After a considerable hiatus, my eyes were recently reopened to the wonderful world of libraries. Not only does my local library offer free passes to Museums in Ottawa but also that they hold weekly events for kids that revolve around a particular theme. Currently the focus is on Spring and Earth Day.
So, this afternoon, we went to the North Grenville Public Library for activities associated with “Jack and The Beanstalk”. The Kids got to create a plant marker and then plant beans* in a cup. They ended their time with the book, Jack and the Beanstalk (surprise, surprise).
If you’re not familiar with the fairy tale, Jack and his Mother are poor. So poor that they’re down to their last cow and when the cow stops giving milk, the Mother asks Jack to take it to the market and sell it. So off Jack goes down the path and along the way, he comes across an old man and starts talking to him.
At this point in the story, the librarian stops reading, closes the book in her lap and says to the kids,
You know that you’re never supposed to talk to strangers, right!?
I scanned the crowd and saw all the other young kids nodding their head “yes”. A few even jumped up and shouted “Talking to Strangers is bad!” and “No, I never do that”.
I can’t tell you what The Kids did because their backs were too me but I know that they didn’t say anything and as for me, I was too busy trying to figure out what just happened.
AND THEN I FREAKED OUT.
Not once in five years have we told The Kids to not talk to strangers. Were we supposed to tell them that? If so, what reasoning were we supposed to provide? Had we dropped the ball?
Naturally, I messaged a few people to see if THEY had told their kids not to talk to strangers and like us, they had not. I started to breathe again.
Once the adrenaline had left my eye sockets and I was calm enough to think, I realized that while we haven’t taught them to not talk to strangers we have taught them many things about People.
That 99% of people are good and that they need to be aware of and not fearful of the other 1%. We’ve taught them how to recognize a drunk from 300 feet away (a necessary skill in Mexico) and to listen to their own person-radar. We encourage them to make their own judgments of people and support them in their conclusions (whether we agree with them or not). A few times over the years they’ve come up to us and said “I don’t like that person” so, we open up a dialogue as to “why” that is.
We allow them to talk to (almost) anyone, anywhere. And, if you know The Kids, you know that they do in fact talk to almost everyone. However, we always make sure that an adult is keeping an eye on them. Watching for that 1%. They are only five years old after all.
As it turns out, over the past five years, except for going to school in Mexico, The Kids have never been left alone with anyone other than family members. So technically, they don’t need to worry about strangers**.
Regardless, I don’t believe that they would be any safer if we kept them away from strangers and/or taught them to not talk to strangers. Truth be told, based on statistics, strangers aren’t the greatest danger to our kids***.
Do You Let Your Kids Talk to Strangers?
— Journeys of The Zoo (@zoojourneys) April 21, 2015
*The library didn’t have any beans so the kids planted peas instead. Didn’t fool The Kids. Both of them asked me what they really planted because the seeds they planted weren’t the right shape or colour to be a bean.
** The librarian and/or parents of the kids present might have only been talking to their kids about “not talking to strangers where they’re alone” as was the case with Jack (and the Beanstalk).
***You can read this Newswise article titled “Strangers aren’t the greatest danger”. The Canadian Red Cross statistics states that 85% of child sexual abuse victims know their abusers and Little Warriors says that the numbers are closer to 95%. With respect to child physical abuse, Statistics Canada says that 85% of the time the abuse is caused by a family member.
Photograph taken by Penywise.