An old man talked to my child in public, officer! Go get him!

To the Parents Who Called the Cops After My 80-year-old Dad Chatted with Your Child at the Supermarket

One more time: Most humans saying hello to a child in public are not doing anything evil.
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Those who report them to the police, on the other hand…
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Dear Free-Range Kids:
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I thought you would be interested in this Facebook post to one of my groups today. It was the Blue Mountains Community Social Group, over here in Australia. The person who posted it reported that she saw it pasted up in a local shopping centre. We’re a fairly small, regional community, about 100km from Sydney.
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I’m happy to say that of the 93 comments (so far) and 227 reactions, the vast majority have leapt  to the defense of the 80-year-old man, and have expressed despair for the sorry state of a world where a male person is unable to have a conversation with a stranger child without being branded a “pedo.”
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Phew,
Margot
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From a small town an hour outside of Sydney, Australia.

In case you can’t read it it says:

To the parent(s) of a young child.

In the week ending 10 September 2017, my 80-year-old father spoke kindly to a young boy in the prominent supermarket in Winmalee. This gesture ended with the child having a friendly hand rest briefly on his head or shoulder.

At his car, my father was challenged by a plain-clothed police officer. This lead to confusion and upsettedness expressed.

A few days later, two detectives arrived unannounced at my parents Winmalee home, continually reassuring my parents that all was OK, and the CCTV footage aligned with my parents story — the matter would not be pursued further.

It is of some alarm that you did not consider that a friendly word to a young person may just be that. It is of concern to me that you could not consider that engagement within the community will involve being spoken to by people unknown to us — and that, as social animals, people naturally will seek to momentarily bond within their community.

Additionally, many older persons take joy in observing youth interacting with their surrounds. You surely are aware of this.

I cannot express how much your action of alarm has struck at the confidence of an older man. His expression of goodwill undone by an overly zealous parent, who did not have the courage to speak of their opinion directly to my father, or guide the child away. Or to join in and add to the conversation.

Instead, you covertly and unnecessarily inform authorities. About what, I do not know.

We were all strangers once to others we now know — overcome through communication skills, learned and improved by conversing with an array of persons.

And a closed, dysfunctional society is formed of reading too much into a situation, and acting on exaggerated thought and impulsive negative action, rather than that of a considered positive outlook.

Thank you for reading.

Ad thank you, whoever you are, for writing, and reminding us of our humanity.

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An old man talked to my child in public, officer! Go get him!

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62 Responses to To the Parents Who Called the Cops After My 80-year-old Dad Chatted with Your Child at the Supermarket

  1. Craig October 5, 2017 at 10:57 am #

    I LOVE the Blue Mountains. I was in Katoomba a few years ago. It is really sad to hear that the increasing pathological nature of this mass mind control has reached small town Oz. Really what it amounts to is that everybody needs cult deprogramming. But I am glad to hear that most voices in response to this situation were from relatively sane people. There is hope.

  2. Helen Armstrong October 5, 2017 at 10:59 am #

    The action of those parents to involve police is disgusting and reprehensible. How paranoid and sick-minded does one have to be to read ill-intent and maliciousness into such an innocent gesture?! What is also infuriating is the fact that the police acted on the complaint – what a waste of their resources to be dealing with this NON-ISSUE. Ooh, this makes me so angry!

  3. Meg October 5, 2017 at 11:17 am #

    Does it strike anyone that it’s the paranoid parents who are sexualizing and objectifying their own young children?

    When a parent assumes anyone who talks to a child in a public place must want to have sex with them, what does that say about the parent? What does it say about the message they are instilling in their child? “You are a desirable sex object.”

    And what does it say about their own bigotry and prejudice when they make all men suspect? What does is tell the child? “Men are bad and dangerous.” Expecting children to grow up and have normal relationships after they’ve been handed that kind of baggage is just sad.

  4. Vicki October 5, 2017 at 11:21 am #

    Exactly Meg, that’s why I called them sick-minded. These parents shouldn’t worry about other people because they’re the ones with the problem – therapy is definitely recommended.

  5. Dienne October 5, 2017 at 11:21 am #

    Okay, I’m a mother of young daughters, I have mom-radar too. Sometimes there’s just something about a person that sets your spidey senses to tingling. Probably it’s nothing, but maybe it’s something and you can’t be too sure, I suppose. Worst case scenario, it is at least remotely possible he had bad intentions. I won’t judge this/these parent(s) for being cautious.

    But, really, in the middle of a popular grocery store, they couldn’t think of anything better to do than call the authorities? They couldn’t have, as the letter suggests, simply spoken to the man? Or just left? What exactly did they think he was going to do?

