Friday, October 16, 2009
It only took one little scare to get us thinking about this.
A couple months back, our whole brood was out for "family fun time" at one of our favorite haunts, Chuck E. Cheese's. My brother was visiting from Maryland and we showed up bright and early on a Saturday morning to play some games. There weren't a lot of people, at first, but after about 45 minutes of playing, the place was starting to pick up. I had to dash Lil Buddy to the restroom to change him...leaving SweetPea with her dad and uncle. When I came back, The Man asks me "Have you seen SweetPea?" Um, no...I just came out from the loo. He had been standing below the big, raised climbing structure of tunnels and a slide they have for the bigger kids while she was up there playing. Minutes before, he'd been waiving to her from above...and the next minute, no one could see her. He hadn't seen her come down the slide, so he assumed she was still up in the tunnels. We called her name...and heard nothing back. We walked around to the different open spaces around the tunnel...still nothing. We ran circles around the game area...no SweetPea. I frantically went to the front door, where the staff is supposed to check each kid before they leave to make sure their little fluorescent ink stamped number matches the adult they're leaving with. I described what she was wearing (though I have to admit, in my panic, I had to think REALLY hard to even remember what she'd been wearing) and asked if they had seen her leave with anyone...which they hadn't. We ran circle after circle around the game area and couldn't spot her...then suddenly...there she was sitting on this half closed in, virtual reality roller coaster game with a little friend she'd met while playing in the tunnels. I immediately yanked her out of the seat and we left the restaurant...all while trying to explain to her (of course she was crying at this point because she wanted to stay and play with her new friend) why she should NEVER walk away from mommy and daddy without asking if it was OK. Lesson learned...by everyone...the hard way.
Here we are, months removed from the scare and I'll be 100% honest...I still haven't decided the best way to handle the overall topic of strangers with my 3 year old. I have it easy with Lil Buddy...he's still at the age that he considers anyone other than mom or dad scary and he cries his head off if anyone he doesn't know tries to touch him. SweetPea is at a very social age where she gets a kick out of walking past everyone in Target or the mall, waving furiously and saying "HI!". To her, everyone is a potential new friend. I want her to understand that it isn't OK to go anywhere with anyone that isn't mom or dad, unless mom or dad says she can...or should...but I don't want to scare her either. Since the Chuck E. Cheese incident, she seems to have accepted the fact that she shouldn't walk away without letting us know where she's going and with who...but I still have a feeling I should be saying more to her.
Why am I telling you all this? I'm hoping to hear from other moms how you've talked about strangers with your kids. I know there are a number of books out there that are geared towards preschool aged kids, but I have to wonder how good they are...if any of you have used them...and if they were effective. I don't want to be one of those moms who never let their kids out of the house out of fear that something bad will happen to them, but I also don't want to leave us vulnerable either!
So...if you please...HELP!!!