I’m tired of “Stranger Danger.” We are raising a bunch of little people that are scared. Scared of all the people they don’t know. I’m not doing it! Yes, I know *gasp* I am calling into question the notion of “stranger danger.” But, this is not actually revolutionary, I’m just saying it again. Most people are good and kind. We need to teach our kids to feel comfortable and safe in their communities. Teaching our children that they need to be scared of everyone that they don’t know is not true, and it’s actually doing them a disservice. Because statistics tell us the icky, horrifying truth is that if someone is going to “get” our sweet babies in any of the nasty ways that sweet babies can be gotten, it will probably be someone that they (and you) know well.
Most definitely teach them to be safe. Teach them to trust their intuitions, teach them about friendly interactions from neighbors vs. invitations that are inappropriate, and teach them that there should never be a need to keep a secret from you. Remind them that no grown up they don’t know should talk to them without first talking to you. Ever. Help them learn to look out for each other. (See what I did there? Community!)
We need to pay attention to each other’s children. It takes a village, blah blah blah. Okay, it’s true, it does take a village, but that’s not actually why I’m paying attention. One really good reason is that I’m bossy, but another good reason is this: We can’t watch our children all the time! We need to be able to rely on each other. We need community.
We’re not soldiers in some fictional “mommy war.” We’re all on the same kid-raising team.
I’m relying on you. If my kid is a jerk to your kid and I don’t see it, please, call her out. In the gentle way you would with your own child. You don’t need to march over to me to have it out. We don’t need a sit down. If my girl scores a goal and I miss it, please, cheer wildly for her. If I’m late to pick my daughter up from the bus (which I was yesterday and some other days, too) hold her hand while also texting me to find out just exactly where I am. Pay attention, grown-ups. Please. This very small act of paying attention creates community. It makes all of our kiddos safer and helps them feel more connected.
Our children can benefit immeasurably from the involvement of other grown ups
. Praise them often. Re-direct them when necessary. Look at them. Pat them on the shoulder. Ask them questions. Tell them about what you do for a living. How is my kid ever going to learn to be an engineer or a poet unless she gets one for a role model? It’s not going to be me and it’s not going to be her dad. She needs other grown-ups. Lots of them. As many as possible.
This is a dare. It’s a call to action (or inaction, depending on how you look at it).
Let’s stop judging each other, let’s let our kids have the childhood that we claim we had, that our parents claim they had. Things are not more dangerous today. Statistics show they really are not. We want our kids to get dirty, climb trees, and scooter-gang around the neighborhood on their own. Here’s how to do it: meet your neighbors, all of them. Your mail carrier and your UPS driver. Also, the guy that does the lawn next door every Wednesday. And the other parents at the park. Meet those people. Make eye contact every time you see them. Introduce your children to them. Add as many adults to their worlds as possible. Be the other parent looking out for kiddos that aren’t yours. Then let your kids run amok all over the place. That’s community, and community matters.