You can tell them never to take things from a stranger. Does that mean that they shouldn’t accept a cookie from the sweet old lady down the street that wanted to repay your son for getting the mail for her? Is she a stranger? Because he doesn’t know her well and because I don’t know her well, that makes her a stranger. Not a bad stranger, but if you can’t tell the difference, they’re all bad strangers, right?
You can tell your kid to listen to and respect their teachers, the principal, and other adults. But all teachers, principals and other adults are strangers and some are even bad strangers. So what can you do to protect your children? Who should they go to when they get lost in the mall or wander away with some other couple because they forgot to look up before they started following them?
I tell my kids to look for another mom.
“Well, how can I tell if the lady is another mom?” they’ll ask.
“They are the ladies that are half pulling, half dragging a trio of children through a crowded parking lot. One’s probably in a stroller gumming the handle of her purse and another one is stuffed under her arm pit and is kicking his feet and screaming his head off.”
“But what if she didn’t bring her kids with her?”
I thought about that for a minute. I would move heaven and earth not to bring my children with me on a shopping expedition. I imagine there are other like-minded “good stranger”-type moms out there as well. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the ones who do bring their children are either doing some kind of penance, or there really is something not quite right about them.
Okay, so what does a “good stranger” mom look like if she doesn’t have her children with her?
Well, let see. She’ll most likely look exhausted with big, dark circles under her eyes. She’ll have permanent milk stains on the shoulder of her coat from a baby drooling in her sleep. Her grocery list or some other reminder might be written on the back of her hand in purple washable marker.
She may have an extra-large purse with a pull-up pant sticking out of the top. The purse, of course, will not match her shoes. The shoes will not be high heels, but with any luck, they will match each other.
A “good stranger” mom will smell like cookies and apple juice, and will have a sippy cup in one coat pocket and a baggie of Cheerios in the other.
If you ask a “good stranger”” mom for any of these items she will have them somewhere on her person: A wet wipe, a safety pin, a spare nipple (for a baby bottle, that is), a tube of diaper rash ointment, a pacifier, a stale French fry, a burp rag, a pair of children’s underwear (these might even be clean), a pipe cleaner, a red plastic barrette, a wad of play dough, the wheel off a Matchbox car, and a headache.
This “good stranger” mom will most likely not be found in a sexy lingerie store, a jewelry store, or a store that sells high-end breakable knick-knacks. No, most likely, this exhausted, yet happy-looking, “good stranger” mom without her kids will be sitting on a bench, sipping a strawberry milkshake and enjoying the novelty of being alone.
Laura Snyder may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or check her website www.lauraonlife.com for info about her books.