02 September 2012

Stranger Danger

A couple of weeks ago me and Natalie were with a friend and her four year old son at the metro station coming from the zoo.

Her son was sitting with me and Natalie on a bench, as we waited for the train. His mom was a few feet away, talking to my sister, who was also along with her daughters.

Some lady came over and sat next to us and then her and I began one of those awkward conversations where she's talking to Natalie but I obviously have to answer and I'm not really sure what's rhetorical or not...

Anyway, the woman proceeded to talk to my friends son, assuming he was mine. She asked, "Do big brothers take naps?" (we were talking about how Natalie was cranky and ready for a nap). He was really outgoing and laughing and told her no, he's a big boy.

Right then the train was approaching and my friend came over and grabbed her sons hand and said to him, "Come on, don't talk to strangers."

I thought that was really rude and I was a little offended. Did she not trust that I would protect her kid should anything happen?

I just kinda stared at her for a moment and she says, "You never know, right?" I didn't know what to say. That's her kid and she has the absolute right to teach him whatever she believes, no matter how over cautious I think she's being.

I thought about how I want my daughter to be a people person and to interact with adults and be friendly. I thought about how I already let tons of people approach her and talk to us.

Then I read stories like this and I get freaked out.

Some nutjob approached a family, in broad daylight and tried to take their little girl right before their eyes, while the father was standing there playing with her.

Then I ponder if I should be less lax with who I let near my child, even though I'm constantly with her. I question if my friend has the right idea and I'm doing it all wrong. I start to wonder if I should buy mace and just spray anyone coming towards us in the face with it.

Stories like that are rare, sure. It does happen though.

I like to think that I have decent judgment and would be able to trust my instinct should a situation occur where I need to fight for my child's safety.

The scary truth is that there are psychos and predators just looking for their next target and will do anything to get to them.

I will protect her and keep her as safe as possible, all the while trying to do my best at raising her into a sociable being.

What do you think? Do you/will you let your kids talk to strangers if you're around? Is it extreme to tell them not to, or do you agree with it?

I'd do anything for you babe!

25 Thoughts :

Venassa September 2, 2012 at 6:09 PM  

I'm on your side here. People talk to me and Chloe all the time. You can't just avoid all people just cause some are insane.

Shannon September 2, 2012 at 7:48 PM  

I think I would probably be ok if someone came up to me and baby and started talking..but I think if I were in your friend's shoes, I might react the same way. I'm sure she KNOWS you always have her kid's safety in mind, she's right, I would never FULLY 100% trust anyone but me or my husband. And that doesn't means YOU'RE a bad mom, you just parent differently. And that's OKAY! :)

Megan September 2, 2012 at 9:13 PM  

I use to be like you, then Kayla got older. She learned our address and phone number. And she thinks if you are talking to someone they aren't a stranger anymore. I mean, if you know their name and your mom is talking to them you're friends right? Atleast to a 5 year old. She has starting telling people our address and I have to drop her. So now we stay to ourselves. Unfortunately you can never be too safe these days.

NICOLE September 2, 2012 at 9:23 PM  

I think there is a fine line between friendly chit chat and too much chit chat. I think that the majority of the people are purely innocent; babies and small children are adorable and fun to talk to. But when it crosses the line of getting too personal, that is when I would be overly cautious. Because a complete stranger who is talking with innocence will know to not cross the line of personal space, i.e. ask too many personal questions, get overly touchy. Whereas others might get too personal in asking questions that are out of line or things that you would only share with a friend/family...someone you know with credibility. Mother's instinctively know the difference between these, and the fact that this even popped into your mind shows you are a good mom =)

Marjorie September 2, 2012 at 9:30 PM  

Sounds like the situation was safe. I kinda think saying that to you and in front of the stranger was rude. If she's so protective, why did she leave her son alone?

