept. Some kids actually DON’T tell their parents everything.

    @Elissa — we’re on the same page except for the lawn chair at the bus stop. That would be creepier! Why can’t this old couple befriend some parents, if it means so much to them to give treats to kids?

  30. Elissa, I think you need some space between “what I wouldn’t do” and “what I’m not comfortable with” on the one hand, and “weird” on the other.

    If you’re not comfortable with your kids taking candy in a situation like this, by all means, don’t let them. But “weird” is a disparaging term and it isn’t right to disparage these people unless you know for some reason that there’s something unwholesome about what they’re doing, as opposed to just something you wouldn’t do or be comfortable with.

  31. @EricS –

    The point at which you and I differ is the assessment of whether or not this particular scenario is cause for concern.

    The only good way to judge the character of a stranger is through their behaviour. In this case, the behaviour raises alarm bells – BIG ones.

    If you take the ratio of bad people to good people, over everyone in all situations, you get a very, very small number. However, certain behaviours will make it more apparent as to who belongs in which category.

    You’re not considering what the ratio of good people to bad ones are in the whole world, period – you’re looking at people who offer gifts to children they’ve never met and whose parents they’ve never met, and in a manner that lures the child into or close to their private vehicle, and they do it during a time when there are no adults present, and they do it when the child is in a somewhat vulnerable period of time (the child is not in a situation where any adults know exactly where he is)… and you’ve just increased the odds that the person engaging in this particular behaviour has bad intentions. There are a lot of factors there, all of which increase risk for the child.

    Long story short, as far as I’m concerned, this is an absolutely textbook case of the sort of behaviour people should teach their children to look out for in strangers – and then avoid the hell out of those sorts of strangers.

  32. @Pentamom – According to Miriam Webster – Weird – (adj): Strange or of extraordinary character; odd.

    I find it weird/odd/strange when adults in cars ask kids if they want candy.

    @EricS – get off your high horse. I am not at all afraid of the world. I don’t see how not wanting to take candy/food/anything from random people on the street means I’m afraid of the world. I don’t take samples from sample plates either because I don’t know who touched it and with what. Last week at Costco I saw some lady taking sips out of various Dixie cups and putting them back on the tray! Some mom checked her kids diaper to see if it was wet (you know, the finger in the leg hole routine) then proceeded to touch some of the nut cup samples until she found one she liked. I see how many ladies leave the bathroom without washing their hands. *gag*

    I’m not saying that I wouldn’t thank the person politely or otherwise engage them in conversation, or encourage my children to do the same. I’m saying I wouldn’t eat what their offering, nor would I encourage my kid to. Its like teaching a kid not to eat dirt. Will they eat dirt – yes, but preferably not on a regular basis.

  33. @ Francis: are you a tard? If not, why would my comment about tards bother you? Did I use your name specifically when I made my comments? No. So why would you take it personally unless you felt some part of you agreed with me, and they other part couldn’t accept that. It’s human psychology. If there is something for you to be upset about, you’ll be upset. If something is there to be insulted about, it means you felt insulted. You then have to ask yourself why? If your not that type of person that I describe, and I didn’t direct the comment towards you, why would YOU be offended. Hmmmm. And your saying that acts of kindness is weird to you? Or is it that a male stranger giving out candy to kids he doesn’t know, but knows that these kids could very well be friends with his grandchildren, is possibly a pervert? Do you see the difference in how I think, and how you and others think? Did you also know that statistically, crimes against children are often done by someone they already know, and that some of those people are very close to them? Your “compelling stats”, do they tell you who the abusers are? I’m almost certain that they weren’t strangers. Yet, you probably don’t think twice about the people you know that watch, take care of, or even mentor your kids. Hmmmmm.

    I don’t doubt what you say about you not living in fear, but rather live a life of suspicion. But that that’s were fear starts, the suspicion. There is no healthy degree of suspicion. There’s just suspicion. Suspicion involves trust, or more specifically the lack of. How can not trusting someone you don’t know be healthy at any degree? At one point or another, everyone you know today was a stranger. And how did you become friends with them? You kept an open mind, and gave them the opportunity to gain your trust. Did you think it was “weird” that they wanted to talk to you? Probably not right. So how are they any different then two old couples being friendly to kids? Or how about this situation, you STARTED to become friends with..say…a woman (platonic), you’ve seen her a couple of times, you’ve known her for about 3 weeks, she starts talking to your child while your paying for gas or grocery. Would you leer at her and find her weird and remove your child? After all you’ve only known her for 3 weeks, and seen her a couple of times. You don’t know her very well. Hmmmmm.

