I made a quick trip this week to present at a conference. After a great day of facilitating my session and having dinner with colleagues from several states, I finally took a moment to check my email.
That’s when I found an email from Adventure Guy entitled, “Looks like it’s all true.” I opened it expecting yet another political chain email which Adventure Guy tends to forward to me for fact-checking.
The arrest warrant the greeted me instead was the last thing I would have expected. One of the employees who worked for the summer camp my kids have attended for years had been arrested for molesting a number of boys. And I never would have imagined that to be a possibility with this particular person, a person who worked directly with Soccer Boy.
Fortunately, Adventure Guy and I are of the same mind as far as how to handle this type of situation. Unlike our friends who didn’t want to tell their own three children, Adventure Guy immediately brought up what had happened with our three. They talked it through, and he used it as an opportunity to discuss the warning signs and “grooming” behaviors that often go with the territory for molesters. He also talked enough with Soccer Boy to be assured that nothing inappropriate had taken place.
That conversation and my own reading of the arrest warrant, which showed that Soccer Boy didn’t meet the profile of the victims at the time he attended that branch of the camp, let me take a deep breath and calm down. But my research led me not only to the typical leering mugshot included in the first news story I came across but also to a picture of the smiling, welcoming person I thought I knew, the one who had a wonderful wife, a young daughter, and the trust of colleagues and parents.
I can only imagine the shockwaves radiating through so many lives right now–his victims, his family, the community, and the camp as a whole which can’t help but have its reputation sullied even though the leadership did exactly what should have been done in reporting this to the police and notifying all current and past camp families.
And as much as I’d like to deny it, I’m feeling some aftershocks of my own. I’ve subscribed to the “free range” parenting philosophy since before anyone coined the name. Intellectually I know that kids are actually safer today than they were when I grew up. Crime is down. Abduction by strangers is unlikely. My kids have the run of the neighborhood with their friends, go to the pool and park alone, and walk to the movie theater or grocery store. I value the independence those activities develop and have always been willing to sacrifice a bit of peace of mind to encourage it.
And now I learn that two of my children spent time with a child molester. If that’s not enough to shake a parent, I don’t know what is.