Stranger Danger

Parenting is all about walking the fine line. There’s the line between concern and worry when they are sick, the fine line between happy and cranky, the fine line between cranky and tantrum. But today, I came face to face with a new moral line that kept shifting and changing forms like the shadows.

Peanut and I were at the library returning a few books and perusing the aisles for a couple of wanted titles. We were in the adult section and peanut was thrilled as always just to read the letters off the covers and use the step stools as his own personal drum set. A disheveled man, dressed strangely for 90 degree weather and carting behind him a weird metal suitcase came walking through the main hall of the library. He looked down the aisles and stopped dead when he saw me and peanut.

He said hi to peanut, so I asked peanut to say hi back. After all, you should answer when someone greets you, right? Peanut obliged and said hi.

Then this strange man plopped down in a seat at the end of the row and watched us for awhile. I started to get nervous. This guy was riveted, watching my son. My precious baby boy. I was getting a weird vibe…but why? Was this guy really threatening or was he just a strangely dressed homeless guy that was making me nervous because he was “different?”

Peanut started to act strangely, too. He started to get clingy and asked to be carried – an unusual occurrence in a place he felt comfortable. I took him by the hand and started guiding him out of the stacks and was contemplating if I needed to duck into the children’s section for awhile so this guy wouldn’t follow us out when he started talking.

He kept saying that this was “the most beautiful boy he’d ever seen. Such a beautiful boy. Just look at him. Wow…”

Okay. Now I think my kid is pretty cute, but this was TOO much. Even grandmotherly types at the grocery store don’t fawn that much over him. Fight or flight started to pulse through my veins. But a nagging voice that sounded a lot like that fine line was taunting me, making me question if I was overreacting. This guy had not actually threatened us. He hadn’t made a move. Just sat, watched and talked. Would we be rude to ignore him? I told peanut to say thank you and we kept trucking. Luckily, peanut actually did let go of my hand and ran behind a tall display in the children’s area and I kept him there until I saw the guy leave.

As peanut gets older and starts asking questions, what will I ever teach him about strangers? I want him to be a trusting person. I don’t want him to be scared or afraid of people. But how do you teach the difference between it being okay to talk to the grocery clerk, but not okay to talk to a strange man who comes up to you at the library? How will I ever teach my child to walk that line when I am not so sure I’m walking on the right side of it?

This parenting gig doesn’t get any easier the older they get, does it?

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Happy 5th of July! (Let’s keep the party rolling!)

I’ve noticed several posts this week in the blogosphere about creating family traditions around the 4th of July. I honestly hadn’t thought much about it as the 4th approached. It’s been a bit of a weird week here at Chez High Heeled Mama and Independence Day somewhat snuck up on me.

But I do remember, fondly, the Fourths of my childhood. They were typically spent in one of a few locations:

  • There were the years we were home as a nuclear family in NC watching the fireworks set-off from the parking deck at South Square Mall. A group from the neighborhood would gather at the KMart parking lot across the street from the launch point. There were always popsicles and I’m sure some adult beverages were involved for the parents. One of the neighborhood dads had a rule about reactions and we would follow his lead as to whether a particular pop deserved an “oh,” “ah,” or “ooooo.”
  • Other years we would be at Grandma and Grandpa’s house in RI. Fourths here involved clam boils, cream puffs, Aunt F’s chocolate cake, tubing on the pond, root beer, hide and seek with the cousins and later, watching my older cousin’s tipsy friends paddle the row boat into the rocks to attempt to set-off fireworks in situations that I now wonder how these guys managed to keep all their digits.
  • Later years we would be at “Camp Massachusetts” with Aunt P and Uncle M hosting the family gathering pool side with barbecued chicken, steak tips, the best potato salad, corn fresh from the farm stand, Aunt F’s chocolate cake (because there isn’t a family gathering without one), and THE apple-raspberry pie with a generous scoop of Grey’s coffee ice cream. We’d watch the Boston Pops on television for our fireworks fix with our hair still damp from the pool and a second dessert in hand.

The last few years, I was hugely pregnant or with an 11 month old and didn’t really think much of it. Last night, though, it was a bit sad to watch the Boston Pops on CBS’s tape delay…but really, no other fireworks display will due. I mean, come on, “Stars and Stripes Forever”…this recovering flute player can’t get enough of that piccolo solo. We did, however, a few things over the week to make the 4th our own:

  • We made apple-raspberry pie with the peanut:

  • We went to a cookout yesterday and watched (like a train wreck you don’t want to see but can’t stop staring at) the hot dog eating contest on ESPN (a five dog eat-off? Ick!).
  • We managed to keep peanut somewhat occupied this morning so we could catch the women’s Wimbledon final (a tradition the hubby and I developed together during our many 4th of Julys together). And now that we were spoiled by some good tennis and good toddler behavior this morning, we’ll hedge our bets and try to watch the men’s final tomorrow. Hopefully peanut will be content to color, play with his blocks and generally stay in one room for the duration. Fingers crossed.
  • We’ll grill out as a family together on Sunday afternoon to keep the festivities going.
  • And, maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll dance around with just our shoes on:

Hope you all are enjoying a relaxing holiday weekend, too!