    Also, some people’s reality isn’t necessarily THE reality. You say “I don’t live my life consumed by fear” and “We need to make decisions based on reality, not fear, but also based on reality, not blind trust.” Yet if you had your choice, you wouldn’t let your kids talk to strangers (this assumption is based on what you’ve already posted). Free range isn’t about blind trust. Nor is it about letting your kids do whatever they want to do. Free range is about letting your kids BE kids. To not shelter them. To let them have experience of the world around them. All the while using common sense, and street smarts that you’ve taught them. And letting them used these skills as they get older, when they start to deal with all the things a lot of parents keep them from. Teaching kids (whether you realize it or not, kids pick up on everything you do, say, and feel), bad habits like distrust and fear, WILL affect them later in life. I think it’s irresponsible and selfish for parents to ill prepare their children for the inevitable, all because THEY want to feel better about themselves and their decision.

    So if you don’t think you’ve done anything wrong, and you believe your raising your kids the right way. Then nothing anyone here says should ever offend you. What’s the saying…”sticks and stones…”. Like I’ve said, a perverted mind begets perverted thoughts. Just like a guilty mind, begets guilty feelings. And the only way I can see you being insulted, is that there is a level of guilt involved. That or your waaaay too sensitive. Which isn’t a good thing to be teaching your kids either. 😉

  34. @Sera – EXACTLY! There is NOTHING inherently wrong with unknown adults giving children candy. Hello? Isn’t that what Halloween is essentially all about?

    Its the totality of this situation that makes this so disturbing.

    On another note – why are we not celebrating this kid? He did EXACTLY what a free-range parent would hope to have happen. He felt uncomfortable and sought out help from another stranger – one he felt he could trust. So clearly he has been equipped with the knowledge that not all unknown adults are bad.

    Rather than defending the weird/odd/strange behavior of the adults, lets applaud the kid!

  35. Oh…by the way, even though some days weren’t great back then. The good old days still had far, far less fearful people/neighbors. Sure there were still child abductions, and abuse, in fact there were probably more of that going around back then. But yet, neighbors were still neighbors. Block parties were everywhere in the summer. Kids freely rode their bikes all around, without some cop or know it all causing grief towards the parents who let them do so. And the reason why some kids didn’t tell anyone the “secret” is because they didn’t know how. Why? Because either the person who abused them is in the family. They didn’t have the confidence to do so. Or no one would listen, and therefore they thought no one would believe them. Take your pick. Either one, it boils down to the child had no confidence or self-esteem to do so. They feared. THIS is one of the things we try to eliminate in FR.

  36. @ Elissa: the kid did a great job. But that’s not the issue. The issue is how the ADULTS are dealing with the situation. Instead of thinking of who these elderly people are, perhaps they’re someone’s…oh…grandparents? We do have those. Most people think PERVERTS right off the bat. THAT is the issue here. Shoot first ask questions later. Bring out the noose and sling it over the tree limb, before actually finding out what the whole story is. Or who they really are. Just put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if you been chastised for something that wasn’t true. If your like any human being with feelings, you’d be angry, insulted, hurt, and humiliated. I doubt you could just smile and ignore it. Especially if it’s right there in black and white in the papers. Classic saying “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Words everyone should live by day in day out. It would be a much better world if we all did.

  37. @EricS — you put a lot of energy into that. However, I didn’t say I personally was offended. I do struggle with this site because I find a lot of the discourse actually is insulting or demeaning to other commenters (not to mention the people described in the posts). I think that kind of language stops discussion. If that makes me sensitive, so be it. I think it means I believe in old-fashioned manners…and that is something I am most definitely teaching my kid.

    The rest of your comment — I’m sorry, but you’ve read way more into what I said than is there.

    @Sera — thank you, that’s exactly the kind of healthy suspicion I’m talking about. Being aware of the red flags in this story does NOT have to translate into “living a life of suspicion”. But I do hope my child will grow up to pay attention when his “spidey-senses” tell him something might not be quite right.

  38. @EricS – How is what the kid did not the issue? Clearly, there was enough concern on his part that he felt he should tell someone. Clearly the kid didn’t think “oh, those could be my grandparents” because they were acting in a way that was different than the way his grandparents acted. He didn’t think “oh, that’s Bobby’s grandpa. He’s an odd one but harmless” No, he saw a behavior that disturbed him.

