I Failed the Stranger Danger Test

One of the fun things we did as a family last week was visit this place:

{Photo courtesy of The Oxford Press}

The Christmas Ranch was featured on Good Morning America - not that I saw that newscast. My television has been permanently stuck on Noggin, PBS or Nick Jr for the better part of this decade. But if you click this link, you'll see some of the story as broadcast on ABC.

Since it was only a quick drive down the country roads that link up eastern Warren County, we loaded the kiddos in the van last Monday night, swung by my parents house to pick them up, and headed over the creeks and through the woods. I found myself wishing it were still light out so I could scope out some of the little farms that we passed along the way.

I deeply love farms, not that I ever lived on one. But that's a post for another day.

It was bitterly cold that night, a frosty 6 degrees Fahrenheit, and there were only a few other local either brave enough or foolish enough to venture out for a big bunch of blinky lights.

The lights were spectacular and dazzling and amazing and, in the end, humbling; this event is put on by a local retired dentist who simply loves Christmas and loves spreading Christmas joy. A small portion of the $12/car goes to covering the expenses of the show (imagine that electric bill!); the rest goes to a local charity, this year's charity being The Ronald McDonald House down by Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

We wandered around the maze of lights for a bit - quickly, since it was so very cold - then headed toward the bonfire to warm our bones. I saw another family walking toward the bonfire from a different direction, all carrying steaming cups of hot chocolate.

Because shyness has never really been a stumbling block for me (I mean really, I am blogging all the trivial pieces of my life to you here, aren't I?), I struck up a conversation with one of the women, asking her where she'd purchased the hot chocolate. We chatted about the cold for a minute and while we did, even more members of her family arrived at the fire, more moms and dads and kids, some grandparents, a whole big bunch of nice local folk.

My small bunch had already wandered over toward the building where hot chocolate was being sold*; my dad was still hanging by the fire and Tater, as usual, was dragging his feet behind the rest of the gang.

Suddenly, the woman that I had been chatting with turned away from her group's conversation and said, "No, let's get her to take our picture then we can all be in it!"

Before I knew it, a camera that costs about as much as the Kelly Blue Book value of Fred, our 1999 Ford Taurus**, was thrust into my hands.

"Sure," I said, not mentioning my less-than-stellar night photography skills.

They lined up over by one of the little red barns; there had to be no less than twenty of them. I lined up the shot, and just as my finger pushed the button and the flash lit up the night, one of the kids on the end fell down and started crying. The grandfather standing behind him lifted him up to his feet; they all hollered for me to take another one.

So I did.

When I was done, I started walking over to the group - very gingerly - to hand back their very spendy camera. The kid on the end, the one who fell down, broke free and ran toward me.

Me, his mom.

Tater, king of the drag-my-feet-and-daydream-my-way-there method of walking, had fallen behind Knute, the other kids, and my mom. My dad, who had been standing by the fire, saw just a half-second too late that Tater had been swept up by the huge family posing for the shot, their grandfather assuming innocently enough in the dark that Tater was one of the many kids in their group.

We all started laughing - me, my dad, the other grandfather, the rest of that very nice family - when we realized that my Tater was now immortalized in their big family photo.

All of us except Tater.

He was upset, quite understandably so, I realized once I put myself in his shoes.

Tater is my kind child, the one who walks up to folks and just starts talking or offering them some bubble gum or a sticky note or whatever he has in his pocket. He doesn't have a mean bone in his body - stubborn, yes; but mean, no - and because of that, it's hard to explain to this kid with a heart of gold the concept of Stranger Danger.

But, good mom that I am, I have had those talks with him. And apparently, he was listening to me and not just channeling the endless stream of SpongeBob dialogue in his head.

After the laughter died down, I took him inside where Knute waited with my mom and the other two kids. When I realized he was still upset, I hugged him and told him I was sorry - he had every right to be scared.

And I have to admit, I was proud of him; he did exactly what I've always told him to do if someone grabs him:

Kick and scream like hell!


*For a whopping $2.00/cup! We saved our $$ for Whit's Custard instead.

**Let's be honest; that camera cost MORE than the KBB on Fred.