    My what a frightful world we live in when even adults are afraid to speak to strangers.

  6. Beanie October 5, 2017 at 11:37 am #

    I was approached by an older man in the grocery store the other day. We had a conversation about age (he was in his nineties and proud of it), and he ended up putting his arm around me and asking for a kiss on the cheek! If he had been younger, I would’ve been creeped out, but I was charmed (and I admit a little flattered. As a 40-year-old married mother, men don’t even glance at me anymore.) You can choose your reaction to incidents like this. I figure an elderly man like that is probably lonely, has lost some inhibitions, and is trying to make a connection in a way that seems good to him. Nothing scary or hurtful about it. I chose to walk away with a smile on my face and I hope he did too.

  7. Liam October 5, 2017 at 11:46 am #

    Im a dad, kids are teenager now , at this stage I would shoo kids away from me, honestly if I saw a kid waking into traffic not sure what I would do. Never had any problems that I noticed even though I spent a lot of time out and about with my kids. Never minded my kids talking to anybody, what could possibly happen.
    Life is too short though to get on the wrong side of some stupid cow . Something has been lost, when I was a kid I could walk into several houses , watch and chat with older “granddad” types who were cutting the lawn, teenagers working on their bikes. all that is gone now.

  8. Vicki October 5, 2017 at 12:08 pm #

    I think some parents want to be perceived as being such good parents that they’re ready to act at the slightest hint that their precious snowflake could be harmed in some way.

    Dienne, your post almost sounds like you’re saying “Better safe than sorry,” which I agree with when it comes to driving but not parenting.

  9. Mark Davis October 5, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

    That’s a really nicely-written retort to freaking-out helicopter parents. She should work that into an essay and publish it.

  10. Dienne October 5, 2017 at 12:17 pm #

    Vicki – all I’m saying is that you should pay attention to your instincts if they’re telling you something’s not right about a person. I don’t know if the parent(s) in this situation had such instincts in this case or if it was just a general reaction to any stranger (or any strange male) interacting with their kid, but I’m never going to judge anyone for acting on such instincts. You’ll note, however, I did say that that doesn’t mean you leap right to calling the authorities. Speaking to a person or at least just leaving the scene are usually better options.

  11. K October 5, 2017 at 12:22 pm #

    “Okay, I’m a mother of young daughters, I have mom-radar too. Sometimes there’s just something about a person that sets your spidey senses to tingling. Probably it’s nothing, but maybe it’s something”

    Curious how FRKs would act in the following situation: I have a young son, and a next-door neighbor who rubs me the wrong way. He’s never done anything wrong that I’m aware of, but he makes me uncomfortable. I recently had the occasion to talk to my 3yo about how he could go to the neighbors if he ever needed help, was alone, or couldn’t find us (he’d let himself out the back door and couldn’t reach the handle to get back in, and I was in the bathroom and didn’t hear him calling), and I pointed out that he could always ask [neighbors to the right] for help, but just didn’t mention [neighbor to the left] at all. As these conversations come up more often as he gains independence and has less supervision, I wonder how to broach the topic. Do I tell him NOT to go to the neighbor who makes me uncomfortable, when there’s no reason he does? Do I give him a reason? Am I more comfortable with him crossing the street by himself to get to another neighbor’s house than with him staying on our side of the sidewalk but going to the uncomfortable neighbor’s house?

    FWIW, I’m aware that the most likely situation here is that this guy is just a little socially awkward and overly friendly.

  12. Steve N October 5, 2017 at 12:25 pm #

    I think it’s great that this letter doesn’t just focus on how much nonsense it is to call the cops in a situation like this. The letter very ably makes the point that this type of behavior actively hurts us by helping to create a “closed, dysfunctional society.” The more connections we make within society the better our lives will be.

  13. David D. October 5, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

    For everyone who trust their instincts, I highly recommend reading the book “Blink” by Malcom Gladwell. Instincts are the product of one’s experiences and thought processes. In “Blink,” the author recounts incidents of an innocent black man being shot 41 times by NYC police because their instincts caused them to interpret the holding out of his wallet as a weapon. Instincts can be accurate. They also can be wholly inaccurate. Yes, this does create a dilemma.

  14. Beth October 5, 2017 at 12:44 pm #

    “What does is tell the child? “Men are bad and dangerous.””