    The article also goes on to say that the grandparents were warned by their daughter that their actions could be misinterpreted – which means that SHE thought they were doing something not quite right as well. If the daughter had thought that there was NO WAY grandpa’s actions could be misconstrued, I doubt she would have warned him.

    Clearly there is a problem with Grandpa’s delivery here. It creeps out the kids and puts adults on alert.

    Again – we don’t have the whole story of what happened from the article but there is a big difference between some strange old man going up to a kid saying “want some candy, little boy?” and a friendly old man sitting by the bus stop with a bag of candy, waiting for his grand kid and offering candy to other kids. The former is creepy the later is friendly and part of being in a mixed age community.

  39. Um, I would say the kids saw behavior that distrubed him because he was trained that all adults who take an interest in him are dirty, creepy, evil child-molesters. That’s not a healthy attitude.

    I don’t see anything inherently wrong with an elderly COUPLE sitting in a car handing out candy. Some of you have gotten all hung up about the old man, but he was there with his wife! Doesn’t that indicate that perhaps he’s not up to some devious child-napping feat? Or are we assuming that Gramma is also potentially a pedophile?

    Ah, who needs the WHOLE story when just certain parts of it are enough to justify one’s world view…

  40. Ahh, this reminds me of the family story about my parents asking me, aged four, what I would do if a stranger offered me candy. They were expecting me to say I’d scream, say no, run away, etc. Instead, I promptly said, “I’d ask what kind it was first.” No way was I getting kidnapped for second-rate candy!

    When my daughter was little, I did teach her not to accept or eat anything from someone she didn’t know *unless* her father or I said it was OK. She got a lot of practice in asking first, because her dad’s family is from an Asian country and in their culture, it’s very common for adults to offer sweets and money to any children they happen to interact with. It seemed like a good balance between “never take anything from anyone ever” and “sure, go ahead and hop into that guy’s car to get a lollipop.”

  41. I think some are confusing ODD with CREEPY. I think the couple’s behavior is a tad odd. Hell, I think some of my grandmother’s behavior is odd too. But there is no reason to be creeped out about it. I’d be more concerned that this shows some mental decline on the part of the couple, rather than worried that these people were trying to kidnap the kid.

    You sometimes have to judge older people by different standards than we live in. My step-father is short of 70. In his childhood, candy was a luxury that you got in small amounts on Christmas, birthdays, easter, and maybe a trip to the penny candy store with your 5 cent allowance on Saturday if your family wasn’t too poor. Getting a random piece of candy from a grandparent, acquaintance, shop keeper or stranger was a BIG treat. Older people often enjoy giving out candy because they want to make kids happy – just like they enjoyed getting random candy when they were children. It simply loses something in translation to 2011 when candy is plentiful and given out regularly for any minor achievement.

    I’m no more worried about this than I am about the neighborhood cop who likes to stop and give my child stickers (I really mean that he has stopped his car, got out and handed her a sticker). I think the cop is kinda odd but I’m not going to jump to the conclusion that he has nefarious purposes. He never does anything more than hand her a sticker. I think he just thinks my kid is cute (she is) and building community relations on your beat is not a bad idea.

    I have never told my child, nor do I ever plan to tell my child, not to take candy from strangers. I teach her that giving candy is a nice gesture and, if she wants it, she needs to make sure that she says “thank you.” However, if her gut tells her it’s a bad idea in that situation, then say “no thank you” and walk away.

  42. @Vanessa — that will be my approach too, when my child is old enough to have candy.

    @Donna — your point about the couple’s mental status is a good one. But I’m not sure I agree that we should judge the elderly by different standards than everybody else. Isn’t that kind of ageist?

    I was talking about this with my hubby tonight & he said, right off, “why does it matter how old the couple were?”. It’s a good point. Would we be accepting of this story if it were a middle-aged couple? Or teenagers?

  43. @ Frances – No I don’t think it ageist. To try to understand where people are coming from before assuming negative intent is never an “ist” of any sort. I feel the same about other cultures. I think expecting an 80 year old to have the same view of the world as a 30 year old is more ageist.

