Don’t Ever Assume Your Kids Wont Open the Door for Strangers – A Personal Account of a Frightening Experience

We always tell our kids that they should never open the door for strangers. We also think that its one of those things that our kids would never do in the first place because kids are afraid of strangers knocking on the door. Whenever we have guests coming to our house our children tend to run away when we try and introduce them to someone they don’t know. Right? Have you ever been a guest somewhere and their five year old daughter just walked over to you with their outstretched hand and said “Hi, my name is Samantha. Welcome to our home. Its nice to meet you.” It happens but its not the norm.

So not opening the door for strangers is something that we tell our children but its also something they would almost never do in the first place, except when they think its you knocking at the door.

Last week my wife and I had a frightening experience. We had a meeting to attend to at around four thirty in the afternoon and we told our kids that we wont be home until much later. We put on a video for the kids to watch and left them with the nanny.

Our meeting was across town and we had to battle rush hour traffic to get there. The ride which would normally take 15 minutes without traffic took us close to forty. Just ten minutes into the meeting our six year daughter calls me on my cell to tell me that the video stopped working and she wanted to know when we would be home. I tell her that the nanny will take care of the video and we will be home in a little while. I also told her that the meeting was important and I requested that she not call me again.

As the meeting carried on longer than we expected my wife decided that it would be appropriate to call the nanny and tell her that we will be home later than 6pm. My daughter answered the phone and told my wife that Stan was at our house and he wanted to speak with me. My wife’s jaw dropped open in shock as she turned to me and said “Stan is in our house. He wants to speak with you. What is he doing in the house?!”.

Let me provide you with a little background. Stan is a guy who comes around the neighborhood from time to time to collect some money for himself. He is around 50 years old, lives alone, and suffers from some psychiatric and other disorders. When I can, I give him some money and offer him some food. I’ve also driven him home a couple of times.

So I take the phone to speak with him. He tells me that the kids let him in the house and he wanted to know if maybe I could tell my daughter to get him twenty dollars from where we keep our spare cash in the house. Not liking that idea one bit and wanting him out of the house ASAP, I tell him that I could meet him at the library later and give him some money but he has to leave the house right away. We agree on a time and hang up the phone. Just as I hung up the phone my wife looks at me and says “arrgh, I wanted to speak to the nanny and tell her that we’ll be home after six. I also wanted to make sure everyone was ok.” So I tell her I’m sorry and hand her the phone to call back. She dials but the line is busy. The line is never busy unless the phone is off the hook. My wife turns to me and says “The phone is off the hook. We’re going home right now!”

We get in the car and try to battle rush hour traffic to get home as fast as we can. Trying to block out of our minds the worst case scenarios, we keep trying to call the house. The phone is still off the hook and we are still twenty minutes from home. My wife decides to call the neighbors as I try as hard as I can to get around the traffic mess ahead. She calls our next door neighbor and realizes that she is teaching swimming at this hour. She decides to call our other neighbor but no one is home. Still 15 minutes from the house my wife calls the first neighbor again thinking that maybe their teenage son is home and maybe he could go to our house and tell the nanny that the phone is off the hook. The son happened to be at home and tells us that he will go over right away. My wife is thankful and hangs up the phone. Two minutes later my wife tries the home line again and its still off the hook. She tries again and again but to no avail. Realizing what’s going on, I turned to my wife and said “There’s no way the nanny’s going to open the door. She’ll think that Stan came back.” My wife nods her head in agreement and says “oh you’re right. Great, what are we going to do now.” We are still ten minutes from the house. As I continue to battle traffic, my wife tries the home line again. She then calls our neighbor again but this time no one is answering the phone. You would think we were in some kind of mystery-thriller flick. Everything was just so crazy and frightening. We finally arrive home. My wife dashes out of the car and up the front steps with me right behind her. We get in the house to find our daughter sitting on the kitchen stool all shook up and the nanny with a frightened look on her face. She was trembling as she recounted to us the frightening experience.

She and the kids were in the kitchen making chocolate chip cookies when at around five thirty there was a knock at the front door. My daughter, thinking we finally returned home, excitingly opened the door.

The front door to our house is solid wood with no glass panels neither on the door nor surrounding it. My wife requested that the installers insert a peephole so we could see who comes to our door. Unfortunately, the peephole is about five feet from the bottom of the door and there is no way for our children to see who is knocking.

Anyway, my daughter opened the door and in walks Stan. My daughter, not knowing what to do, retreated to the kitchen to where the nanny was standing. Stan then walks further into the house asking to speak with me. Cautiously approaching Stan, our nanny tells him that I am not home and that he should come back later. To her shock, he walks into the kitchen, sticks his hand into the bag of chocolate chips sitting on the counter, pulls out a handful and pours it in his mouth dropping chips all over the floor. He then starts opening the cupboards looking for more food. He walks over to the other counter and takes a big bite out of a stale cupcake sitting in the corner. After giving our nanny a brief glance, he then proceeded to the study at the other end of the house. It was at that moment when we called the house and I spoke with Stan. As it turned out, he left right after our conversation.