    I can’t imagine a male child growing up in this environment. He’ll be convinced his whole life that he’ll grow up to want to have sex with children

  15. Dienne October 5, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

    Having a negative instinct about a person doesn’t mean you have to shoot them 41 times, even if you are a cop. Blaming instincts for that incident is cheap (as is most of Gladwell’s work, incidentally).

  16. Crystal October 5, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

    As a mom of 4 kids within 5 years of each other, I LOVE meeting people like this old man at the store! It helps me immensely while I’m child- and grocery-wrangling to have another adult distract my child for a moment. So thanks for not only screwing your child and the old man over, helicopter parents, but me, too, since the would-be helpers are scared spitless from doing so in the future.

  17. Tom Grant October 5, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

    I am an 80 plus man and I smile and talk to them all the time. I do not touch them nor give them anything because of over reaction by todays idiots. That’s right, idiots who have nothing better than to medal and create fears in people. It would be better for all concerned if the children were left at home but what would the idiots do then?

  18. Neil M October 5, 2017 at 1:10 pm #

    I’d like to highlight this comment by Meg:

    ***
    Does it strike anyone that it’s the paranoid parents who are sexualizing and objectifying their own young children?

    When a parent assumes anyone who talks to a child in a public place must want to have sex with them, what does that say about the parent? What does it say about the message they are instilling in their child? “You are a desirable sex object.”
    ***

    This bothers me as well. In a world in which we are all paranoid about sexual assault of children, we also sexualize toddlers with shirts that read “Hot Stuff” (often for girls) or “Lock Up Your Daughters” (often for boys). It’s like this sexualization does not start with “molesters” but with all of us viewing children in a pervasively sexual way. It’s weird, and to be honest I’m a little suspicious of those who are obsessed with the idea of sexual assault of children. It’s analogous to the fixation Rick Santorum (former US senator) had with gay male sex; he says it disgusts him, but he just can’t seem to stop talking about it…

    Thanks to Meg for bringing this up, and letting me know I’m not the only one who’s thought this way.

  19. angeleyes1307 October 5, 2017 at 1:18 pm #

    K
    As a mother of 2 young kids trying to teach them independence one of the biggest things I emphasize is “trust your gut”.
    I make a point of giving my kids freedom (in stores, fairs, etc.) to feel independent, letting the talk to people and get that “vibe” and then talk about it later. encouraging them to talk to people that give the good vibes (but never go anywhere without them); and politely retreat from the bad vibes (or less politely if need be). It gives them a confidence in themselves, and me the confidence that they are learning how to navigate the world without me.
    Too often we tell kids – these are the good people in the world so do everything they say (teachers, coaches, family, etc.) everybody else is suspect. But too often that interferes with the kids’ own radar, because making strangers bad guys is often wrong, and “trusted adults” shouldn’t always be either.
    In your case I would continue to not broach the subject of the neighbor in question until your kids does and if he says he gives a weird feeling, tell him you think so to (or if he just asks, “well what about him?” tell him about your gut feeling)- and that it is probably nothing serious but always best to trust your feelings, so he wouldn’t be your first choice.

  20. Peter October 5, 2017 at 1:28 pm #

    Dienne, I understand what you’re saying. I wouldn’t judge them for being concerned. I would judge them for their actions.

    It’s not a horrible idea to have some idea who your children are talking to–especially if you’re concerned about them. However, calling the police to investigate based on the fact that an old man talked to your kid? That’s a bad action.

    Why?

    If you’re really concerned about protecting your child, you should get involved. If your “mom-radar” is going off, you should go find out why rather than just assuming the worst and calling the police. You see, our “intuition” is based on experiences–not only our own but the experiences of others that we read about or see on TV. So your “mom-radar” is going to be based on your experiences. If all you’ve heard about is “strange men abusing children,” you’re going to think that way about any man who you don’t know talking to your kid.

    In short, your “mom-radar” may be off. It isn’t infallible, believe it or not.

    But the parent’s reaction is cowardly. Rather than getting involved, she expected someone else to do her job for her–namely the police who, frankly, got much better things to do with their day.

  21. Anna October 5, 2017 at 1:46 pm #

    I really don’t understand the police’s actions here. Sure, it’s nice they’re reassuring the old man now, but why did they question him in the first place? If someone levels an allegation against someone, alleging an action that wouldn’t be criminal even if every word of the allegation is true, why would they investigate at all?

  22. Shawn D. October 5, 2017 at 1:56 pm #

    The parent(s) are cowards. Disgusting.

  23. Maria Carter October 5, 2017 at 2:17 pm #

    This exact thing happened to my father-in-law who spoke to a small girl sitting near him on a bench in arcade in plain view of the world – on this occasion the mother furiously berated my kindly 80 year-old father-in-law in front of the small child and to the utter devastation of my elderly, kindly father-in-law. He vowed never to speak to another child in public ever again.

