As a parent, I followed the Golden Rule Book for Parents (probably on page 3 in bold-face type) and taught my daughter the essential rule, “Do NOT talk to strangers. Period.”
Of course, we had to establish who was and wasn’t a stranger. And it’s hard for a little kid to determine that the 78-year old lady at the mall who tells her she’s so pretty twirling in that sundress is a stranger – but probably not a threatening one. Now if it’s a 32-year old guy? Then it might be a problem – but then again, as a mom? I’d probably already have taken him out.
It still amazed me that despite having the talk about strangers, she would sometimes look over and start up a conversation with people she didn’t know – at a restaurant, standing in line at the grocery store, or even sitting at a table in the food court. Once we left the movie Jurassic Park and came out to a huge line waiting to be seated for the next showing. She matter-of-factly walked by people she’d never seen and calmly told them, “Don’t worry. It starts out scary, but it’s really okay. You’ll be fine.”
I was reminded of the “don’t speak to a stranger” rule while taking Jake out for a spin around the block after dinner last night. Jake lives for 3 things – sleeping, eating, and walking. Oh, and maybe people fawning over him, because he is pretty cute.
The dog days of Texas are already hitting us, soaring into the 90s, so Jake and I walk early in the mornings around 6 or 7 to beat the heat, usually clocking 4-5 miles. He’s gotten spoiled, though, wanting to step out after dinner and do a mile circuit for fun, just to stretch his legs and see what’s going on in the neighborhood. Last night was getting just too hot to go that far, so we did a 4-left turns thing and zipped around the block that way. Even then, I got pretty sticky and decided after dinner walks will be a thing of the past till about October!
So as we moseyed along, we turned the corner and saw a little girl of about 5 swinging at a ball her dad pitched her. It was one of those plastic bats, and she was pretty darn uncoordinated, but also pretty darn precious. As we got closer and she knelt to grab the ball and toss it back to her dad, she saw Jake. Her eyes lit up, and a huge smile beamed like the sun as her corkscrew curls bounced.
“Hey, that’s a really cute dog. My dad has a dog, but he lives in an apartment now, but I go over there sometimes and see him and we all play.”
In less than 10 seconds, this sweet thing bared her soul … to a stranger (with a cute dog). The dad looked mortified, blushing and rolling his eyes as I smiled at him and his daughter.
I told her, “Well, thanks. His name is Jake. That’s great that you get to play with your dad and go see his dog. Tell him Jake says hi.”
We walked on with a wave to the dad, who was shaking his head. I can just imagine his conversation with his daughter, how you’re not supposed to talk to strangers or give them personal information. And boy, did she spill a lot!
But maybe that dad will pause, smile at his sweet little girl, and just send another pitch her way. Maybe he’ll be glad that she’s happy to spend time with him and the dog, away from what used to be their intact family. Maybe just this once he can let her live in a world where people – even strangers – converse and are kind to one another.