Jilean September 2, 2012 at 9:45 PM  

I'd say the reaction is completely over the top, but I get it as a mom. Brycen is incredibly social, but if a stranger walks toward him, or reaches out to him, he is naturally hesitant and looks to us for reassurance. Unfortunately we live in a world where we have to be overly cautious... go with what you're comfortable with!

Aly September 2, 2012 at 9:51 PM  

Every situation is different, but in this case I wouldn't have a problem with soemone talking to my child. I want my kids to understand that there are people out there who can hurt them, but I don't want them to be terrified of every person that walks past. When I was little I had a friend who was kidnapped. I grew up in fear of everything after that, and it is no way for a child to live. I think there is a balance!

Sean Marie September 2, 2012 at 10:59 PM  

Yep, exactly. Plus, how do you just ignore someone who is being nice to you? If they're being creepy then by all means be an asshole to them. If they're just making conversation and being polite then it's kinda messed up to be disrespectful to them by giving them the cold shoulder.

Sean Marie September 2, 2012 at 11:01 PM  

Thanks Shannon! I hear what you're saying and I do agree. The same way I don't fully trust anyone to take care of Natalie like my husband and I do (other than his parents) is the same way my friend felt, I'm sure. Very valid point.

Sean Marie September 2, 2012 at 11:02 PM  

Now that is scary! Luckily she didn't tell any weirdos that information.

Sean Marie September 2, 2012 at 11:15 PM  

Thanks Nicole! That's pretty much how I feel. Like I said, I think I could trust my instinct and scope out a creepo when it comes down to it. I agree that most people are innocent and just making chit chat, and you'll know when they're crossing the line. I come up to babies and children all the time, even when I'm not with my own kid. They're just so approachable and that's what people do. Sometimes I can tell the parents are so into it but mostly everyone just goes along with it and is friendly back to me. I sometimes just wanna tell them straight up that I'm not a pervert and just really like kids and have my own daughter who I adore but I never do.

Sean Marie September 2, 2012 at 11:18 PM  

Yep, exactly. It was a totally safe situation, I felt. I understand why she was upset, especially if she's told him repetitively about not talking to strangers. But if there's a trust worthy adult around, along with many other adults then why say what she did? Maybe she didn't trust me, but if that's the case then don't stand several feet away.

Sean Marie September 2, 2012 at 11:21 PM  

*aren't so into it.

Sean Marie September 2, 2012 at 11:27 PM  

I know. Every parent had their own way of doing things and I absolutely cannot blame anyone for taking every precaution possible to safeguard their young. That's great that Brycen is so open at such a young age but is still weary of the unknown and needs you around.

Sean Marie September 2, 2012 at 11:34 PM  

Thank you! That's how I feel. I damn sure am gonna teach my kid about not taking candy from a stranger and learning the warning signs of someone trying to lure them out of the public eye. I don't want her to freak out every time someone talks to her or comes near her though. It is all about balance. Easier said than done I'm sure.

I'm really sorry about your friend, btw. That is an extremely traumatic thing to have to grow up with and my heart goes out to her family.

I honestly feel when I was little that learning about strangers helped save me. I remember one evening I was walking from a friends house (I was about 10 or 11) who lived a couple blocks away. There was this guy in a car that drove really slowly beside me and I knew something was wrong. He had his window down and was just staring at me. I trusted my gut and took a shortcut down a dead end, hopped a fence and ran all the way home. I don't know if I would have had that same instinct if not taught about it and all, but I am glad I knew what to do or I may not be here today.

Aly September 3, 2012 at 10:31 AM  

Wow! I'm glad you knew what to do! That's why it is so important for children to know about Stranger Danger! I agree though, easier said than done!

Danielle-Marie September 4, 2012 at 12:23 AM  

I guess for me personally, I'll be teaching my kids not to talk to anyone they don't know unless mommy is right there beside them.

