Although this happened last year, I remember it like it was yesterday. It’s difficult to live it again by retelling our story, but I think sharing it will help more moms stay vigilant in this crazy world.
It started at Sam’s Club. He was young, unassuming, even attractive. We first saw him in the diaper aisle when he said hello to my three-year-old daughter. Then, I saw him again checking out at the same time as us. Then again, in the parking lot, where he waved at my girl a second time. A few minutes later, I realized his car was following ours.
I called my husband, told him what was going on, and took an odd turn into a neighborhood I didn’t live in. I thought I had lost him and that maybe it was all in my head, so I decided to drive to the post office as I had originally planned before we went home. When I got to the post office, I saw him in the parking lot, watching us with his window down. I knew then that either I hadn’t lost him as I thought or that he had overheard me talking to my daughter while at Sam’s Club about what our plans were for the day. This time, my mama blood started boiling. I got out of the car, got my phone out, and loudly started saying that I had every intention of calling the police. I got my daughter and walked into the post office and told everyone in there about him. They sent a man out, who saw him and his car again. They ended up escorting us back out once the man had left.
I am quick to assume the best in people, but recounting this now I feel ashamed at how long it took me to put the pieces together. The man was in the diaper aisle and was not purchasing diapers; the man just so happened to be checking out at the same time as us; he spoke to my daughter multiple times; and was also driving away at the same time and in the same direction as us. More than all that, there was just something about his gaze.
I was completely shaken.
The what-ifs haunted me for a while. I was scared to go anywhere alone with my child. What if I hadn’t noticed? What if they had gotten her? To move past it, and so I could sleep better at night, I set into action: I contacted the Sam’s Club store manager, alerting them of the time of check out so they could pull up videos, flag his membership, and worked with police to raise a red flag with that vehicle and description. In addition to those steps, I chose to focus on the positives. First and most importantly, we got home safely. Second, although it took a bit for me to realize what was going on, I DID notice. I WAS aware of my surroundings. And third, kind strangers gathered around to make sure my daughter and I were protected.
As I have spent time with other moms, I have heard similar stories that give me goosebumps. I do not intend for this post to spread fear, to make readers think the worst of every person who says hello (I mean, who wouldn’t want to talk to these sweet faces?!), or to suggest that going into big box stores with your kids isn’t safe. Instead, I’d like my experience to serve as a reminder to stay vigilant. After all, as parents, we are in charge of keeping our children safe.