  24. AmyP October 5, 2017 at 2:35 pm #

    The world has gone crazy. Maybe we can’t trust each other by default. Maybe we can. But either way, if we see something innocent happen right in front of our eyes, how do we then come to the conclusion that something nefarious was at play.

    My kids and I were having a silly conversation the other day about the movie It. They haven’t seen it but somehow or other were aware of the scene where the kid gets pulled into the drain. My son asked me what I would he should do if he saw a clown in the sewer (it was a joke question-not serious) and I told him that I would hope he would get the guy some help. He might be stuck down there. Then I went on to say it’s okay to talk to strangers and it’s okay to talk to clowns but I don’t care who it is, it’s not a good idea to go into sewers the same as we don’t get into cars with random people. They laughed and laughed. Later on I told a close friend about this conversation and did he see it as amusing? No. The response I got was “you let your kids talk to strangers?” Sigh.

  25. AmyP October 5, 2017 at 2:50 pm #

    Neil

    Agree generally with what you and Meg say. Just want to point out that some people are obsessed with the idea of molestation and sexual assault on children because it happened to them. I’m not saying it’s common, but child molestation happens enough that it affects a decent portion of the population. Since it’s usually family members when it does occur, unfortunately it can trigger a suspicion of your own family. For example if your father molested you and your mother didn’t know perhaps you may have in the back of your mind your husband could be capable of it and you wouldn’t know. Not saying it’s an accurate thought just that I would chalk a lot of it up to bad experiences and not to people just being naturally sick or perverted. However this doesn’t have anything to do with when it comes to strangers because this type of assault IS extremely rare so the amount of people that are always afraid of this happening doesn’t correlate with the amount of people who have had it happen to them.

  26. Ian Baillie October 5, 2017 at 3:35 pm #

    Disgusting This is the sad world we live in My love and best wishes to an elderly gentleman who was only trying to interact with someone from a different generation To his detractors Get your heads out of your arses and question your own morals and beliefs

  27. Elin Hagberg October 5, 2017 at 3:50 pm #

    My children will talk to people in the store sometimes and people talk to them. Good! My kids get to learn how to have small talk with a person they don’t know which to me is an important skill. I teach my kids that most people are nice and friendly but I also teach them that if a person for some reason makes them uncomfortable to keep their distance. My own experience is that if that creepy feeling appears it often does so for a reason. While I do not worry about abductions and such very much I have also told my kids about “bad” people that enjoy hurting children. I am very clear that they are not common but they do exist. I have told them that they should never go away with an adult who says I/their dad have sent them or that they shall follow them away from home or from us parents. Mom and dad will never send a stranger to pick you up so in that case run away and try to find a mom to help you (yes I say mom to steer the kld towards a low risk individual). It is a very small risk but I do think that if they don’t know it CAN happen that is also a risk.

  28. pentamom October 5, 2017 at 4:16 pm #

    Peter, exactly. In this situation, and in the situation K describes, it’s fine to keep an eye on things and not allow your kids to have a lot of unsupervised contact with someone who makes you uneasy.

    Calling the cops on a man because he chats with your child in public for 30 seconds with you present and touches him in a non-threatening way, has no possible justification, and shouldn’t be equated with any kind of appropriate “trusting your instincts.”

  29. JTW October 5, 2017 at 4:22 pm #

    “Does it strike anyone that it’s the paranoid parents who are sexualizing and objectifying their own young children?

    When a parent assumes anyone who talks to a child in a public place must want to have sex with them, what does that say about the parent? What does it say about the message they are instilling in their child? “You are a desirable sex object.””

    Indeed. I’d say it shows the parents are the real dangerous perverts here, they’re the ones seeing their child as a sex object rather than a child.

    If we are to remove people who see children as sex objects from society, let’s start with parents who consider their children sex objects that other people might be interested in…

  30. Anna October 5, 2017 at 4:38 pm #

    @Elin Hagberg: “My children will talk to people in the store sometimes and people talk to them. Good! My kids get to learn how to have small talk with a person they don’t know which to me is an important skill.”