Sarah September 4, 2012 at 4:53 AM  

That article was CRAZY...after reading that, I guess I can't blame parents who are a bit paranoid or overprotective. But I think you are right in that we as parents have to find a balance. We can't function if we live our lives in constant fear for our children and keep them locked indoors, which is sometimes what I wish I could do. :-) I have always wanted my kids (now 6 and 7) to be respectful and friendly to everyone (strangers included) but I also have told them that it is OK to not talk or respond to someone that they don't know if they don't feel comfortable. (I don't want to override their instincts or make them think that they have to obey or appease every stranger they meet.) And there are soooo many resources available for us as parents to educate and empower our kids to listen to their instincts and protect themselves because as they grow, we can't be with them all the time...just in the last few days I have been re-reading a really good book on this topic, "The Safe Child," (funny that you posted on this right now!) and I HIGHLY recommend it. (And I was reading what you wrote in reply to the comment above...that was scary. So glad that you trusted your instincts.)

marie September 4, 2012 at 9:41 AM  

I definitely teach my kids all about safety and we talk about a gazillion different scenarios, but really I encourage my kids to talk to everyone, including strangers. I think most people are nice and I want my kids to be a part of the community, world and humanity. I think what you said above is key in that you trusted your gut. When you interact with all sorts of people you get a sense of who is decent and who is off.

So while I don't believe in 'stranger danger' I do believe in empowering kids and making them aware.

btw I think your friends actions were weird seeing as the 2 of you were right there, but maybe she's been scarred. I think to live in a world where people are too scared to mention how adorable your baby is would be sad.

Sean Marie September 4, 2012 at 10:02 AM  

Hmm, I may have to check that book out. It was funny, right after I posted this I was watching Dateline and guess what the topic was? Strangers and children. They set up hidden cameras and hired an actor driving an ice cream truck to approach a group of kids outside (whose parents were nearby watching everything) to see if they would take free ice cream from him and get in his truck. All the kids took the ice cream and most got in his truck to see how everything "works". One girl was even a cops daughter, but she didn't get in the truck. Some of the kids were a little cautious and questioned if the man was really an ice cream man but he said yes and they went along. Children aren't perfect and the scary thing is that they did trust him. Maybe it was their intuition that he wasn't going to cause harm (because he wasn't) so maybe if it were someone who were out to get them then they would have had a bad feeling and fleed.

Sean Marie September 4, 2012 at 10:08 AM  

Well said Marie! I agree, word for word with you. I know there are things I'm going to be overbearing about as a mom, but I want my daughter to interact with others and don't want her to think everyone is out to get her.

Sean Marie September 4, 2012 at 10:09 AM  

No harm in that!

marie September 4, 2012 at 1:01 PM  

thanks. That said I am a bear at following my children into public restrooms. At Target last month Ethan would not go into the woman's restroom so I let him go into the men's (he's 7). I noticed another man go in a few minutes later while Ethan was still in there. After a few seconds I opened the door and said loudly "how ya doing Ethan?". If he didn't answer you better believe I'd have no problem barging in there no matter how many men were at the urinals.

MOMMY TALK WITH STEPH September 8, 2012 at 8:05 PM  

I have missed you, Sean. I have been thinking a lot about this as well. William is really quite rude to strangers and doesn't like them looking at him. However, especially with the new baby more and more strangers are starting to strike up conversations with me. I love the line "one of those awkward conversations where she's talking to Natalie but I obvioulsy have to answer." Happens to me ALL THE TIME! Ha ha. Anyway....I will let you know when I figure it out. However, right now I am just going to try and teach William to be aware. Anyway...love you! Hope all is well with you!

Jazz September 10, 2012 at 1:11 PM  

Ooo that is so weird of your friend to do that, and a little rude I think. I'd understand if her son was on his own talking to the lady, but he was with you, so I don't really understand what the problem was. God, some people baffle me.
Some people are just way to overprotective. I imagine if your friend carried on being like that with her son, he'd end up extremely unsociable.
I've no idea how my mum brought me up to be around strangers, but I talk to anyone and everyone now, which probably isn't the best thing at all times.
Oo and thanks for answering those questions!