During my week guest editing at the Hingham Patch, I had the freedom to write about whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to attend local meetings and was not assigned any stories in particular. It was nice, and gave me the opportunity to see my town in a different way, although sometimes I think I work better when someone says “write about *this*.”
When I was brainstorming ideas, I remembered that one of Ellie’s friends had signed up for police camp that week. I didn’t know much about it (needless to say, I hadn’t signed my kids up for it), so I thought it would be fun to see what it was all about. And, holy cow, was I impressed. I wrote the piece and asked the officers if there was any way they could squeeze my kids in. Being the generous and dedicated people they are, the answer was yes.
The kids started radKIDS camp last Monday, and over the course of four days learned a tremendous amount about personal safety, telling the difference between good and bad strangers, and strategies they can use to avoid dangerous situations. I mean, everything from bike and bus safety, to calling 911, to escaping a house fire, to what to do if a stranger asks you for help.
In short, it’s a course on how to actually do the things we parents are always telling them to. Every class the kids got to practice the skills they’d talk about — for instance, we tell kids to call 911 in an emergency. In this class, they do it. We say “don’t get into a car with a stranger” — in this class, they practice exactly that. And they’ve also learned physical self-defense — how to hold their bodies in a strong, defensive way, as well as blocks, kicks and hits. And they have learned to use their voices — oh, my, how those voices have practiced being LOUD and firm — as a main form of self-protection.
The short class really instills in kids a certain amount of confidence that they didn’t start off with. By the end of the week, their legs are strong and their bodies alert. At the end of every day, when they practice their moves, thirty or so of them spread out in the gym in rows so it looks like a dojo, they respond with instinct. An officer shouts, “Rad Kids ready!” And every child jumps into the ready stance — all at once, like they’ve been training for years — legs firm, arms raised in both defense and challenge, and, with what seems like one voice, they shout: “Stay back! You’re not my mom! You’re not my dad!”
Today’s an exciting day. It’s the final class, and during it the kids face an obstacle course of challenges, showing what they’ve learned. The final challenge is to escape a stranger who tries to abduct them. The kids wear protective gear — and so will the officer who tries to assault them, and his is much heavier and complex, because these kids hit and they kick and they do it with all their strength — and, holy cow, some of these kids are strong — because even though today it will be just kindly Officer Rob under all that padding, today is the day they get to do everything they can to save their lives. To practice getting away.
I can’t wait to see what my four do — and hopefully will come back later to share some photos or video of it all. You won’t believe your eyes.
A lot of kids take this class year after year, and so will mine, from now on, because we know how quickly kids can forget. It’s the repetition, the practice that’s important.
The truth is, probably — hopefully — most of our kids will never, ever need to battle a predatory stranger. But I feel a whole lot better know that if that horrible scenario arises, mine will know what to do.