When did you teach your children about the dangers of “strangers”? We started earlier this year and have approached the topic in a measured fashion, trying not to freak her out but also hoping to instill caution.
This is on my mind this morning thanks to my colleague Janie Rosman’s article about a seminar on “stranger danger” held in Scarsdale. It’s well worth a read. I particularly liked the advice about helping children find “safe” strangers if they get lost. Telling your child to go up to a mom with children and ask for help is a great idea.
The Scarsdale mom who organized the workshop was inspired by a scare in a store when she lost track of her 5-year-old for a moment.
I’ve always kept pretty close tabs on the Pumpkin while we shop — which won’t surprise any of my friends and family who know my protective parenting style. But I have to admit that I used to relax some of my vigilance when we shopped in kids’ stores like Baby Gap and Gymboree, letting her wander around a bit while I browsed.
An experience I had in December put an end to that casual attitude.
I was shopping for Christmas gifts at Danbury mall with my daughter one evening just a few days before the holiday. It was a special trip just to buy her daddy’s presents. We first went to Lord & Taylor and spent about 45 minutes at the men’s fragrance counter with a very patient saleswoman who helped us pick out a shower gel and deodorant. Pumpkin must have smelled a dozen scents. Then we stopped at Pottery Barn to pick up two more place settings of our flatware to have enough for an upcoming party. Then we went to Jos. A. Bank to pick out a tie. Because my husband is tall, we asked where the long ties were displayed in the back of the store. I put down my Pottery Barn bag, which had the Lord & Taylor bag tucked inside, and both Pumpkin and I talked with the salesman. They were having a “buy one, get one” promotion, so we picked out two ties. Then we found out there was the same deal for dress shirts, so we picked out two of those as well, moving perhaps a total of eight feet from where the ties were displayed.
So, I go to the register to pay, and I realize I don’t have my bag. I head to the back where I left it, and it’s nowhere to be found. Now, this is a very small store that’s long and narrow. Even just days before Christmas, it had less than a half dozen customers in the store the whole time I was there. I proceeded to hunt for my bag, but it was nowhere to be found. I made the manager call mall security to report the theft. It took them 45 minutes to show up and they didn’t even write anything down. They were completely uninterested. I thought to myself that it was amazing that my bag could disappear in the few minutes that we were picking out ties and dress shirts. Maybe it was a customer who I hadn’t noticed in the very back of the store. But it seems hard to believe that the one or two customers in the vicinity just happened to be a thief. I’ll leave the reader of the blog to come to the other obvious conclusion about who else was in the vicinity, as my husband did when I told him the story.
After I left the store, and after I went back to Lord & Taylor to re-buy the bath stuff (we skipped a return trip to Pottery Barn, too depressing), I realized how lucky I was: Someone stole a bag with maybe $140 in merchandise inside. But holding my hand was my most precious person. If a bag can be stolen in a few minutes, so can a child.
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