I am the father of a 2 year old toddler and there is a day rapidly approaching in which I am going to change his life forever, a day I am dreading.
He’s a friendly wee soul, he waves and and shouts “Hiya!” at the builders as they leave the site across from our house at the end of their day. He’s been known to proudly march out of shoe shops and immediately accost the first person he sees with a proud proclamation “I’ve got new shoes, Lady!” These acts are invariably met with returned waves, smiles and comments like “They are lovely shoes, you’re a lucky boy.”
At the moment this is all OK, because he’s never been out of our sight, his world is mum and dad’s world. Very soon though, he’ll get out to play himself and we have to teach him not to speak to strangers. We have to introduce fear, suspicion and distrust into his life.
I totally understand why this needs to be done, but I can’t help shake the feeling that when we do this to our children, they and indeed the whole of society lose something.
As their world gets bigger it is as if we are also shrinking it. Their smiles are only for people who have seen it before, their waves only for people they know (passengers on boats and trains don’t count.)
Children inject a shot of joy into the world, I’ve watched burly builders crack smiles and wave back, I’ve watched fellow shoppers chuckle and smile at each other, to replace that joy with fear doesn’t sit comfortably with me.
I know teaching your children “Don’t Speak to Strangers!” is the right thing to do, but it certainly doesn’t feel like the right thing to do.