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Strangers: Secretly Trustworthy

In a world where, “Don’t talk to strangers” is often trotted out as rule #1 for keeping kids’ safe, offering to watch a stranger’s child for even a few minutes is a radical act. Rachel Federman shares her experience doing just that on Free Range Kids today.

Rachel found herself at a playground recently where her toddler was playing with two other small boys. The other kids mom was trying to round them up to run home for a few minutes and move the laundry from the washer to the dryer. They were resisting, as children at playgrounds will.

Then Rachel did something wild: she offered to watch the other woman’s kids. They didn’t know each other. And still don’t. But for a few minutes she stood guard over their safety at the playground while their mom did her laundry.

I’ve done this myself. It’s appalling how unusual it is, and how transgressive it feels. Why don’t moms help each other out like this all the time?

Last summer, my older daughter met a little girl at a park near our house that she fell completely in little girl love with. She adored this child so much that she persuaded me to trade phone numbers with her dad. For a few weeks, we’d meet up at playgrounds around the area and the kids would play.

On our second playground playdate, the girls needed to pee. A woman sunbathing at the park offered to let them use her bathroom, at her house across the street. This woman was a total stranger; I’d never seen her before and she didn’t offer her name. She didn’t have a kid with her; she was alone with her towel and bronzing cream, enjoying the afternoon sun.

I took her up on it, and found myself crossing the street to go into A Stranger’s house with not only my kids but this little girl I didn’t know. The kids peed, and the woman gave them all snacks. I didn’t say, “Don’t take candy from strangers.” I said, “Thank you.”

I wish there were a lot more interactions like this. Little moments when people assume that they belong to the same community and can offer each other small help with their kids.

In fact most of us are not criminals. While the nightly news is full of abduction horror stories, the number of kids taken by strangers each year is less than the number hit by lightning. Our kids have a lot more to fear from those closest to them than they do from random helpful Strangers.

Have you ever taken responsibility for a stranger’s child? Would you let someone you didn’t know watch your kids for a few minutes?

Photo: el clinto

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