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I Want Strangers to Talk to My Kids

A few weeks ago I was sitting inside my kids’ school, which, since it's a Jewish city school, has some of the tightest security around. I was waiting for my son to finish up his comic book class.

I was wearing my hair in a bun and standard mom clothes.

I had recently vowed not to be on my iPhone when other kids were present at my kids’ school. I wanted to engage. I started to look at my phone and then noticed a young boy sitting on the bench about 5 feet away from me.

The office was directly behind him about 10 feet away, where a secretary sat and his mom stood standing.

The boy was dressed in a soccer uniform. He was looking at me, so I said hi. He had no response. I went off the uniform.

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“So you play soccer?” I said with a smile.

He nodded his head.

“Great, I’m just waiting for my son to get out of class,” I said.

He looked over his shoulder at his mom and then scooted closer to me. “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers so don’t tell my mom we talked.”

I felt suddenly as if I had tried to sell this 5-year-old crack. I wanted to say, "Honey, I have 3 kids. I have no interest in having any more, let alone stealing any."

What I said was, “Oh, well, my kids go to school here. But it’s good to be safe.”

I wonder how much influence technology has over the growing disparity behind people who say hi and those who don't.

It was very sweet of him and, of course, I understand the whole don’t talk to strangers sentiment. But! What about the lost art of conversation? Yes, even between adults and kids.

Just a few days ago, my friends’ 5-year-old played in the sand below our balcony. I was peering down at her, watching her and a couple walked by on the boardwalk. The girl looked up at the couple with curiousity in her eyes. Will they say hello, I wondered — hoping actually.

No. They looked at her and just kept going. The young girl watched them walk away.

Maybe the couple was hesitant to say hello. I’ve heard lots of men joke about how they have to make sure they don’t come off as a perp or weirdo by just talking to a kid.

I think stranger danger has a huge influence on the way we interact with kids we don’t know. Stranger danger is also informing how they interact with us. “It’s just not how it was when we were growing up,” a common refrain.

No, it’s actually SAFER. According to Free Range Kids, crime is back to a level it was pre-color TV. Your kids have a much higher change of dying in a car crash.

I wonder how much influence technology has over the growing disparity behind people who say hi and those who don't.

A few weeks ago, I saw two young guys who were out on a walk. They approached each other from opposite directions. I drove by and watched them. No one was around. Neither of them said hello.

I’ve conducted my own trials, going on walks around my quiet neighborhood, saying hello to adults. Only one said hello to me out of 10 a few days ago. Is this a Los Angeles thing?

Anyways, back to the kids.

Recently, a 6-year-old was waiting for her mom. Again, the mom was very close by. She was learning to ride her bike, and she fell over, slowly, not injuring herself. I helped pick her and her bike up.

She stared at me as if I was the Incredible Hulk.

“Keep trying!” I said.

Her mom said behind me, “Are you OK?” Again: no "Thank you."

I just kept walking around the track feeling like I might have crossed a line.

I am keeping my promise of trying to look into the eyes of more kids at school and say hello or something personal if I know the child.

I love when people talk to my kids when I’m out and about with them. An old French couple could not have bestowed more love upon my kids one evening. "Kids are a blessing a gift from God," they said. They made me feel good, and my kids smiled ear to ear. They made me feel like we were all part of a community. Which we kind of our. It's called humanity.

I am keeping my promise of trying to look into the eyes of more kids at school and say hello or something personal if I know the child. I see how much it means to my own kids when that happens.

Just last week, a mom came into our pediatrician’s office with three young kids. She couldn’t get the older two to come and sit next to the fish tank, where I was. The tired mom turned to another mom and said, “This morning is going well,” in exasperation. I hesitated, then finally I said, “Madeline (I had overhead the mom call her by her name) would you like to count how many fish are in the fish tank with me?”

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Madeline walked over with her sister, and they both sat down and counted the fish. I said she better count it three time to ensure she got it right. The mom was able to finish her paperwork, and I felt good about my decision to help the mom out.

The mom didn’t say thank you, and it didn’t matter. She had enough going on.

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