Fearmongering

Last week at tee-ball practice, I was bringing The Girl back from the bathroom when I witnessed an exchange between a mom from another team and her 2-year-old daughter about “stranger danger.” The tot wanted to play around the corner from her sibling’s practice area, preventing her mother from having direct line of sight supervision. In an attempt to convince her daughter, the mom said, “Do you want Stranger Danger to come get you?” To me, it sounded like stranger danger was a person, not a concept.

It is an interesting topic to me, as most people perceive living in the city as more dangerous than living in the suburbs. Having been raised in the suburbs (by, ironically, parents raised in NYC themselves), and seeing the kinds of things that happen there, I think the city’s bad reputation (as compared to the ‘burbs) is undeserved. Still, as The Boy approaches the age where he is more likely to be swiped by a random stranger, I am starting to think about how I am going to teach my children to protect themselves against “bad people.”

I have always been rather laid-back in supervising my children in public, and also in instilling fear of the unknown in them. I’ve read the statistics; it’s exceedingly unlikely that The Girl or The Baby is going to be swiped by a random stranger at the park. I don’t want them to be unnecessarily or overly anxious about something that really isn’t a huge risk in their daily lives. But obviously, I want to protect their privacy — I wouldn’t use pseudonyms on this blog if I wasn’t concerned.

Yesterday, I spent an hour on the playground at Mayfair Park with Allison and her kids, and Caroline and her kids. As much as moms can while chasing 8 kids around the playground, we talked at length about “stranger danger,” The Gift of Fear (Gavin De Becker’s book, which I have not read), and the likelihood that our children would fall victim to a bad person or know what to do in those situations.

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