This post is a continuation of Tuesday's post, with an intimate revelation into what happened to me as a child in the hands of a neighbor offering a harmless piece of candy:
Let me give you a scenario to think about.
On Halloween, you take your little girl around the neighborhood trick-or-treating. The neighbor man at the corner asks her what her name is. She looks up at you, questioning whether or not it is proper to answer him. You nod and say it is okay. She tells him her name and he throws some candy in her bucket.
The next day, your daughter is walking home from the bus stop. The kind neighbor sees her walking by and calls out to her.
"Suzy, I have some candy left from last night," he tells her. "Why don't you come in and I'll give you some."
"I can't," she says, hesitantly. "I'm not allowed to take candy from strangers."
"Strangers?!" the neighbor feigns hurt. "I'm not a stranger. Your mom let you take candy from me last night, remember?" He coaxes her further. "I saved some candy just for you! You're my favorite little neighbor."
"Well, okay," Suzy says. "I guess it's okay."
Bam. The neighborhood pedophile just lured in his prey. And you gave him the bait he needed.
Think it doesn't happen that way? Let me tell you that it does. Please, please, be very careful.
I didn't share this story in last year's post, but decided it was time to go public with it. In reference to the above scenario -- while parents want to think they are safe in their cozy little neighborhoods and trick or treating with neighbors is a safe thing to do, that wasn't the case for me as a child.
When I was 9-years-old, I was raped by a "friendly old neighbor man who just loved kids but didn't have any of his own." The lure of candy and someone who would spend time with me after school while my mother was working, was too much for me to resist. Keep in mind, back in the 60s in small-town America, it was not at all uncommon for kids my age to be out running around the neighborhood until suppertime. I don't have a lot of memories about what happened to me, but I do remember burying my bloody underwear (white with yellow stitching) underneath all the food scraps in the olive green garbage can in the corner of the garage. It's odd which memories stick and which ones are just too brutal to recall. The sexual abuse was not a one-time occurrence, and it didn't just happen to me.
Why didn't I tell my parents? Quite simply because the perpetrator told me that if I ever told anyone, I wouldn't go to heaven. Thus, my struggle with conditional grace began. As a 9-year-old, that thought terrified me. So I kept my mouth shut and endured the abuse until the man died. I remember my parents being concerned about how upset I would be about his death. Little did they know that all I felt was relief.
The memories were buried deep inside of me, under my own personal garbage, until I was 31. Gradually they started to surface, but to my horror and liberation. Liberation? Yes, I felt liberated from baggage I carried for years, yet could never identify. The revelation changed my life and freed me from the burden, although I still get a sick feeling in my stomach when I see a wrapped Mary Jane candy, or I drive by the house on my visits to my mother. The wounds have healed, but the scars will always be there.
Do not assume that your child will tell you if they are being abused. Sometimes secrets are carefully guarded ... even by young children.
And now, I'll return you to my previous post:
So, looks like my kids missed out on all of the fun 'cause Momma's a Halloween party pooper, huh? I wish you could ask them yourselves how they felt about it. They would answer and tell you that some of their favorite childhood memories were from our time together on October 31st each year, because it was a really special day.
I often took them out of school early on Halloween, so they didn't have to be exposed to the evil costumes some parents think it are okay for their children to don. I also did not want them participating in the seemingly innocent occult activities that were often planned for the day.
Late in the day, we would head out to Chuck E. Cheese where other like-minded parents would gather to have a fun time with their kids while the neighborhood streets filled up with the little ghosts, goblins, and a Freddy Kreugger or two. We had a ball. Occasionally, one of their friends would tag along, asking their parents if they could skip trick-or-treating and join us instead. As the years passed, my daughters wanted to continue our tradition, so we did...all the way until the youngest was 19, I believe. Eventually, we added a movie to the night.
[this paragraph has been updated from the original post]There was a lull in years between our last trip to Chuck E. Cheese on Halloween and the dawning of a new era. Two years ago, our tradition resumed with one-year-old Laura's first visit. This weekend, she will spend her third Halloween with Chuck E. and her fourteen-month-old cousin, Lincoln. The tradition continues. I love Halloween.
Sticking to common sense,
Click here to read Part One of this series