Last night I was watching TV – something I really don’t do much of, and usually I am not very tuned in to what is on screen due to my incessant need to multitask. A commercial came on for Sears that got my attention immediately. A Dad and a little boy, in Sears, holiday shopping. Dad turns around and the little boy is gone, cheesy humor follows, Dad looks for the boy, mischief is made, scene ends now everyone should go do their holiday shopping at Sears.
Um. Wait. HELLO? Sears, did you forget something? Or should I say someone?
I was so shocked by the commercial that I had to do a bit of a reality check, and shared a post on Facebook. Clearly I was not alone in my reaction to this commercial. For a whole generation the words “Sears” and “Boy Missing” only add up to one thing, Adam Walsh. My husband was as shocked and offended as I was, and just horrified at such an insensitive move on the part of Sears.
There are not many moments I can look at in my life and say without a doubt “that moment changed me”. Watching The Adam Walsh Story, at the young age of 10, when I was young enough to be an innocent child but old enough to start to really understand things that can be very disturbing, that moment changed me. Forever. To the core. Every day of my life I have carried Adam’s story in my subconscious. I have never, ever, forgotten.
I have been hyper aware of safety and my surroundings each and every day. I have never been the person fumbling for keys in a dark parking lot. I will not get on an elevator with someone who makes me uncomfortable. I will stare down a questionable individual in a parking lot in a way that says “I have memorized your face in great detail and could share that detail with the police in a moment”. I look for backdoor exists in almost every building I enter. My safety guard is always up. And it all goes back to Adam. Granted, I also have parents who raised me to be aware and pay attention. I come from a family that has had many men see and survive military combat. I was taught that safety is not to be taken for granted.
When I became a parent, the term overprotective need not apply, because in my book, that was simply parenting, and it wasn’t even possible to be over protective enough with my children. Before I gave birth to my oldest, I told my husband to NEVER leave her side, no matter what happened – words that were the last in my mind as I went under general anesthesia for an emergency c-section, don’t stay with me, stay with our baby, keep her safe. Before she was even born, my priority above all was that our eyes were on her, at all times. Adam’s story instilled in me that the world can change in the shortest of moments, the blink of an eye. At almost age ten, my daughter stays right by my side in public. My fear, yes I’ll say fear, of strangers has passed down to her, and I have taught her to never, ever question the little voice in her head and that if someone looks scary, or looks nice but you don’t feel right, all rules of politeness are out the door, and your safety is always the number one priority in life.
I walk the line of not wanting to frighten her, but also knowing that enough fear may keep her aware and protect her. I want her to have that inner sixth sense that if she sees a person, in the dead of an Arizona summer, dressed head to toe, with a big jacket that looks stuffed, sunglasses and a hood on, in 119 degree heat – I want the voice inside her to say “that’s not normal, pay attention”. It may be fine, but don’t take that for granted. I want her to enjoy her life, but I also want her to have a constant awareness of her surroundings. I have very few people who I trust my girls with, and I have never cared what anyone may think of that. I struggle daily with my fear for the future of my non verbal child, my child who can’t tell me, or anyone, when something is wrong. Safety is always at the front of my mind. For me that all goes back to being a ten year old girl, the age of my own daughter, watching The Adam Walsh Story in my family room. And Sears, when you show a little boy get lost in your store, THAT is what floods my mind. Christmas shopping just became something that isn’t even on my radar. Little Adam Walsh, in his baseball cap – that is what your commercial brings to my table.
I have friends my age who I have discussed the topic of Adam with in the past, and they get it, it has played out the same way in their lives. It was not just me. My guess is that whoever came up with the concept for this commercial for Sears, who ever did the original drawing boards, concept meetings, pitches, panel testing and ultimately brought it to fruition, must not have been in the age group of 35-45. But at no point did someone say “wait, hold up, this might not be the best choice – at the very least, let’s make it a little girl, or a blonde child, but maybe not have a little brown haired boy go missing, even playfully, while shopping at Sears”?. Nobody in the process said, stop. Bad idea? This blows my mind.
I have to wonder what John Walsh and The Walsh Family, as well as heartbroken families anywhere and everywhere who have faced devastation such as this, feel when they see this commercial? If my reaction, as someone who has only witnessed these most unthinkable tragedies through the media, is this strong, I can’t even imagine how they must feel. My friend Sara made a comment on Sear’s Facebook page and they said the commercial was supposed to be fun and humorous. Um, not so much. Maybe another store could have run that campaign (though I still would have found it in poor taste), but Sears, no, not you. You can’t change what happened in your store back on July 27, 1981, but you can show respect and realize that it will never go away. This commercial however, it needs to go away. And an apology, along with a donation, raised awareness or promotion of The National Center For Missing And Exploited Children, might be a good idea as well.
I’ll step off my soap box now…