By Jacqueline Miller of boogersabroad.com
Having two boys, 2.5 years apart, I remember how hard it was when they were little. Sometimes one of them would demand all of my attention, and there was no choice but to temporarily switch from zone defense to man-to-man.
I distinctly remember abandoning my 1-year-old at the edge of a baby pool in the YMCA to intercept my sprinting 3-year-old who was about to plunge into the deep end of the big pool. If you have more than one kid, you’ve had those moments. They’re heart-stopping.
Now my children are tweens, and it’s a whole different ball game. But I never lost my empathy for those mamas juggling multiple toddlers. I’ll even step in to help, if and when I can, which not only embarrasses my adolescents, but it also sometimes garners strange looks and awkward moments.
Today it seems there’s a much finer line between “helpful” and “creepy” than when I was a kid. It goes without saying that we should be cautious with our children. At the same time, we shouldn’t become so paranoid that we’re immediately distrustful of even the most well-meaning strangers.
Take my recent experience getting my boys haircuts. I was playing rock-paper-scissors with my youngest in the waiting room while the oldest got his locks trimmed.
A little guy, about 4-years-old, also hung around the waiting area while his mom had her hands full with his brother, a toddler who was squirming and fussing miserably in the barber chair. The preschooler was immediately drawn to my 10-year-old son and made his way over to us, eyes glued to our game.
But right then my son was called for his haircut. While my own kid left me, the unknown boy sat in the chair next to me. What was I supposed to do? Ignore him? Of course not! I taught him how to play rock-paper-scissors. He giggled like crazy, reminiscent of my own boys at that age.
I enjoyed hanging out with my new little buddy, and I was happy to help the mom I’d never met.
My older son finished and joined us in the waiting area looking dapper as ever — always nice to see those eyeballs again! He sat next to me and the random child, who was even more mesmerized by my long-legged middle-schooler.
My 12-year-old leaned over to me and whispered, “You are SO creepy, Mom!” And he would repeat that sentiment several times on the drive home and again in the retelling of it to my husband that night over dinner.
But really, is befriending a random preschooler — who comes and sits next to you (I did not go up to him!) — really, is that being creepy? Or is it being friendly? Or perhaps, dare I say, helpful?
Surely we teach our kids not to talk to strangers. Stranger danger and all that. But isn’t there always a place for being helpful? And where do you cross the line?
When I was a child, we had a huge gang of kids in the neighborhood. I remember a little girl from the other side of the block (we didn’t know her) fell off her bike in front of our driveway. My mom immediately brought her into our house, tended to her wounds and even gave her a Pudding Pop (this was the ‘80s).
Would that be acceptable today? No, I don’t think so.
Actually, today there’s probably zero risk that a little girl would be biking around the block by herself…
But back to the haircuts. I must admit, things did get a little awkward. After a while, one of the stylists called out a name for the next person on the list. A male name.
The boy made no indication it was his name.
The stylist called the name again. No one replied. She locked eyes with me, “Is that him?”
I looked at the little guy. He didn’t say anything.
Shrugging, I told her the truth, “I don’t know.”
The look she gave me suggested I was a bonafide creep.
“We just met,” I explained to her, though I don’t think that changed her impression of me.
She could have asked him his name. I could have asked him his name. We could have interrupted his stressed-out mother and asked for the boy’s name. In retrospect, that’s what I wish I would have done.
Instead, the stylist quickly moved to the next name on her list. And I still wonder if that really was the boy’s name after all, but he just was having too much fun playing our game and didn’t want to stop for a haircut.
I’ll never know.
When we left, his mom was still wrestling with his distraught little brother and my preschooler pal was still on the sidelines waiting for his turn in the barber’s chair. I’m not sure if his mother even noticed me entertaining her older son during those long, stressful minutes. But I’m hoping she did. And that she was grateful for the strange (creepy?) lady who just happened to be at the haircut place and remembers how hard it is to have two little ones.
About the Author
Jacqueline Miller is the lone female in a house full of guys. She travels freakishly light and can balance two kids on her Dutch bike. Her recent articles appear in Scary Mommy, Her View From Home, and Sammiches & Psych Meds, and she’s working on a book about her three years in the Netherlands. If you enjoyed this article, follow her at www.boogersabroad.com and https://www.facebook.com/boogersabroad.