Why You Should Never Open Your Door to Strangers

My first scary memory as a child happened when I was three. A sound had woken me up in the middle of the night. I heafd a knock on the door and my mom talking. So, I squeezed my blankie and headed down the dark hallway toward the living room. I remember my mom looked very nervous. Then, there was another knock. I saw a shadow pass by our window. We had a large window next to the front door. Anyone coming from the driveway had to walk by the window to get to our front door. My mom saw me standing there.

“Marla, go to bed, please.”

I didn’t move. I watched her. She was on the phone with my older half sister, twenty-two years my senior.

My dad worked nights. Swing shift. 4pm to Midnight. He usually got home around 1AM. I didn’t know what time it was, but I knew we were alone or she wouldn’t have been on the phone with my sister. We lived in Elk Grove, at that time, back in 1971, which was mostly farmland, a ton of space between houses. My father loved space. I remember feeling scared. My mom stood in the shadows of the living room—someone kept knocking.

The next day, I remember my mom talking about it with all her friends and our family. She was on the phone all day, or at least it seemed that way. I heard that a man and a pregnant woman had come to our front door. They told my mom they had a flat tire and asked if they could call someone. There were no cell phones back then. It was 1971. My mom never replied or opened the door. Eventually, they went away. I found out later that they slashed the tires on my mom’s car. What if she had opened the door?

Today, I tell my kids to NEVER open the door to a stranger. Well, actually, to ANYONE. If they are home alone they shouldn’t open the door. In fact, even if I am home, I tell them NOT to open the door. Even though 75% of child abductions are by acquaintances, parents or caregivers, I just feel safer with the door closed and locked. Maybe it’s because of my childhood memory.

When I was a kid, I believed my parents. At least until about twelve or thirteen, then I might have began to question things they told me. But, up until then, when my parents told me don’t ever open the door to anyone other than your aunts, uncles, or relatives. That’s it. I listened. Why? Because I genuinely thought they knew more than me. The problem with my children and perhaps most children today is they don’t scare easily. This concerns me, as I’m really not sure what my children would do if a stranger or acquaintance came to the door when they are alone at home. I don’t know if they would be scared like I was when I was home alone as a kid (latchkey kid) and someone knocked on the door. I used to hide. I never went near the door.

I know that when we are home my kids open the front door freely, even when I’ve told them not to. Just the other day my daughter heard the door. She is eight. Before I could stop her, she opened it. It was a neighbor (we don’t know), who was delivering a package that the post office had wrongly delivered to her house. I talked to my daughter about it, she rolled her eyes and said “OK mommy” and walked into her room. She’s a precocious little thing.

I still have work to do. More talks, more scenarios, more work to get them to understand opening doors can be dangerous. Hopefully, one day it will sink in, and they will realize that opening the door takes away the little control they have and makes them vulnerable to becoming a victim. Street smarts are something I was taught from a young age. I don’t even think about. It was drilled into me so much as a child that it’s my nature to always be observant of my surroundings. Always be suspicious in situations where I could be vulnerable. Always lock the doors and windows. Always be prepared. It’s in my nature. Many of my friends thought I was crazy as a teen. They thought I was paranoid. I wasn’t at all. I just was raised to be aware. I was raised to understand that some people, sick people, want to hurt you. I was raised to be proactive. It was a game to me, scanning the streets as I walked. It was a game. That game has served me well. When I was traveling throughout the world at the early age of eighteen, my awareness served me well. I avoided a lot of bad situations.

So, I will continue to remind my children to lock their windows at night, and check to make sure they are locked. I will remind them to lock the front door behind them whenever they enter the house. I will remind them to never answer the door when they are home alone. I will remind them again and again. I hope it sinks in. I hope if I repeat it enough, my words will sink in.

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