I am seated cross-legged with my back towards the community pool. It has finally stopped raining in Miami, and I’m enjoying the sun with my boyfriend who is drinking ice-cold beer. I’m softly playing my ukulele, practicing the handful of songs I know by heart. My audience is a cross-eyed, three-year-old girl with long curly hair. She is seated across from me plucky my uke strings as I play and speaking to herself in a made-up language. I can make out the word “violet,” which I think is her way of saying violin. I conclude that she is special but nonetheless extremely cute. For the next 20 minutes, I play for her while my boyfriend tries to spot her parents. Where are her parents and why aren’t they watching her? Why is she still here? Despite her cuteness, I am tired of entertaining her. I ask her if she wants to keep swimming. She nods and heads to the pool. We watch her jump in, swim to the edge, climb up, and jump back in. She’s alone and talking to herself. No one is watching her but us.
I know her family is here because the first time I noticed her she was in an inflatable car. I mentioned to my boyfriend how dangerous they are because they can easily flip over and drag a child underwater. Moments later, the car flips and her little legs dangle in the air while her body goes under. Thankfully, she makes it out and floats to the top with her water-wings and life vest (Seriously, f*ck those inflatable tubes and cars).
Around 2:00 p.m. families with young children begin to leave. One couple calls out to us thanking us for entertaining their daughter. Bring up the rear is the little girl who stumbles and takes a nasty fall. Her mom picks her up and tells her to say goodbye. The little girl doesn’t say goodbye.
The reason I am telling you this story is because stranger danger is real, ya’ll! I understand that a young woman playing a ukulele doesn’t seem threatening, but you don’t know what’s in my heart! Be skeptical of anyone around your child. Remember, Puck from Glee? What about Jared, the Subway Guy? Don’t get me get started on Penn State Assistant Football Coach, Jerry Sandusky!
When I was six (I am guestimating this, because I really don’t know how old I was), I was approached by a pedophile while on cruise with my mom. I was pretending to be a mermaid in the “big kids” pool when a man began to ask me questions about my dad and if I wanted to play (Free Willie; ironic, I know, but it was the 90s). He even told me his room number! Years later, it finally dawned on me that this man was a predator. The realization felt like a punch in the face. What’s worse is that in some way I felt like that interaction was my fault. As though, I should have known better and ran screaming the other way. My mom reassured me that I was safe (In Loca Latina Mom I Trust) and that, of course, it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t have the knowledge to understand this type of danger because, at this age, I swore women became pregnant through prayer. I’d like to thank my Christian elementary school for teaching me that alternate fact.
I pray that the parents of the little girl have more sense next time.
In short, be skeptical, be vigilant, and protect your children.