I’ve said before that as childcare goes, Mr B and I are very lucky, with H and E spending Mondays and Tuesdays with their grandparents; my parents on the Mondays and Mr B’s parents on Tuesdays.
Obviously now that I’m back in employment this suits us perfectly, in the knowledge they are safe and loved whilst Mr B and I are hard at work (hmmmm??) earning the money to keep this little family of ours afloat.
Anyway, after finishing work on Monday this week, I popped back round to my parents in the afternoon to pick up the girls as I normally do, and grab a quick cuppa and a natter at the same time.
Whilst we were all chatting away, mum turned to H and said excitedly…
‘Tell mummy what you did this morning’…
To which H then excitedly regaled a story of how a kind man let her help him open up the lock gates along the canal to let their boat through. And that the water went up and down!
So, with H’s rendition of the tale being a little on the ‘vague’ side shall we say, my mum interjected to explain that whilst they’d been walking along the towpath this morning on the way into town, they stopped to watch a barge go through the lock, which is when a very nice, friendly gentleman was kind enough to allow H to have a go at pushing open the lock gates with him.
And then mum apologised.
Which took me aback a little.
I suppose if she’d said nothing I’m really not sure if I’d have thought much more of the situation or not. Probably not I suppose. As I knew H and E were safely in their care and probably had nothing really to worry about.
To be honest – one of the first things that went through my mind (which seems to be the norm nowadays seeing as I’ve started this blog!) was…
‘Ooh, I wonder if Grandma took any photos as this would look really cute online!’
Is that bad?
So back to the point I was making – ok, mum did apologise, but perhaps only because I asked the question – ‘who was he?’, just out of pure interest, to which mum had replied ‘just some nice man who seemed keen for H to help and was very lovely to her’.
But it just made me stop for a while and think.
I’m sure this stranger was a lovely man; and as it turned out, he was the owner of a barge taking a class of disabled children along the canal on an outing for the day; and while H was helping, the kind man was showing her what to do, with all the children on the barge cheering her on and waving to her!!
So – in this instance, yes, all was ok
Plus obviously, like I said before, she was with her Grandparents, who I trust implicitly.
But the feeling I had was one of two minds.
On the one hand – I sort of went into automatic ‘protective mummy’ mode..
Questions, questions, questions…
Who was he?
What did he say to her?
Where was E?
Were you with her?
Why’s he being so friendly to my daughter?
What’s he after?
And yet, on the other I thought…
‘Ohh, how lovely – not many kids could perhaps say they’ve done that and I am totally thrilled and proud that this nice gentlemen let my little H have a turn at lowering the lock gates’
…..and basically, that he’d made her day a little as she was so excited about it.
So – it was sort of a bit of a tricky situation.
Obviously I told mum not to worry.
But isn’t this a sad state of affairs to be in.
The fact that someone, ok so we don’t know them, wants to be nice, do a good turn or be friendly, and our mummy and daddy minds suddenly and automatically switch to thinking the worst.
I feel it’s such a shame nowadays that we just don’t know who we can trust anymore. Perhaps, because the word ‘paedophile’ has become so much more a normal part of life today – perhaps due to increased public awareness on this topic -, it’s the first thing that goes through your mind or at the forefront of a situation, which 9 time out of ten is probably perfectly innocent.
And, I would hate to live in a world where no-one spoke to each other, or interacted with one another for fear of who they might be – and this sure isn’t the sort of world I want my girls to grow up in.
But equally, I need to know they are safe.
I need to protect them from these very messed up individuals who are out there preying on our children.
But my problem is, where exactly do you draw the line?
Do we need to mollycoddle our children a little more, keep them safe and out of harms reach; or do we need to unwrap the cotton wool a little.
I was thinking of writing this post on my journey to work the very next morning, so when I sat down at my desk and read a post from HodgePodge Days entitled Parent Blogging & Boundaries, which shared similar anxieties, questions and worries (although more generally regarding the blogging world), I realised it’s not just me as a mummy who thinks like this.
I commented to HodgePodgeDays that I sometimes feel ‘judged’ by others for saying that I post photos of my children on the internet. What a shame. As after all, I know its a pastime which I’m thoroughly enjoying myself, but this is something I started for my children which we can look back upon one day.
I know very well there are those mummies amongst us, who are perfectly within their own rights, but perhaps choose not to post photos of their little ones in fear that they will be viewed by these awful people out there and it saddens me.
But, as HodgePodgeDays said, I’m sure that these unsavoury people will unfortunately find photos, of a whole different nature, somewhere else on the good old world wide web, without the need to trawl the mums blogs network, in the hope they may come across the odd photo worthy of looking at, in amongst the vast array of other pictures us mummies love to take.
So where do we go from here?
Do we just ignore people in the street? Do we let our children go out on their own when they’ve grown up a little. Do we really know who their friends are? Do we need to enter into a big brother culture and keep tabs on them constantly?
Personally, I’m a gregarious and bubbly sort of soul, who will quite happily talk to (or at!) most people I encounter, and I enjoy it being this way.
I love it when a random passer by says ‘good morning’ to me whilst on a walk out with the buggy.
Or when you strike up a conversation about the weather with someone you barely know.
And this is how I want my children to be. Friendly. Kind. Just nice!
And although I would be watching them like a hawk, I don’t mind when people talk to them in the street. Generally it’s an old couple – who just talk to H about what games she’s been playing etc or ‘is that your sister in the pushchair’?
In my experience they’ve only ever wanted to be sociable.
Does this make me a bad mummy. Or a negligent mummy.
Perhaps just a naïve one who needs to wake up to reality a bit even.
So this is where it becomes complex.
How exactly do you differentiate?
All the time whilst growing up, it’s drummed into us not to speak to strangers, so I suppose the rule will have to be that as long as a trusted adult is with my girls, supervising, shall we say, I will trust their judgment, and of course allow H (and E when she can talk!) to interact and speak kindly to someone, or to politely answer a question if asked.
However, once their older and if on their own, I will have to instill a whole different kind of learning into them.
One of caution. To be vigilant, and always aware of the dangers.
But of course at one point – you have to then trust their own judgment to make the right choice and to do this.
This is such a hard topic to consider, so I apologise for such a garbled and rambling post. I suppose though it’s indicative of how my brain is trying to rationalise things.
And I suppose there is no definite answer. It’s not even a question I guess.
Just an ongoing dilemma for all of us parents out there.
All I can hope is that we live life, as evenly balanced as we can. Being kind but careful; nice but cautious.
But what a shame it’s come to this.
I really enjoyed reading this, mainly as you cover all the things that would have been going through my head too. It is so hard isn’t it?! I have pondered a lot over photos too (and get snipey comments from someone I know about how my girls have no say in what I am posting with them in) but I hope I haven’t posted anything that they would object too.
This is definitely a topic that makes for a good discussion!