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Posts Tagged ‘personal safety tips’

This is not a touchy-feely, light-hearted post about Mommyhood, dirty diapers, and discipline.  It is a real story, and my hope is that it reaches far more than I ever expected.  The reason is this:  it is extremely important.

So here goes.  I was  making a quick stop at a local Raley’s grocery store a couple of weeks ago, on the way home from the doctor’s office, with one sick two-year old, and my 10 month old baby.  It was approximately 1pm.  This is a somewhat upscale grocery store, folks.  I don’t usually shop here for groceries, (except for produce) but it’s close to my house, and convenient.  I only say this because it reiterates the point that we do not live in a bubble, and bad things can happen to anyone.  At anytime.  Spoiler alert: this story has a happy ending, you don’t have to read through squinted eyes!

So, as I entered the store, I decided to stop in the cereal aisle and pick up my son’s favorite cereal.  Aren’t I a nice mommy?  The aisle was empty when I entered it, and when I turned around to grab the cereal I noticed a man in the aisle with me.  I didn’t think much of him, but I did notice he didn’t have a cart, or basket, and wasn’t carrying any groceries.  And he was looking at tea.  Now, I’m not saying he couldn’t have been a tea drinker, but he didn’t strike me as the type.  I shrugged it off, even thinking “maybe he’s getting some tea for his girlfriend”.  I moved on.

I didn’t see him in the produce section.  But, when I got to the back of the store, in the medicine aisle, to get the Motrin I needed for my son, I noticed him again.  He hadn’t picked up any tea, and now he was looking at the Epsom salts.  Really?  I mean, please.  He actually tipped one off the shelf and was examining it.  First, have you ever purchased Epsom salts?  And, for those of you who answered yes, did you have to comparison shop?  I think not.  Now I was officially suspicious.  We made eye contact.  He looked away quickly.  I wouldn’t say I was alarmed yet, but I was definitely getting creeped out.  I decided to get one more thing and get out of that store.

I moved to the next aisle.  While I was grabbing a container or two of baby food, he came around the corner.  We were mere feet from each other.  We made eye contact again.  He turned on his heel and walked away.  So, now I was officially DONE.  I made a beeline for the front of the store.  While I was waiting in line, I looked for him everywhere.  I turned my back to the front of the store, and my eyes combed the aisles.  He was nowhere to be seen.

I asked the checker if by chance they had any secret shoppers in the store.  Who knows, maybe he was just really, really bad at his job.  I told her what had happened.  Because I didn’t see him anymore, and it was the middle of the day, I decided to just put it behind me and get home.  I made my way to my car, loaded the groceries into the back, and . . .

You guessed it!  While I was loading my kids into the car, I saw him.  Not four cars away from me, standing on a cement curb.  And, texting away on his phone.  Occasionally looking up at me, and glancing around the parking lot.  He hadn’t bought anything in the store.  At this point, I was not terrified, I was angry.  I knew he was up to something (though fortunately I’ll never know what).  But I didn’t know what to do about it.  I buckled my kids in as fast as I could, looking over my shoulder about 67 times during the process.  I got in the car, locked the doors and turned on the air conditioner.

Then I called my husband.  You see, he’s in law enforcement.  Yay, me!  Had he been in town, he probably would have driven to that parking lot himself.  But, he was about 1500 miles away.  So, he had me give him a detailed description of the man: height, weight, build, skin color, facial hair, tattoos, etc.  He would have loved a license plate number, but I never saw him get into a car.  He had me take a long, roundabout way home, watching carefully to ensure that no cars were following me.

Fortunately for me, this is where my story ends.  Pretty anti-climactic.  But, since this is not a movie, that’s how I like it.

Here’s a few things you can learn from my mistakes (not smart):

  1. When I was in the cereal aisle, at one point, I left the cart and walked past this man to get the box of cereal.  I put him between me and my babies.
  2. I didn’t alert anyone in the store until I was at the register.
  3. I didn’t ask to have someone walk me out to my car.
  4. I was able to describe his physical features, but I couldn’t tell my husband for certain if he had tattoos, or his ethnicity
  5. What else do you think I could have done better, safer?

Here’s a few things I did right (smart):

  1. I was paying attention to my surroundings, and noticed him immediately
  2. I made eye contact several times
  3. I notified a store employee
  4. I called my husband for help before I left and drove home
My husband has told me that eye contact is a huge weapon.  Sometimes just taking the element of surprise away from a potential assailant is all that is necessary to avoid a crime.  My guess is this guy was looking for a theft victim, and thought I was an easy target with two children to distract me.  He did not find the opportunity he was looking for.

I have been back to Raley’s, and asked if anyone else has reported anything similar.  No one has.  I hope it stays that way.

My husband is a) getting me some pepper spray and b) asked me if I would be interested in getting a CCW (Concealed Carry Weapons permit).  He’s asked me about my interest in the CCW before.  I was completely against it before this incident.  Mostly because I’m with my kids all the time.  I would be more worried about them getting their hands on it than me actually needing it.

I am still not seriously considering it.  But, it did make me realize, if something much more serious had happened, I had no real way of protecting myself and my children.

Possibly a self-defense class is in order. . .

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As consumers, we find ourselves in parking lots all the time.  As parents, we find ourselves in parking lots, and distracted, all the time.  Below are a list of a few helpful tips to keep you, and your little ones safe when you’re out and about.

Stay Alert

This one seems obvious, but many of us don’t realize just how distracted we are when we’re wrangling our kids in the car.  You have groceries to unload without breaking eggs and smashing bread.  You have kids to buckle in without pinching skin.  You are distracted from your surroundings.  It is just the nature of the beast.  So, force yourself to pay attention.  When I’m buckling my kids in, I stop at least once during the process to simply glance around.  Do you notice anyone walking close by?  Anything  grab your attention?  Probably not, but if you do, you’ll have a few extra seconds to react, and aren’t giving any potential thief or assailant the complete benefit of surprise.

Keep Your Keys With You

Please, please, please, do not leave your keys in the ignition when you’re loading kids into the car.  I know it gets hot in the summer, and cold in the winter.  The kids will be all right for the few extra minutes it takes to get everyone buckled in.  I keep my keys on a lanyard around my neck.  They are handy, I don’t lose them, and they stay with me.  If you need it, you can use the alarm button on your keys.  Preppy Mommy has a bunch of cute lanyards.  I’ve bought them before, and they are built to last.

Have Kids Keep a Hand on the Car

Since my second child was born, I have always had my oldest put a hand on the car when he’s waiting for me to get anyone else out of their car seat. It just makes good sense.  It gives them a concrete direction to follow (much better than “stay close!), and forces them to stand still.  I found this nifty little product which I have yet to try, but seems like it would be a little more fun than barking  “put a hand on the car!”.  Check out the Parking Pal.  Darn cute idea!

Park Close to the Shopping Carts

Before I had kids, I either parked far away (don’t ding my new car!) or I parked as close as I could to the entrance of my favorite store.  I never cared about where I had to pick up and or leave my shopping cart.  Being out and about with kids is a game changer.  I always try to park close to the shopping carts.  This allows me to a) get a shopping cart to put the baby in first, so I have an easier time getting to the entrance and b) put the cart away without moving far away from the car when I’m ready to leave.  I really, really try NOT to leave carts just sitting in the parking lot.  It’s a HUGE personal pet peeve of mine, and even though it’s a huge pain with kids, I always try to put the cart away.  Now there have been times when everyone is having a meltdown (including me) and it’s pouring down rain . . .at that point it’s better for everyone involved if I just leave the cart and get outta there!

Hopefully these tips help raise your awareness.  We’ve got to shop, right!?

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