    Good point! I worry about what it will mean for social cohesion when the generations raised to fear and shun “strangers” become the majority. This morning, walking my dog, I passed five middle or high-schoolers on their way to school. I nodded, made eye contact, and/or said “Good morning” as seemed appropriate based on where and how we passed each other. Of the five, one responded (or to be fair, she actually initiated, by saying “Your dog is so well-behaved”) while the other four lowered their eyes to the ground and pretended I didn’t exist, as if disturbed that I should acknowledge their existence. Bear in mind, these were all “children” as large and strong as me, a middle-aged woman walking an unthreatening dog. This bothers me. When do these parents plan to have their kids start interacting in a friendly way with strangers in neutral, shared space? 21? Isn’t that a bit late to learn basic habits of courtesy and friendliness?

  31. Donna October 5, 2017 at 4:57 pm #

    “Sometimes there’s just something about a person that sets your spidey senses to tingling.”

    And the only appropriate reaction to having your spidey senses tingling in the scenario is to distract your child and get away from the source that got your spidey senses tingling as quickly as possible. It is absolutely inappropriate to call the cops when no visible crime occurred and the two parties have now gone their separate ways.

  32. Eric S October 5, 2017 at 5:04 pm #

    And one day, all these ignorant, paranoid, sanctimonious parents will be old. Let’s see how they feel when people treat them like they are treating others now. Karma’s a bitch people. It doesn’t care who you are, just what you do.

  33. delurking October 5, 2017 at 5:09 pm #

    Dienne,
    There is little question in my mind that if everyone follows your advice, at least in the US, the negative consequences (at every level of severity) will fall disproportionately on people of color. Furthermore, I will go so far as to suggest that those instincts that “set your spidey senses tingling” are next to worthless at determining the actual danger.

  34. Laurence October 5, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

    Three things come to mind reading this and the comments.

    1. In the USA, a boy narrowly escaped dying of exposure when he wandered away from home and got lost. Although he was not far away and heard the search party, he hid from them because of having been instilled with “don’t talk to strangers.”

    2. In the UK, a young girl drowned in a pond after being separated from her playgroup. The last person to see her alive didn’t appraoch her in case anyone thought he was a paedophile.

    3. Also UK, a 4-year-old girl out with her mother being told to “shake that arse” when walking through a shopping centre.

  35. Donna October 5, 2017 at 5:13 pm #

    K –

    I have a creepy neighbor who lives up the street. It is a well-established rule in our house that my daughter is not to go to his house or seek to engage him in public. She has been told that from the time she started roaming the neighborhood without me. I think she has asked why once, but I can’t remember what I told her.

  36. Dienne October 5, 2017 at 5:24 pm #

    delurking – actually, no, following your instincts is one of the best ways to keep yourself safe, assuming your instincts haven’t been overruled by everyone else telling you either “don’t talk to strangers” or “go ahead, sweetie, say hi to the nice man”. There are reasons we react the way we do to people – we’ve been biologically programmed by evolution to recognize threats, even though we don’t consciously recognize what we’re reacting to. Women especially are taught to override their instincts in favor of “being nice” or not making other people feel uncomfortable, and that leads to a lot of problems especially for women being taken advantage of. I’ll stand by what I’ve already said: if something about someone makes you uncomfortable, trust your instincts and either confront them or get out of the situation.

    And I’ll say it again, since people seem to be willfully overlooking what I’ve said: none of this is to be taken as grounds to call the authorities absent overt and identifiable threat. The error in this situation was not necessarily reacting to this man, the error was involving the police when the man was already away from them and whatever potential threat he may have posed (most likely, none) had passed.

  37. David N. Brown October 5, 2017 at 5:58 pm #

    It’s interesting (obviously also sad) that this would happen in Australia, where a lot of aggravating factors (esp race and ethnicity) are absent or relatively minor. As it stands, I would defend how the police responded, up to a point. At least they didn’t feel the need to go to the media just to explain why they weren’t chasing after a trafficking/ kidnapping ring.

  38. Rebel mom October 5, 2017 at 6:35 pm #

    If you are an older man or woman reading this PLEASE interact with my kids!! There are still good parents and kids out there. Don’t be deterred by idiots. I love when my kids get to interact with kind strangers. It shows a truer picture of the world than what we see in the news; most people are kind and decent. Bad ones are rare.

  39. Rebel mom October 5, 2017 at 6:39 pm #

    AmyP – had to respond. My mom was molested by a family member. I didn’t know till later in life as an adult. She never put her emotional baggage on me and I was allowed a happy, free range childhood. I am eternally grateful.

  40. Stephanie Heyens October 5, 2017 at 6:42 pm #

    The parents of that child should be charged for reporting a false complaint.

