Why must local news networks use sweeps months to scare the bejeezus out of us?
I guess since May sweeps begin this week, our local broadcasts have started heavily advertising their "special features". I like to have at least one half-hour of local news on in the background each evening as I get dinner on the table, and this week I've heard taglines like, "See the news story that no parent should miss! Tonight at 11!" and "What hidden danger lurks inside your local grocery store? Tonight at 11!" and "Why you should beware of the very air you breathe and water you drink and should immediately crawl into your closet and assume the fetal position! Tonight at 11!"
If it's so vital to my and my family's very lives and well-being that I watch your informative, terror-mongering story, why can't you just tell me now or run it as a ticker on the bottom while you handle the more important stories like Brit-Brit's custody battle?
Tuesday afternoon while I was rushing from dining room to kitchen, I caught Ainsley taking a break from her Ariel puzzle to stare at the news. This being unlike her, I stopped to watch. On the screen was a preview my favorite syndicate was running for an 11 o'clock feature story.
You tell your kids not to talk to strangers. (Cut to a black-and-white image of a scary-looking pedophile-if-I've-ever-seen-one guy ogling a group of giggling girls on the street.) Schools teach the concept of "stranger danger." But what happens when your child is approached by a stranger in the park, or at the front door? (Cut to grainy hidden-camera footage of a man knocking at a front door, asking to check out an appliance, and being let in by a child.) Watch as our hidden cameras show how easy it for predators to get to YOUR child. (Freeze frame on the "predator" in the hidden camera footage crossing the threshold while the color fades to black and white and scary music is cued.) Tonight at 11.
Ainsley turned around to give me a look that said, What I've just seen is confusing and scary. Could you please give me further comfort and clarification, oh wise mother? Blurg.
We've already talked to Ainsley about not talking to strangers, and not walking off with anyone if she gets lost, not getting in the car with a stranger no matter what excuse they might give or what kind of treat they might be offering, etc. At five, I know we're going to have to reinforce this for her. A lot.
So I sat next to her and went over some fine points and addressed the specific things that the heeby-jeeby preview had brought up. Like how if for some strange reason she's ever alone in the house or if mommy is here but back in the shower, she should never even answer the door. Or how she should look out and see if it's someone she knows, like her mamaw, before opening the door. And why she should never, ever, let a stranger in the house.
She thought for a minute.
"But mommy, what about if it's a strange animal?"
"An animal? You mean if a stray dog is hanging around by the door?"
"No, I mean, what if it's a strange animal from the zoo?"
I closed my eyes for a second; how do you answer that? And behind my lids I had an image of a child predator dressed in a convincing grizzly-bear suit knocking on our front door, holding a bouquet of flowers, asking to speak to the lady of the house.
So I had to tell her not to let strange animals in the house, either. Especially land sharks with candygrams.