From the time my babes were old enough to waddle around and greet people, they have. It has never mattered to them whether the recipient of their welcoming chatter was a relative, a friend or a random stranger they happen upon on the street.
Whenever I see them engage in this type of behavior, part of me smiles and is happy that my kids are secure and able to talk to anyone they fancy. But when it comes to their greetings of unfamiliar people a small part of me withdrawals. It tells me to pull my babies away from the individual who has all too soon become a vile baby snatcher in my own twisted mind, and it silently screams, STRANGER DANGER, STRANGER DANGER, STRANGER DANGER!
Of course I typically do not act on this small voice that sometimes waylays my mind- as I would surely come off bat shit crazy. Not to mention possibly end up in the local police station for screaming slanderous accusations at the seemingly innocent grandmother who was simply out to feed the birds in the park.
So instead I toil with this inner battle noiselessly.
Each year the humble winter town that my family and I live in is rapidly turned into a bustling summer retreat in the blink of an eye. Folks from near and far flood to our beach front and lake side to soak in the sun and check out the eateries on the strip. And as much as I loved the vacationer hullabaloo in my youthful years, now that I have a brood of my own I would much desire the peace and quiet of small town living.
Today as the kids and I shoved through the throng of people in the grocery store I was overcome with that threatening feeling of stranger danger. The warm weather is quickly approaching which means soon the streets, bars and stores of all sorts, will be brimming with the out-of-towners.
Lars and Sophie, now too big to ride in the cart, as they have recently self-proclaimed, were running a good few feet ahead of me. I grabbed the backs of their little hooded sweaters and told them to stay put by my side. A usual outing where we will run into several friends or at least a few friendly faces had turned into a sea of strangers. Danger.
The difference with this year and years past is this- my kids are totally and utterly mobile! No strollers, no shopping carts, no leashes (although I was never a huge fan of tethering my child to me). The only stronghold I have at this point is my ability to clutch their sweaty little hands and hold on for dear life. Oh they try to weasel their way out, but always to no avail.
Luckily we get through the checkout quick and painlessly and as I load the groceries and children into the van I decide it is time for the talk.
“So guys did you notice how busy it was in there?” I say as we pull out of the crowded parking lot.
“Ya!” they yell in unison as though it was the most delightful experience in the world.
“Well I can’t have you guys running ahead of me like you were in there, especially when it is so busy with people.” I explain while trying to keep the franticness out of my voice.
“Why?” Lars asks.
“Well guys, most of those people we don’t know, they are strangers.” DANGER DANGER DANGER “and sometimes we can’t always be sure if strangers are nice people or mean people. So it is always best to stick very close to Mama when we are in a crowded place like that.” I glance into the rear-view mirror to judge how my spiel has taken to them.
Sophie glances nonchalantly out the window not listening to a word I’ve said. Lars although stares back at me through the mirror, eyes wide and filled with questions.
“Some are bad? Like bad guys? What will they do?” His query’s hit me one after another and I am not sure how to answer them.
“Well Lars it’s scary buddy, but sometimes there are bad guys that steal kids. That’s why you need to stay close to Mom, so I can protect you.”
It was soon after he yelled “WHAT?!” from the backseat and started looking around helplessly at all the ‘strangers’ that filled the streets that I realized I had made a drastic folly.
I try to recover by saying, “But don’t worry man, I will keep you safe. That’s what Moms and Dads jobs are!”
“You’re not always with me though MOM!” He is on the edge of panic and I am speechless. I berate myself for even attempting to talk with my kids about this topic, although Sophie seems not even touched by the conversation. I am trying to find some words, any words to calm my 5 year old down from the idiocy that was my loose tongue, as he continues to implant his face into the vans window gazing suspiciously at all the people who pass by. It is Sophie who finally breaks the unnerved silence.
“Yars (Lars) calm down…If a stranger come to get us, Mama just will kick ass.”
And it was then that we all started laughing and stopped worrying about stranger danger. Although I will have to bring up the topic again in the near future I am happy for the current reprieve.
And for now, I will let their little minds rest at ease knowing Mama will always kick some stranger danger ass if need be.