  41. pentamom October 5, 2017 at 7:21 pm #

    “And I’ll say it again, since people seem to be willfully overlooking what I’ve said: none of this is to be taken as grounds to call the authorities absent overt and identifiable threat. The error in this situation was not necessarily reacting to this man, the error was involving the police when the man was already away from them and whatever potential threat he may have posed (most likely, none) had passed.”

    But involving the police is what happened here, and I didn’t see anyone saying the error was anything else until you brought it up. This isn’t an article *about* taking your child by the hand and leading him away from someone who made you uncomfortable. It was *about* a situation where the cops were called because of a public conversation between a man and a child.

  42. Wendy W October 5, 2017 at 7:24 pm #

    “If you’re really concerned about protecting your child, you should get involved. If your “mom-radar” is going off, you should go find out why rather than just assuming the worst and calling the police.”

    The young moms of today are the first generation that was raised on “stranger danger”. The ones that are this paranoid probably have it so ingrained into their mindset that they still don’t ever talk to strangers, making it a pretty scary prospect to actually engage with the old man themselves. I feel sorry for these people. They must live pretty narrow lives.

  43. Mike Tang October 5, 2017 at 8:18 pm #

    @Dienne:

    “none of this is to be taken as grounds to call the authorities absent overt and identifiable threat. The error in this situation was not necessarily reacting to this man, the error was involving the police when the man was already away from them and whatever potential threat he may have posed (most likely, none) had passed.”

    Well said, Dienne.

    Seems very counter-productive though, to side with the old man on this issue and not condemn the parents of the kid for allowing him to be alone in a store and talking to a stranger. You know, like how you condemned me for letting my son walk home by himself.

    Had my son been walking home talking to a nice old man you would say “ohh, just an innocent conversation, no harm, no foul, no need to involve the police.” But since he was walking home alone and as a disciplinary measure, and there was no nice old man to talk to, you get your panties all bunched up and say “ohh, you shouldn’t have done that, that’s emotional abuse, the police were right to intervene, blah blah blah”

    Sounds like a double standard to me.

    –Mike Tang

  44. Resident Iconoclast October 5, 2017 at 8:39 pm #

    We have a phrase for this. It’s just called, “The War on Men.”

  45. Dienne October 5, 2017 at 9:14 pm #

    Oh FFS., Mike, no one here – least of all me – condemned you for *letting* your son walk home alone. If he’d been at a friend’s house or scout meeting and wanted to walk home, I’d be completely on your side. But that’s not what happened. You have been condemned because you threatened him with homelessness and then showed him where the homeless sleep, kicked him out of the car and *made* him walk home to prove it (all for not reading the right damn book). It’s exactly that attitude and failure to recognize your own responsibility that got you arrested, charged, prosecuted, convicted and your conviction upheld. Enjoy your “hard labor”.

  46. Dienne October 5, 2017 at 9:18 pm #

    pentamom – I’m really not sure what it is we’re arguing about. My first comment simply says that there were other, better things this parent could have done besides call the authorities, such as speak to the man or simply leave the situation. The fact that s/he didn’t do those things and instead called the authorities was the problem. What specifically do you disagree with?

  47. Dienne October 5, 2017 at 9:19 pm #

    Incidentally, Mike, nowhere in this post does it say anything about the boy in this situation being alone.

  48. CK October 5, 2017 at 9:29 pm #

    Donna- might want to tell your kid why. When I was a kid my parents forbid me from going to my friend R’s house but never said why. I used to sneak over there all the time. Years later he finally told me that R’s sister and her boyfriend who lived there were drug dealers and were in and out of jail all the time (my dad worked in the county jail). Now, if I had had that information I guarantee I would not have snuck over there behind my parents’ backs. Sometimes kids just need a reason.

  49. Theresa Hall October 5, 2017 at 10:54 pm #

    If mom didn’t want the kid being talked to then why didn’t she just take him away without causing a big fuss?
    It would have been a lot simpler than creating a great big fuss with the cops.

  50. Bee October 6, 2017 at 12:16 am #

    Oy, we had a humorous interaction with a “Totally Dangerous Stranger of DOOM (Asian Grandmother)” recently. I could have flipped out and in fact I needed to explain the interaction to my 42 y/o childless friend who saw it happen. My 4 y/o BLOND daughter, my friend, and I were on a self guided tour of the Midway Aircraft Carrier in San Diego. It’s a popular tourist destination and there were folks from many countries enjoying the Ship. We were on an outside deck taking some pictures and an elderly Asian lady approached my daughter petted her hair while excitedly speaking Chinese. She then motioned to her camera – “sure” I said, and gave her a thumbs up. She then handed me her camera and posed for her own snapshot of a fighter plane with my 4 y/o right in there with her.

