It was a beautiful, crisp fall morning here in Madison… quite possibly the last beautiful day until March! I had a list with about a million things to do so I sent my kids to the park with our nanny. I work from home, so I have a nanny who comes by a couple days a week. And she is everything I would ever want in someone who is taking care of my kids… she is fun, honest, compassionate & level headed. She doesn’t get flustered when my kids are running in three different directions and she certainly doesn’t make judgments about people she doesn’t know. That’s why what happens next is all the more disheartening.
A text popped up on my iPhone that read: “There’s a man at the park staring at us and I’m scared to leave because he’s like walking closer to where we move.” I was at home when the text came in and fortunately we live very close to the park. With my heart pounding, I sprinted down the steps and grabbed a pair of my husband’s slip on Sperry’s that were sitting by the door. I didn’t even close the door behind me and I ran to the park as fast as I could. As I approached I could see my nanny pushing my little boy in the swing while she held his twin sister in her arms and my toddler stood and watched. I could see the man less than 10 feet away from them as he sat and watched my kids. I immediately felt violated and had an uneasy feeling, but my mama-bear instinct kicked in and I was ready to go to the ends of this earth to protect my kids. He wasn’t fazed by my arrival… he continued to watch, expressionless and without saying a word. When I looked away he moved a little closer, so I continued to blatantly stare back while we loaded the kids into the wagon and started walking home.
End of story, right? Wrong. The man got up and started to follow us down the trail towards my house. We made a left turn (where the trail comes to a ‘T’) and I continued to look back as we approached our cul-de-sac. I wish I could say the story ends here… but so it continues. As we entered my cul-de-sac, the man stood at the T and watched us… staring so intently as we walked. There was no way we were going to my house with him watching so we kept walking while my toddler cried that she wanted to go home and have lunch. I told my nanny to keep walking ahead and I turned around – ready to go after him, ready to do anything in this world to make him stop following us. After I made a couple steps toward him he started to walk away.
We got the kids safely into the house and locked it up. I went back outside, ready to hunt this man down and ask him what in the world he was doing. At that moment my neighbor came out of her house and had witnessed the whole thing. A bit validating, but also a bit more startling to know that my anxieties were not empty. I asked her if she would go with me to try to find him – to see if we could figure out where he went. Does he live in our neighborhood? Does he have some sort of mental incapacity that forces him to function like a child? Is he an adult (in his 40’s) who lives with his parents or family members in our neighborhood? Or was it something else… was it that he is someone who is waiting for the right victim at the right time? I really hope and pray that he has a condition to that causes him to act in this manner and that he has no idea how creepy and unnerving it is. I have to hope that he is harmless, but the fact that he was hovering over my children and following us is NOT okay. Not EVER okay.
The police validated all of my concerns and are aware of the situation – their advice is to call them the next time I see him. They will also patrol our sleepy little neighborhood a little extra closely while watching for someone who matches my description. I made my neighbors aware as well. If I could do it over, I would look him in the eye and address his presence… but in the heat of the moment my only focus was on getting my kids home safely at any and all costs. This will not stop us from enjoying the park or from assuming most people are good – but it will definitely make me even more aware of my surroundings.