My wife turned to our daughter who was now crying and told her that she should never ever open the door again unless she knows who is knocking. My daughter was so scared. We think she learned her lesson. As parents, we are also to blame. We never really sat down with our kids properly and told them never to open the door unless they are absolutely sure they know who is on the other side and even then an adult should open the door.

Later that evening I met with Stan, gave him some money, and told him that it would be better if he not come to our house again. I explained to him that our children were simply terrified and they would be very frightened if he came back. He replied in defense “Well, your kids opened the door for me. I mean they opened the door and let me in. You know parents always get upset at me and ask me why I came into the house when their kids let me in. Kids let me in and I get yelled at. What did I do wrong?”

So I gave Stan my cell phone number and told him that if he needs some spare cash it would be better that he calls me and we schedule a place and time to meet.

In the end, thank G-d nothing serious happened. But let me just remind everyone what Stan told me that evening.

“You know parents always get upset at me and ask me why I came into the house when their kids let me in. Kids let me in and I get yelled at.”

Don’t assume your kids know not to open the door for strangers. Make sure they know and understand that even if they think its mommy or daddy at the door they must be abosolutely sure.

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8 Responses

  1. joanne says:

    Oh my! your kids must have been frightened. Oh I feel so terrible for them. And your nanny. thank goodness nothing happened.

    I think I am going to have a talk with my son about this. He is only three and he can barely reach the door knob but you never know.

  2. Eric says:

    Hi Joanne and welcome.

    Yes you’re right. You never know. And who knows in six months he may be able to reach it by standing on his toes.

  3. William Mohn says:

    This was very informative. Thanks for the tips & info. My question is why in any way would you willingly associate with a psycho who has no problem with violating your home. I would have called the police and at least gotten a restraining order. Giving money to this sicko will only ensure that you will see more of this man. Egad. Cut off the dead wood.

  4. Eric says:

    “why in any way would you willingly associate with a psycho”

    First, he’s not a psycho nor is he a sicko. Second, It would be too diffucult to explain why I and many other people continue to help him out. We help out a lot of people. I just need to be more cautious for the future.

  5. Christine says:

    Perhaps you might consider installing a chain on your door so that it can be openned without giving access to the person outside?
    Telling children to not interact with strangers is useless. They move people from stranger to known too quickly – had Stan stood outside and explained he was in regualr contact with you they almost certainly would have invited him in after a 3 minute conversation thinking he was a friend of the family. Asking the kids to consult the nanny (where was she anyway letting the kids answer the door?) or calling you before going with or letting people in is more useful.

  6. Eric says:

    The chain is not a bad idea. This way the kids cant open the door all the way.

    You are right about calling us or the nanny when there’s a knock at the door and this is what they usually do. They just thought it was us at the door.

    As for the nanny, she was in the kitchen with the baby. The kids ran to the door when they heard the knock and opened it right away. She was three steps behind them.

  7. Kit says:

    Here’s the thing.
    I agree it’s good to help others, and you’re modeling good habits for your kids by helping – there was no reason to expect what happened.

    But you need a new nanny, or perhaps she needs better training, because while I agree that your kids should know not to open the door, there was an ADULT right behind them!

    They should have been able to trust that adult to handle the situation, and she did not – she put your kids at risk.

    She did not need to cautiously ask him to come back later and then dither while watching him firghten your kids.

    She needed to briskly tell him to leave, and if he did not, she needed to take your children OUT of the home, and to the nearest neighbor/phone for the police to be called.

    Your possessions can be replaced, your children can NOT, and regardless of your desire to help Stan, or how often the nanny may have seen him panhandling, his behavior was an immediate warning sign of potential danger.

    A nanny has a very serious responsibility – children’s lives.
    Her abilities should be the FIRST priority in need of remedial help, here.

  8. Elena says:

    Thank god my children are too young to answer the door! My twin boys are only 4 months old, so I have no worries of them answering the door. My only concern would be my 9 year old brother, who comes and stays with me and my husband on a weekend after School Out on Fridays. On three occassions he has run to the door and opened it without checking with myself or my husband. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but we were very thankful it was only our neighbour informing us that our German Shepherd Puppy had wriggled under the fence (He was sulking in his kennel because he had been told off for chewing one of the babies toys) into his garden, the first time. The other two times it was people we knew who had decided to drop a random visit to see how the twins were doing.

    But my heart caught in my throat when I thought about my brother opening the door and there being a psycho or a complete stranger being stood there, especially since on Saturdays my husband works 9am while 2/3pm, leaving me (a 21 year old woman) alone in the house with 4 month old babies and a 9 year old autistic boy.

    I agree with Kit, your Nanny had a responsibility to take care of your children, and by letting Stan roam through your house she was exposing your children to possible danger. Thankfully this wasn’t the case, but she should have thought to keep the children away from Stan and told him to leave. Thank goodness your children were unharmed!

    Thanks to this article, I’m taking extra precautions on our door. I’m going out tomorrow while my husband is at work and I’ll be getting some deadbolts for the front and back door and a security chain for both doors.

    Again as Kit said, possessions can be replaced. My laptop can be replaced easily, as can my DVD collection. But my son’s lives and my brother’s life are irreplaceable.

    Thank you for sharing this article.

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