    My friend was totally confused. I said this has happened with both my kids anywhere we go where there are elderly Asian or Middle Eastern ladies…they love the blond hair. I highly doubt anything has ever happened with the fully clothed images of my blond kiddos smiling with geriatric Asian ladies, other than their 80+ y/o friends all saying “Oh look at that hair!!”

    I just said to my daughter afterwards – those grandmas just love your hair, but let me know if you don’t want them to touch it. Most of these interactions have resulted great discussions on culture/age/ethnicity & even genetics 😉

  51. Anna October 6, 2017 at 12:59 am #

    @K, we’ve had some neighbor situations like that too. In one case, I talked to another neighbor who knows everyone and she thought the one in question was fine, which let me set my creeped-out daughter’s mind (and mine too) at ease about immanent danger, but still say that trusting daughter’s instincts was the right thing to do and she should avoid him while also not being afraid to ride her bike around the neighborhood.
    In the other case, I had some reasons to think the neighbor was fine and other reasons to wonder… so I just talked to my kids about the general principle that if a neighbor walks over and asks the kids in for any reason, the kids should *always* say they’re going to let me know first. A good person will say “yes, of course” and a bad person will give some excuse of “I already asked” or “it’s only for a minute, she won’t mind” or something.

  52. pentamom October 6, 2017 at 11:53 am #

    Dienne, we’re arguing about this:

    “I won’t judge this/these parent(s) for being cautious.”

    Okay, maybe you didn’t mean to imply that anybody was judging them for being too cautious, I’ll grant you that. But I think some of us got that impression.

    And that’s not what they’re being judged for. Not the caution, but the form the caution took, which wasn’t even caution as it didn’t make the kids any safer, it just resulted in the official harassment of a family for no good reason. That wasn’t caution, that was paranoia and violence.

  53. Beth October 6, 2017 at 12:17 pm #

    I see that comments are closed (with 0 comments posted) on Lenore’s post today. I thought maybe this conversation had gone off the rails, but I see that’s not the case. Wonder why; maybe the trolls have won?

  54. Marie October 6, 2017 at 1:32 pm #

    About the spidey-sense thing…i know people whose ‘spidey-sense’ is little more than an ‘ick’ thing or a level of discomfort.
    Sometimes we meet people who behave oddly. That is the perfect time to demonstrate how–or let kids figure out how–to interact with people who are developmentally handicapped, mentally ill, drunk, high, autistic, socially backward. I never pulled my kids away from people like that but we talked later about why that person may have behaved oddly and why we treat them kindly.

  55. pentamom October 6, 2017 at 4:50 pm #

    On the closed comments, my guess is that Lenore just accidentally hit the wrong button. But she is apparently traveling right now. Time will tell.

  56. Warren October 6, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

    Dienne
    We are not biologically programed to recognize threats. That is a learned skill. Reaction to those threats are more instinctive such as fight or flight. Big difference.

  57. elizabeth October 6, 2017 at 11:21 pm #

    Because of the structure of my brain, i develop rigid rules for things. As such, i was always skeptical of “dont talk to strangers” because, in my mind, it violated that “try to make friends” section. My kid brain, given im most likely autistic, couldnt wrap itself around how we cant talk to strangers but we can still make friends. It was especially aggravating because i had an easier time talking to people years older or younger. My parents eventually figured out that i need to be allowed to socialize with people in my own way, so they stopped pushing the strangers thing. We need to teach our kids to trust their instincts. When i was babysitting my cousin, she and i went a building over to visit a friend of hers. Then both wanted to see if their toddler friend could come out. My cousin had to go back to her apartment for something so she and her friend left, leaving me to read to the tot in the hallway. Keep in mind the dad had never met me, and still had no problem with me babysitting, essentially. We should all be a little more trusting.

  58. Baby-paramedic October 7, 2017 at 11:52 pm #

    K,
    We had pretty free run of our neighbourhood when we were young, the house with pine trees out the front was just never mentioned. We knew all our other neighbours. One day I asked a parent abut the house, which lead to a freak out ‘why, is your twin brother there?’ (he always was more adventurous than me). When I replied no I was told we must never go to that house. It was a just because thing.
    So, when you tell them about not going to that particular neighbour will vary on the child I think. I knew I could go to say Mr Brown or MRS Glenn if I needed help, they were named rather than trying to explain the concept of neighbour.

  59. James October 9, 2017 at 12:14 pm #

    Dienne:

    “There are reasons we react the way we do to people – we’ve been biologically programmed by evolution to recognize threats, even though we don’t consciously recognize what we’re reacting to.”

