by KATE SELTH
I met two strangers. I treated one with distrust and disgust; the other with confidence and respect. Same situation, same actions. I probably shouldn’t have judged. But I did.
And I’d probably do it again.
I was at the park with my two kids when an old man with a dog approached my young daughter. He walked straight up to her, said hello and told her what a ‘beautiful little girl’ she was. With a big smile he asked her name and introduced himself and his dog. I was standing right there but the conversation was clearly directed at her.
He proceeded to ask my little girl fairly appropriate but direct questions about her age, family and so on. My very social daughter was all too happy to share. I didn’t stop the conversation. It all happened rather quickly. There was laughter. Then the man leaned down to her, looked her in the eye and said he hoped to see her at the park again soon. *shiver moment* He walked off with his dog.
Yes, I was right beside her and he was just chit-chatting in a park while taking his dog for a walk. But he was an old man beside a playground without a kid. He’d walked straight up to her and shown an awful lot of interest. My perverse versus polite radar went up and we got out of there. His rapport building skills with my precious kid in just those few minutes were so strong that on the way home she said to me, “We know that man don’t we mum?” I firmly told her no and that she was not to talk to him again. Images of him trying to give her a lift home from school flashed through my mind.
Later that day I called the rangers and reported an old man hanging around the playground chatting to children.
They said they’d keep an eye out.
We returned to this same park yesterday. I was with my two kids again. A little girl arrived at the park and ran straight up to my daughter. They were both about the same age. They introduced themselves and got straight into playing together. Kids are social experts like that. The little girl’s mum was standing near the kids and started talking to my daughter. She asked my daughter her name, her age and a few questions about her school, family and the like. Despite me being nearby, these questions were, once again, directed at my little girl.