Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Stranger Danger

I never used that phrase growing up; maybe it wasn't around. Regardless, a couple of recent incidences at the grocery store set off my parental alarm, and the umbrella of safety I have felt keeping us safe from one of life's scariest storms turned itself inside out for a second, leaving my thoughts unshielded. But they weren't vulnerable. All of a sudden I felt on guard and ready to be proactive.

At two different grocery stores, the same older gentleman approached our buggy (apparently it's a South LA thing to call a grocery cart a "buggy") trying to high five The Sheriff and tell him what a good boy he is. The first time it happened, I thought, well this is sweet, and why shouldn't a high five from my happy boy make this man's day a bit brighter?

I found it strange, though, that I hadn't made eye contact with him or said hello. He just made himself at home in our bubble!

I came home and told J about it and blew it off.

Then it happened again, same man, different store. This episode was the one that turned my umbrella inside out. I saw in my head how some kind person could invite himself or herself into my child's life with the intention not so sincere.

The Sheriff wasn't into handing out a high five either time. In fact, the second time he was walking and not in the buggy and hid himself between my legs. I laughed slightly with a "he's shy" and we went along our way.

As soon as the man, kind-hearted and genuine I'm sure, turned the corner, I knelt down on W's level,  told him to look at me, and let him know that it's ok if he didn't want to give the gentleman a high five. I didn't get into "he's a stranger" or any of that.  He wasn't ready for that conversation at that moment. I simply wanted to validate his feelings that he didn't feel comfortable and that was ok. His parents aren't going to be the ones to force him to high five strangers, not when there are so many weirdos out there.

I don't think this particular man was one of the bad guys, but I appreciate these two experiences as lessons for me that indeed, we live in a dangerous society, and in the very near future we'll need to have  important conversations about "stranger danger."

Moms out there who've done it, what age did you start talking about strangers without freaking out your children? Do you have any suggested resources for approaching this topic?


Erin said...

Ok, that is creepy that is was th same man both times! I totally would have had a stranger danger moment! We didn't deal with the whole stranger danger thing much when I was a child either. We usually were just sent off to have fun and were expected to be back by dinner. Ugh, I am not looking forward to dealing with strangers. I'd say you handled the situations well, but I'd certainly keep an eye out for that man again!

Natalie said...

I'm glad it's not just me but it just weirds me out when old men want to talk to my boys. I guess b/c of all the horror stories we've heard of boys being abused I am super protective...and old men just creep me out! I think you totally did the right thing about validating his feelings...I am going to take note and do the same thing. I haven't had that kind of talk with Nolan yet b/c he's young to understand but I think this is a great approach to teach them to trust their instincts.

Nicole said...

What a creepy incident. I hope you never see him again, but if you do, please let him know you don't want him coming up to your son. Even if he's just an innocent person, he is invading your space and that of your son, W should never have to feel uncomfortable even for sweet old men or women!

During the game saturday night, A saw an alert for a man that had escaped from a halfway house, of course, a sexual abuser. He was scared and upset the rest of the game, and not b/c of the outcome! We had a talk about why it's so important to always listen to me immediately and not when he feels like it.

Not really an answer to your question about when to have the talk and what to say...I do know that I would start before Christmas just about never leaving mom's side or walking off and the importance of hand holding when so many people are around.

Sarah @ It's a Vol said...

I'm sorry but that is weird that it was the same man. Maybe it was innocent, maybe he's a creeper I guess we will never know, but if your mom alarm went off then I'd trust that instinct!

We live in the downtown of a very small town where folks are really really friendly, so that kind of experience is normal here, but still, it's a little annoying and a little strange.

Anonymous said...

When My 'umbrella gets turned inside out' I want to run and hide because I feel like I just don't have the right words to explain, ya know?

My 2 year old invited the cashier from the grocery store over to play... I said to my daughter right in front of the woman- 'that was kind of you- But we only invite our friends and family to our house to play' hahaha I panicked a little.

Go with your intuition - that's what I do :)

Andie said...

that is something I'm so afraid of, especially because Andrew is a very friendly baby boy already!

Kerry said...

Probably around age 4 & 5, gently at first because I didn't want my words to strip them of their innocence and then a little more once they both started school. They need to know that not everyone is good, but also reminded that not everyone is bad. Just to be aware. You will know what to say and when to say it (and then there's the whole private parts talk to go through). At this point because he is only 2, you need to be his eyes and ears and protective shield...a mother's gut feeling is a strong one!