empty swingsetThere isn't a parent out there who doesn't read a "child kidnapped" story and shudder. But the tale of the 9-year-old girl who escaped her kidnapper in Colorado is a welcome change. Instead of clutching our kids to our chest in an attempt to keep them safe while our heads fill with worries that we never can, brave little Calysta Cordoba (also being reported as Cordova) has given us a mission.

It's time to sit the kiddos down and tell them this little spitfire's story. Because she knew what she had to do in the face of danger, and she didn't let being 9 years old stop her.

Cordoba allegedly had to fight her way from her former stepfather, Jose Garcia, a 29-year-old man also accused of molesting another girl recently. Reported missing by her family when she didn't return home from school last Thursday night, it wasn't until Friday that she had a chance to break free.

Garcia's car broke down, and when a passerby drove them to a local convenience store, Cordoba ran inside straight to a clerk and used the phone to call 911. She then refused to leave the store with Garcia, who has since been arrested. This girl? Is awesome.

And so is her family.

Little Calysta says her dad, Steve Ryno, taught her to stand up for herself. It's hard for parents who always want to be their kids' support systems, but just look what that lesson did for this family: it brought their little girl back to them. I'd be proud to call this girl my daughter. Which is why I'll be trotting her out as an example for my daughter tonight to reiterate some important lessons.

First and foremost: just because you know someone doesn't mean you can trust them. Sadly, most kidnappings of young children are done by someone the child KNOWS.

We need to teach our kids that just because they know someone and may have trusted them at one point, the need to "respect your elders" ends when they cross a line into inappropriate behavior. It's a hard one to teach kids; I know I struggle with trying to help my daughter differentiate between "strangers you aren't allowed to talk to" and "people Mommy knows who you are just meeting, so you really can say hello to them." We want to teach them to be polite, but we need to let them know that if someone scares them, they should go with their gut feelings.

Second on my list? Make strangers help you. This seems counter-intuitive to the last statement, but kids need to know there are people to turn to. The retail clerk with the phone, in this kid's case, was her best bet. Police officers. Firefighters. There is always the chance that someone else is bad too, but when they're you're only option, you need to take it. And if you're out in public when a kidnapping happens, don't wait to see a uniform, just take anyone. My mom always taught us when we were kids that if we were to be grabbed, we were to scream, "This is not my mommy or daddy," in hopes that someone would be listening.

I'd love to keep my girl "little" forever, locked in my arms to keep her safe. But the greatest of ironies is that ensuring her safety can only be done by forcing her to grow up and realize that even little kids have the strength and power to change their destinies. It sure worked for this little girl.

Is Calysta Cordoba your new inspiration?

 

Image via wsilver/Flickr