I’m happy, of course, that SB (small boy) is a friendly, outgoing little guy, but sometimes it’s a lot like living with a game show host. Whenever we go to the park he’ll walk up to a kid and say, “Hi, what’s your name?” and then show them whatever toy we brought along. Nine times out of ten the other kid will take the toy, and off they’ll go – a new friend!
But if the other kid’s not interested, SB goes into crazy stalker mode. He simply can’t fathom how anyone wouldn’t want to play with him, so he’ll follow the poor kid around the park thrusting his toy at him, saying, “see? SEE?” And if they still won’t play with him, he’ll say, “Mama, what’s wrong with him?” Oof. And then he’ll go off and stalk another unsuspecting kid, until he either finds one who will play with him or they run away – which he takes as an invitation to chase them.
A couple of weeks ago the house down the street was getting new carpet installed. Mr. Friendly stood by the front window as the workers passed and greeted every one who walked by. So I figured this was a good time for the “We Don’t Talk To Strangers” speech, but every time I tried to make a point I was countered with the ever popular, “why?”
So how do you explain to a kid who’s in love with the world that we don’t talk to strangers because not all of them are nice? First I started with telling him that some people are naughty (one of our favorite themes these days), and tried to tell him in a non-terrifying way that some people do bad things. “Like biting?” asked SB. Yes, I told him, like biting, but worse. “Kicking? Hitting? THROWING??”(a big no-no at our house) Oy. This was going nowhere fast. So, like any good parent would, I let it go, thinking we’d talk about it some other time.
Oh no. SB, in his obsessive little way, brought it up all night long. “Is mama bad?” “No, mama’s not bad.” “But remember the time you threw that toy, mama?” Dammit – I forgot about his elephant-like memory. We discussed whether or not his friends from day care were bad. Anyone who ever kicked, hit or bit him was discussed in detail. I tried to change the subject and turned on the TV to distract him. Success! Phew. I did it.
Wrong. The next day we were at the grocery store and he pointed to the woman in front of us at the checkout line, and said, rather loudly, “IS SHE BAD???” I shushed him, but to no avail. “IS HE BAD???” God. Get me the hell out of here right now, please, I’ll never swear again, I’ll go to temple more than one hour every year, we’ll feed the poor, just get me out of here!!
Of course now everyone’s suspect – SB’s world is filled with people who could potentially bite, kick or hit us. Ironically, he’s the one who usually lands in time out for being naughty, but that’s not discussed. Smart kid.