"look, i’m going to be honest with you. just climb in the back of this van…"

We’re sitting in the doctor’s office and waiting an awfully long time, so while the kids play hangman on a blackboard I pick up this kids’ safety brochure and begin reading bits to my husband. It’s a very earnest publication that ends up occasionally being unintentionally comedic: including a “bonus” Missing Kids poster of your very own!, a tale of teaching your kids a “magic phrase” and an Uncle who takes this safety precaution to creepy, gaslighting lengths, and a quiz that sternly instructs children, among other paranoid restrictions, not to climb trees. Ralph and I are have already had some inappropriate giggles out of all this when I read him the following from the article on child abduction:

“Abductors sometimes dress in disguise as Santa Claus or a clown, in order to inspire childrens’ trust.”

Ralph gets a furrowed brow and a frown. “That’s not right. I mean that they have to be dishonest like that.”

“What?” I ask, my intended point (that I always found Santa and clowns creepy as a child and likely wouldn’t have fallen for the ruse), lost for the moment.

“I mean they shouldn’t have to trick kids, they should be clear about their intentions.”

I couldn’t believe what he was saying. He wasn’t joking: his tone had completely changed and he was very serious. I kept digging until some comment or other of his revealed the misunderstanding: Ralph had thought I’d read “doctors” (rather than abductors) and he was thinking of the little white lies he suffered as a child: physicians being dishonest about how much shots would hurt, etc.

Once I realized the mistake I could hardly set him straight. Because I was laughing so hard tears were streaming down my face and I was shaking into the little booklet.

‘Cause you know. Those abductors should really be more straight-forward and honest.

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