Last week I popped to a local shopping area near me to buy a coat for Emma. I had Emma in the pushchair and Daniel was walking alongside me, carrying his monkey toy.
As many parents will know, nothing attracts the comments of strangers like young children. The number of times I have people coming to talk to me and the children is amazing.
We were walking along and a man passed us, he saw Daniel and smiled at him, and Daniel held Monkey up for him to take a look at. The man engaged in conversation and asked Daniel about Monkey, and the usual ‘is that your sister?’ question. We talked for maybe 45 seconds or so before he wished me a good day and said goodbye to the children.
We walked on and as we continued past a woman she stopped and said, ‘huh, that was a bit weird wasn’t it, that man you didn’t know stopping and talking to you’.
At first I was surprised. Why is it ‘weird’? My reply to her was, ‘not really, at least not any weirder than a woman who doesn’t know me stopping me and talking to me’.
When did we get to the stage where a man talking to a mum and her two children is weird? I think it would have been weirder had he walked by and ignored the two-year old holding out his toy to show him. Why is it OK for a woman to stop and talk to me?
Yes, there are people with less than decent motives who talk to children. But does that make everyone the same? We live in a society where you can’t take pictures of your own children if there is a risk you might catch another child – I know I often feel bad if I am sneaking a picture at playgroup on my phone of my own children, I’m careful to avoid accidentally capturing another child in the snap.
Earlier in the year this news article appeared in our local press. It was around Legolands policy to not allow entry to over 16s unless they were with a child. Absolute nonsense I feel. Why is this the case?
The ‘lone adult’ ban isn’t unique to Legoland. Take this tourist centre which has a similar ban. Why is a lone adult assumed to be a risk to children?
Yesterday when I was in a local park it struck me, not for the first time, how quiet our public spaces are during the day. Yesterday was a beautiful spring morning. Bright blue sky and lovely fresh air. Yes, it was cold but with a warm coat on it was nice to be out.
I took Daniel and Emma to a small park near us. As we arrived we saw another mum and her daughter leaving. And then no one else. Not a soul for the 40 or so minutes we were there. The park is usually an area where we see lots of dog walkers passing through or people cutting through to the village centre. But no one yesterday. Would I have felt uncomfortable and threatened if I had seen a lone adult walking through? No. I might perhaps have felt uncomfortable if someone was sat taking images of the children and I, or behaving oddly.
Our green spaces are so valuable and they are the preserve of everyone. I don’t ever want to live in a society that labels lone adults as a danger. I want my children to be open and friendly and to not be fearful. Yes, they will be aware of things like ‘stranger danger’ and being safe. But viewing every adult as a threat is not, I believe, a healthy attitude.