    In other words, people’s behavior is a product of the world in which they were raised/lived most of their lives. My grandmother grew up during the depression/WWII era. She can work a computer, cell phone and in many ways is very much a part of modern culture even at 80. In other ways she is stuck in 1945. For example, she has done well for herself financially. Getting her to spend money she has is like pulling teeth and throwing things away is sacrilege at her house. Most of her friends are the same – anything still useable is not replaced, right down to washing out ziploc bags for repeated uses. They’ll tell you that it’s a result if living through the depression. Recent times have told us that their way may be the better way but it’s not a modern view at all and has resulted in many eye rolls from the younger generations through the years.

    Older people lived most of their lives in a time when handing out candy to strange children was acceptable and welcome. I would consider that in deciding whether their behavior is creepy or with bad intent.

    I would question the behavior more from middle aged people as they grew up in a world where giving candy to random strange kids was frowned upon and connected to child molesters (even if just in lore). However, I wouldn’t automatically jump to the pervert conclusion any more than I think the 30-something cop is “grooming” my child by giving her stickers whenever he sees her.

  44. @Frances — Just want to say, (and not getting into any other issue(s) here, just want to comment on the one thing) the point with the nation as a whole watching so much television, means it may be infecting the nation’s psyche. And may define what a country generally consider normal or odd, and that then affects everyone, even people who don’t watch a lot of television.

    So things that would right away be suspicious in a fictitious scenario (because in a story the drama needs to develop, not just come all at once, and so “clues” + it always helps when the audience is more aware than the character playing the role — No little boy, don’t take that candy from that weird couple in the car! — are built in), might start to seem odd in real life. Why is that couple giving out candy from their car? Must be something coming (as we are certain there would be in a TV show). But in real life, it is what it is, and stops there. No dramatic payoff in the end.

    Of course I don’t know if the theory is true, just want to point out, if it were, a single person wouldn’t have to watch a lot of TV to be affected by the mentality it encourages. And it would mean a person would have to actively re-think, and work against, what is considered “normal” in his or her society. Never an easy thing.

  45. @Uly — little old ladies, the perfect cover!!

    Better warn the government that terrorists might start recruiting them. Wait, they’re already on to that one — Mom (little old lady) is constantly being stopped and getting her bags checked at the airport. Confiscated: Nail-clipper, one.

  46. “In other, three 11yo’s rescue a 7 yo who fell over and was trapped in the mud. The kids were fishing crabs (on their own), and found the little one slowly sinking. They rescued him, and that was that. Well, quite. “Drastic” measures have been taken to ensure safety: the Council has covered the swamp up with sand”

    And in the UK last year, police rescue workers left children to drown in a pond because they lacked “safety equipment” (for themselves of course) to get them out.
    They did prevent anyone else from coming near and put themselves in harm’s way to perform the rescue of course, because you can’t allow people to hurt themselves, even if it is to save others…

  47. @SKL — you had a negative experience as a kid with a creep. One of the things that annoys me so much about the whole molestation hysteria and what it brings — like people saying they’re okay with fingerprinting adults who are involved with kids: meaning the price of dignity and trust that such invasive measures cost (v. high), is nothing compared with the cost of a child being touched inappropriately, implies that nothing, no nothing! could be more horrible, and devastating and unrecoverable in a child’s life.

    One often gets the impression they think it’s as bad as a child being killed. Or even, they don’t seem to differentiate between the two. I don’t think that gives children much credit – imagining that no child has the resiliency to recover from such a thing. I don’t know, it’s all so Oprah Winfrey-esque to my mind (get that lady some victims, they sell like hotcakes): Maudlin, phony, and, simply, just not true.

    Also, I can’t help but think of those countries where, if a woman is raped, it sticks to HER like she’s done the wrong. I find it similar minded when we assume the deed done to the child must negatively stick to the child and ruin, nothing less than ruin, his or her entire life.

    Wondering what you think about this.

  48. Tuppence — I’ve often thought the same. Some children have been horribly abused in ways that really do scar them for life. But one unfortunate, disgusting encounter with someone is not the end of any hope for a healthy life for a child, yet in people’s fears, it seems to amount to that. These things need to be assessed more rationally, and people need to understand the difference between maintaining a sense of proportion, and being indifferent or taking things too lightly.