    Maybe to a certain extent. (For reference, here I’m accepting ad argumendum that evolutionary psychology has something useful to say; this is not, however, a stance without legitimate concerns.) However, that extent is pretty limited. We’re hard-wired to detect physical threats (thus the fear of the dark/seeing faces in mirrors in the dark thing that causes so much terror and amusement in children this time of year), and we’re hard-wired to want to obey the rules of the tribe–ie, to be part of Us and not Them. Unfortunately, differentiating between these two is difficult.

    We are inundated with commands to never let our kids be alone and never let anyone we don’t know look at, much less talk to or touch, them. This creates a tribal rule: Us keeps our kids “safe” from strangers; it’s only Them that lets their kids run wild, talking to old folks willy-nilly! At a certain point it stops being a conscious thought, and is internalized to the point where we barely realize we’re doing it. Think of reading–you can actually scramble the letters of words and still read them, because we’ve all internalized the rules of reading to the point where we don’t know we’re using them. Similarly, we react negatively to certain people often because we’ve internalized that we’re supposed to do so.

    None of that matters, however. In practice, following our instincts is generally a good thing in the moment–when we feel threatened, we should get out of the situation. But then we should stop and think. This old guy was talking to my kid. He patted my kid on the head. I felt threatened. Was my feeling justified? If not, I should be aware of this next time and adjust my expectations–if I get to the point where old guys talking to little boys seems hostile, there’s something wrong with ME, not the old guys! Not all feelings are justified, and not all immediate reactions are correct.

  60. Mike Tang October 9, 2017 at 1:28 pm #

    @Dienne

    “If he’d been at a friend’s house or scout meeting and wanted to walk home, I’d be completely on your side.”

    Of course, because nothing bad would ever happen to him if he were walking home from a friend’s house. But if he were dropped off somewhere along the way, for discipline (no homeless people were present), then it suddenly becomes dangerous in your opinion.

    As far as my attitude and reasoning, that’s completely irrelevant. Are you saying if drove him back instead of making him walk back, then I should still be arrested because the drive was unnecessary and my attitude sucks? Because you know, people get in car accidents all the time, and the whole thing was about not reading a book FFS, so why was the drive necessary? You see how your faulty logic could be applied and abused to make just about every irrational or unpopular parenting decision “child abuse” regardless of whether or not the child was in danger.

    Let’s go back to the grocery store situation. Often when I go shop, I let my kids wait in the book/magazine section until I’m done. So by your argument, if they wanted to go read and wait, it’s fine, but if they had been cutting corners on their homework, and I forced them to read there while I shopped, I’m guilty of child endangerment? Oh yeah, plus my attitude sucks. I guess I was born with a natural inclination to go against abusive authoritarianism, so guess I the government should’ve just put me in a cell as soon as I left the womb huh?

  61. James October 9, 2017 at 4:04 pm #

    “And that’s not what they’re being judged for. Not the caution, but the form the caution took, which wasn’t even caution as it didn’t make the kids any safer, it just resulted in the official harassment of a family for no good reason. That wasn’t caution, that was paranoia and violence.”

    What gets me about going to the police is that it’s a very childish reaction to this sort of situation–they ran to Mommy and Daddy to solve the problem for them, instead of confronting the person. And to be clear, by “confronting” I don’t mean hostility. Something as simple as “Hey son, who’s your new friend?” can insert you into the conversation in a way that is friendly and polite, and opens the possibility of this having a very positive outcome for everyone involved, yet still firmly establishes that you’re the authority figure. I’ve done it with my kids a few times, and they love it–they get to teach me sometime (even something simple like someone’s name), and the adults always are amused by the attempts of small children to introduce someone they just met. It’s a skill, one that needs to be practiced just like any other.

    My point is: This isn’t hard. We’re adults; we should be able to talk to someone in public. We shouldn’t run to the police with every little problem that we encounter–especially when it’s very, VERY unlikely that there actually IS a problem. That’s how children behave; we’re supposed to be more mature.

    Now if you ask your kid to introduce the person, and said person starts acting panicky or tries to get away in a hurry, that’s a warning sign. Then you can take more serious action.

  62. Ricky October 18, 2017 at 1:20 pm #

    I talk to kids I have never met before all the time and have never encountered an adverse reaction from a parent or other adult. I have often told young Mothers their little girl is cute and they usually respond with “Thank you” or something like “And she knows it”. I sometimes tell them my two Granddaughters are now 15 and 17 and how much I miss the days when they were little.