By Physician Mother, Anonymous
My son had just turned 4 at the time and he remains just as socially flirtatious as he was then. An incident happened at the park and I thought I was being a watchful parent from a distance to allow my child the autonomy to play freely.
This world today is so different and difficult to navigate especially as a single mom, to sift through faces at a glance from a distance (while sleep deprived and overworked).
I call out to Kai at the 2 min warning as I watch him play from afar. He’s happily talking to a bigger kid that looks to be about 12-14 years old. I keep my distance and I keep watch.
While walking together back to the car Kai says momma that boy has a brand new puppy he wants me to see but I didn’t take his candy because we don’t take candy from strangers …and the hairs on my neck stood erect.
Bells and whistles went off in my head as I frantically scanned the crowd to find that face again. He was gone.
I’ve talked to Kai on several occasions about talking to strangers and yet he insists on waving, saying to everyone “hello my name is Kai what’s your name and I like sharks”
So my strategy was to teach him that that’s ok as long as you’re with a grownup
But what if there’s no grown up around-what then?
I taught him about what a “tricky grownup” would look like or act like.
We would go through scenarios and I’d role play with him at home.
I’d let him tell me why he thought a particular scenario was ‘silly’ or how the grownup was being/acting ‘tricky’.
A tricky grownup:
-will try to ask kiddos for help and that’s tricky because a grownup that really needs help would ask another grownup (one they know and not a kiddo)
-will try to ask you to do something (a naughty no no) in hiding places
-will tell you secrets that you can’t tell momma
I teach my child that the only good secret is the kind where everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) will find out real soon about the surprise
-will try to ask you to go with them (you never go with strangers anywhere even for a second)
-will offer you treats or candy (you never take food treats drinks toys from strangers)
I had prepared him for tricky grownups. We have a code:- to yell loud and louder still STRANGER DANGER at the top of your lungs when you feel unsafe around a tricky grownup
I always played the role of the tricky grownup in our role play at home but never had I EVER thought about the tricky bigger kid as a lure, in a public place in broad daylight at a park…and I was there! This shook me to my core. And now I’ve made revisions so to speak on the scenarios we role play-not just grownups any more.