  49. This is a little side topic, but I love grandparents!
    You can choose to teach your child to read people and learn good intent from bad.
    My husband and I were loners by nature and after our daughter was born we were exhausted by the intensity of focus needed to get her through the first weeks of life. One day we just had to get out of the house and we went to this little hole in the wall burger joint. Well, Little angsty baby woke up and proceeded to get all fidgety. This 70 or 80 yr old man who was out with his wife came over and offered to help. I made a decision at that moment. I thought of all the shyness and fear I had lived with growing up and knew that I wanted a strong smart brave little girl. My parents had scared me so much that I had a near nervous break at 18 because the asked me to bike over to the corner store and pick up a loaf of bread. I walked to that corner store with my dad 4 or 5 times a week.
    I thanked him kindly and passed her over. This sweet couple had a few minutes with a kiddo, the kiddo quieted right down and had fun being bounced on grampa’s knee and I got to eat and hold hands with my sweetie for the first time in weeks. Don’t know their names never saw them again, but my little girl loves meeting new people and Their smiles and kindness will be remembered for a lifetime.
    This happened at about 2months old. She is 7mo now and I have never seen a happier baby. My little girl has 8 Grammie’s and countless Aunties and Uncles and the number grows daily.

  50. Tuppence, I’m glad you ased the question. It may depend on the individual. Also, in my case, there was “grooming” involved as it was a family friend and not a stranger. He also gave me hush money afterwards, which I accepted in order to feel like I’d “hurt him back,” but later made me feel disgusted with myself, as if I’d prostituted myself. I felt guilty / disappointed with myself in many ways. Although I hadn’t “come on” to him, there were behaviors I should have run from, but instead I went along with them. Of course, this guilt was in hindsight only, but that doesn’t always compute with a 12-year-old. I didn’t dare tell anyone who could help me think through it in a healthy way – I pictured my dad storming over and getting violent with the guy or giving him a heart attack. I was sure my mom would blame me for bringing it on myself if she knew all the facts. The first person in my family that I told was my brother, six years later, when I was 18.

    Being molested (even relatively mildly – I was fondled, not raped) was probably a big factor in why I shied away from boy-girl relationships as a teen and young adult. Could have something to do with the fact that I never married – I don’t know. Surely there were other factors, but I have no doubt it had a lasting effect. I did eventually get over it, as an adult.

    I can only imagine how much worse things would have been had I been actually raped or otherwise victimized, especially over a course of time.

    I don’t take child molestation lightly. However, my concern is that kids be strong enough to (a) run away from it when they sense it and (b) deal with it as well as possible if it does happen. I don’t believe that keeping kids away from the outside world will prevent molestation – it usually happens with family/friends. I knew a girl who was raped by her grandfather, uncle, and brother, at least. Yet after all that her parents beat her and practically chained her indoors when they found out she was flirting with boys. (Needless to say their efforts backfired big-time, but that’s a discussion for a different day.)

    Honestly, this topic is on my heart a lot as I raise my girls. Molestation happens. But that doesn’t change the fact that the vast majority of people in this world are good, and that means (a) they deserve my kids’ love, trust, and respect, and (b) my kids deserve their love. Keeping my kids away from true live in order to protect them from perversion seems . . . perverted.

  51. @JTW: How awful! In case you can’t translate the article, it says that the “swamp” (actually, a big puddle) was the main child attraction in the neighbourhood. Everyone was OK with that, because they thought it was just about 1m deep. Turns out it wasn’t. Actually, the first kid to try to rescue the child was being swallowed too, and it was then that his other friends did as they saw in old-fashioned films: lie on their tummies, forming a human chain, and drag the others back.
    I don’t know much about rescue techniques, but this time it worked.
    Another nice note: neighbouring parents’ reaction was just to warn their kids that crab fishing was off-limits from then on. But by all means, get out of the house and have fun.

  52. Meant “true love,” not “true live” in my last sentence above.

  53. What the adults did wasn’t creepy at all. If someone has a problem with what they did, they need to examine their OWN selves.

    LRH
    Rooted Coby Android Tablet

  54. SKL, I appreciate your being so candid. Need I say how much I admire and respect your ability to put your daughters best interests first, and deny being overwhelmed by the very rotten hand that fate once played you? Shows quite a high degree of emotional intelligence, I believe.

  55. I think the attitude that child molestation is life-ending is just so bad for kids who are molested. It’s like the kid who falls and skins his knee but doesn’t cry until mommy makes a big deal over it. I’m certainly not equating being molested with a skinned knee, but being told that molestation is the worst thing that could ever happen to you will probably make being molested the worst thing that ever happened to you. Something that you could bounce back from over time becomes something that ends the productive phase of your life, not because it would naturally do so but because you’re so conditioned to believe that it should be an unrecoverable tragedy.

