I’m in trouble with my wife’s family again. Typically, the problem arose from my interaction with a child. I don’t understand why I’m to blame though, when Sophia’s siblings are the ones who allow me to speak with their kids. As even I know, parents commonly tell their offspring not to talk to strangers. If Sophia’s family would simply add “or Uncle Richard” to that warning, I’m sure we’d all be a lot happier.
It’s not as if I sought out five-year-old Franco’s company either. He came to me, shared his latest woe and asked me a direct question. Although my new motto (when it comes to questions from children) ordinarily is “lie, lie and then lie some more,” in this case I thought the truth necessary for my nephew’s safety.
It seems that certain older kids at school have been filling the boy’s head with terrifying tales of child molesters. Although he couldn’t express the details clearly, the gist of his recital concerned dire warnings of strange men creeping into his bed at night and then performing extremely naughty acts on his person. He asked me if something like that could really happen. I know it can, since a childhood friend of mine was molested by his elementary school teacher during a weekend sleepover.
Wanting to protect my nephew against similar evils, I gave him a full (though sanitized) recap of my friend’s dreadful experience. Then I told him my best advice for dealing with unwanted advances by adults: “If a stranger ever climbs into your bed and touches you – whether you’re sleeping over at someone’s house or anywhere else – first, scream. Second, try to run to another adult who’ll be able to help you. And third, if the guy won’t let go of you, hit him in his private parts as hard as you can and then run for help.”
As my fuming sister-in-law has informed me, last night Franco suffered a nightmare in which his crazed kindergarten teacher leaped from the closet onto his bed and attacked him. Hearing the lad’s cries, my brother-in-law Giuseppe went to investigate. He sat down beside his son, caressed the boy’s forehead and attempted to offer words of comfort. Unfortunately, the darkened room and Franco’s nightmare-muddled brain caused the child to confuse his father for the assailant of his dream. He opened his eyes and immediately activated Uncle Richard’s first step for dealing with molesters: issuing a blood-curdling scream. In response, Giuseppe grabbed the boy by his shoulders, hoping to snap him out of his terrified reverie. But Franco naturally interpreted this act as an adult’s refusal to let go of him … and understandably launched Uncle Richard’s step three: punching the bad man squarely in the jewels before running for help.
Unbeknownst to me, Giuseppe – a former Golden Gloves boxer – has begun teaching his son the finer points of pugilism. The lad throws a mean right cross already … as his father verified last night. The poor guy remained on Franco’s mattress (curled in the fetal position) for quite some time, before finally crawling back to his own bedroom. Of course I feel sorry for him, but I fail to see how any of this is my fault.
The Golden Gloves – Where boys aren’t supposed to learn the finer art of nutcracking