  56. The funny thing is, when I was a bit older, I began to realize how common molestation is, and that it even happened to some of the people I thought would judge me for it. So, I am wondering whether it would be a good or bad thing for kids to know this at an earlier age. I mean, if you think you are the only person this ever happened to, you are more likely to think it happened partly because of the kind of person you are. On the other hand, I worry that if we tell kids it’s common, they might be more likely to make up stories about things that didn’t really happen. It’s a tough call.

  57. I will say that when I was growing up, it was common to hear that many women would rather be killed than raped. I don’t hear that very much any more (thankfully).

    On the other hand, I do think it’s important to teach our daughters that their body needs to be protected and respected and all that. The idea that sex is “no big deal” has many unhealthy repercussions in my opinion.

    I guess I will spend the next 8 years or so working on the message that I want my kids to hear.

  58. I think you go with sex, and by extension molestation/rape, is a big deal. But it’s not a life-ending big deal. You can move past it and live a happy, fulfilling life. It doesn’t have to define who you are if you don’t let it.

    I personally don’t have any interest in telling my kid about the commonness of molestation. I don’t think the average kid needs to know that. I think you just need to try to foster an open relationship with your kids so they know they can talk to you about anything. If it happens, then it makes sense to explain that they are not the only ones.

  59. Donna, the only problem with that is, many times the victim is afraid / ashamed to tell anyone. We hope our relationship is open enough that our kids won’t feel that way, but I really don’t know how to ensure that. I think a lot of parents believe their kids are more open than they actually are.

  60. “Donna, the only problem with that is, many times the victim is afraid / ashamed to tell anyone. ”

    But isn’t that just a factor of how we treat it? If the kid knows he needn’t be afraid/ashamed to tell anything, and doesn’t have some strange mystic aura built up around people touching him in one way or another, why would he be afraid or ashamed (unless maybe if he’s threatened?)

  61. Pentamom, can you really ensure your kids feel they “needn’t be afraid/ashamed to tell anything”? I have never met a tween / teen who was that open with his/her parents. Doesn’t everyone have something they keep hidden?

    For one thing, kids in puberty often overreact emotionally due to their hormones. On top of that, they tend to be embarrassed about anything that’s going on with their private parts at that age. Whether it’s natural changes or feelings, or stuff that’s “bad” according to what they have been taught.

    I think my mom actually tried to bring us up to be “open” with her about stuff like that, but I could not be. Not about any of it. It was all I could do to tell her when I started my period. Neither of my sisters were open books either.

    I like the ideal of openness, just don’t feel confident that it will be my girls’ reality.

  62. SKL, omg, you jogged my memory, yes – girls did used to say rather dead than raped and have to live with it. Again, upon reflection, this was aided and abetted by the media. Oprah, et. al, needless to say, and recall the the films and made for TV programs at the time. Two examples of this were just on television here last night: “The General’s Daughter” (a late comer to the party, admittedly) and an “Inspector Morse” (1980s) episode about a woman who spends years carrying out an elaborate plan to extract revenge from her rapist (although she had gone on to a very successful career). I guess after those stories got so ordinary that their power to titillate wilted, they moved on to children and molestation. What will be next? The family cat?

    Were the intentions benevolent or malignant in all this “the suffering it caused was worse than the crime” broadcasting? Well, the parties involved probably did make a s-load of money off it (s.o. in particular, I mention no names, is one the richest people on earth!). But it doesn’t automatically follow that intentions were nefarious. Still, personally, I find it akin to putting a finger in the wound (and leaving there for a good looong time).

    Re. kids and “the talks”. I suspect you’re right SKL, never really works the way the parent hopes it will. I guess it’s another one of those issues where, if we’re being honest, we can only hope for the best.

    One of the things that we FRers like to believe we recognize, that helicopters fail to, is acknowledging that a parent cannot control all outcomes. Looks like sometime, we’re gonna have to own it.

  63. SKL, no, I can’t ensure it. I’m just saying that’s the direction to go in.

    What’s the alternative?

  64. On the other hand, I do think it’s important to teach our daughters that their body needs to be protected and respected and all that.

    Your children, period. You don’t want your sons thinking they can just go around raping people either, of course. (And I know you didn’t intend to say that, but it’s important to keep bringing up the fact that responsibility goes in several directions.) Apparently, a staggering proportion of men are happy to admit they’ve raped others, so long as you don’t use that word.

    Pentamom, can you really ensure your kids feel they “needn’t be afraid/ashamed to tell anything”? I have never met a tween / teen who was that open with his/her parents. Doesn’t everyone have something they keep hidden?

    Not necessarily. There was nothing (other than grades, which was moot, I knew my mom knew about them anyway) I felt I should hide from my mother, or that I felt ashamed to admit to her.

    HOWEVER, this means very little in this discussion for two reasons.

    First, I know I’m atypical in many ways. I’m not always sure which ways, but people often talk about things that “everybody” knows that I don’t. (And in this case, I know where I got that closeness to my mother, and it was pretty much from the fact that our family functioned as a firm unit with little need or interest in other people. It was great in many ways, but most people want their kids to have, you know, friends.)

    And second, just because I was willing to talk to my mother about just about anything didn’t mean I actually *did* talk to my mother about just about anything. There were a number of things I didn’t bother to tell her because I figured she knew or because I didn’t think it was much of her business. If she didn’t feel the need to get involved when I got a splinter, why should she get involved when I was being bullied? Wasn’t that my concern? If she’d brought it up I’d’ve been willing to talk about it openly, but it never occurred to me that this was the sort of thing parents might like to know about!

    So… yeah, you’re mostly right anyway, I think.

  65. @ SKL – I agree that I can’t guarantee that my child will talk about these things with me. But I don’t think emphasizing that molestation is common (and I don’t really think it’s all that common), is the way to go. Seems like a way to make worried, anxious kids who grow into helicopter parents to me.

    I do think you can increase the odds that your children will talk to you about these matters by emphasizing that the victim is never to blame, that it doesn’t change who you are and that you’d never think differently of anyone if that happened to them when the subject comes up. There are opportunities to have these conversations that don’t relate to your specific child. For example, I sometimes watch the news with my daughter in the room. She occasionally asks me what words mean and what they’re talking about and I’ve explained it to her as best I can to a 5 year old.

  66. @ Francis: You gave me something to talk about.😉 You may have not said all that I mentioned. But I’m most certain you felt and thought of them. Much like you took what I was saying the wrong way. It happens, it’s the internet. Things can be taken the wrong way all the time, especially when your heart and mind isn’t in agreement. This is one of those cases where we can agree to disagree and leave it at that.

    @ Elissa: what the kid did is not the issue because, we aren’t talking about what the kid did. The “argument” is what the grandfather did. People are saying he’s wrong, some of us are saying he isn’t. It all depends on who’s viewing this. Rewind 20 years ago, you think this would be an issue? No it wouldn’t. Most people back then would think it was a nice gesture. Fast forward to today, a lot of people are so influenced by media that they’ve become all paranoid, and ALL acts of kindness, and friendly intentions by strangers are automatically considered predatory. That’s so ridiculous. And regarding the daughter “warning” her father, you can also view it as she knows how a lot of people think these days. And didn’t want her father to get into trouble for being nice. NOT because “…SHE thought they were doing something not quite right as well.” Because, there have been incidences were people’s kind actions have landed them in jail, a visit from child services, and the police. Now what would you do knowing that, and knowing your father was a kind soul who never hurt a fly? You’d warn him just the same.

    @Socalledauthor: “Um, I would say the kids saw behavior that distrubed him because he was trained that all adults who take an interest in him are dirty, creepy, evil child-molesters. That’s not a healthy attitude.” That is valid point too. Thanks for bringing that up.

    And in regards to posts about children being able to talk to their parents about anything. They first have to learn and associate it with positives. Just like Socalledauthor said in his post. Now if the parent(s) explained the children in a more positive way (not freaking them out), they would grow to be more comfortable in talking their parents. Positive begets positive, negative begets negative. That’s just how it is. But being constantly positive doesn’t mean you become complaisant. In fact being positive helps you to be more aware, and confident to deal with the negatives that surround you. When your fearful to begin with, and put in a fearful situation, that negative feeling just becomes even more compounded. But with a positive attitude, you think more clearly, you have more options, and you can easily do what is necessary to protect yourself.

  67. I think it is really not creepy because they were waiting for their own grandchild to get off the bus and they probably had bought him some candy to give him when he got off the bus. Then they must have just decided to give the extra candy to the other kids. No harm in that. If the other kid does not want it they can decline it.

    It would be creepy if they were just sitting there waiting for kids to get off the bus and didn’t have any other reason to be there. That would concern me. Even if their intentions were pure they should know that kind of stuff is frowned upon.

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