March 12, 2011

Don't Talk to Strangers....

At some point in our lives, we have all had the "Don't talk to Strangers" talk. We have either received it as a kid, or now that we have become adults, we have given it ourselves.

As a parent, I too have given that speech. My two kiddos have been warned of strangers; real ones and "online" ones.
So all is good... Or should be...

Except for the fact that this recent incident made me think; got my wheels spinning... (and we all know what happens when I start

Z & Z (my kiddos, age 8 and 10) stayed at home by themselves for a grand total of 10 min, waiting for me to get home from soccer practice (yes I am assistant coach this year... probably worth another post LOL), while their dad had to leave. Later that night at dinner, when we are all sitting at the kitchen table,
Z. my 10 yr old daughter, mentions that the "Schwan delivery guy" stopped by, and they told him we didn't need anything this week.
My husband proceeded to remind them that the deal was "do not answer the phone, do not open the door, especially to strangers" if mom and dad are not there.
To this she responded "but it wasn't a stranger, it was Larry the Schwan delivery guy."
Hubby countered with "What is Larry's last name?"
Z answered "You know dad, I don't know."
Hubby wrapped up the conversation with "If you don't know his last name then he is a stranger."
Not badly done, I thought...

Later that night as I was reflecting on whether or not I was an unfit mother for leaving them alone for a bit, on how old they needed to be before being left on their own, on how old I was when I was first left alone; I was replaying the conversation in my head... and the "last name comment" struck me weird...

I knew that as an adult I was going to have some explaining to do regarding things that adults do (ie my husband is a smoker) and kids shouldn't. I am fully aware that 70% of my CD collections contains the "Parent Advisory" sticker, and was prepared to explain the adult language vs. the one appropriate for a child. I think I am also ready to explain the differences between growing up in Belgium and what was acceptable over there (is drinking well before 21, topless beaches etc.), and what is socially acceptable here. I never dreamt that my first big dilemma would be about a subject as cut and dry as "don't talk to strangers."

Why did it bother me so much?
Because I am a very straight forward person.... Some might even call me blunt at times.. I say what I think, and I think what I say. I am a big fan of "practice what you preach", "If you talk the talk, walk the walk." Heck I teach this to my students each and every day. And because in this case, I am not walking the walk.

I talk to strangers... Online strangers, on a daily basis.. Some of the most meaningful and "impactful" conversations in my life recently, have taken place with strangers. Twitter and other venues have brought in my life a myriad of strangers, with interests similar to mine. We talked... Conversations turned into meaningful connections... I now consider some of them "friends" of mine. I refer to them as "my friend so and so."... And you know what? I don't know their last names.... Shocking I know... Worse... For some of them, I don't even know their first names; I only know their user name. Now I do realize that the chances of me interacting with a crazy stalker in my PLN on Twitter are slim to none.

Yet how do I explain the difference?
I can't exactly give the "it's acceptable for adults but not for children" speech. Because it really isn't a matter of age here... I m not talking about a tattoo, or ear piercing, or hair highlights...LOL
I can't exactly give the speech of "this site is safe" because it's not exactly true... my tweets can be geatoagged etc.
I am even struggling with the explanation of the degree of friendship attained with these people...You see, in French, we have several words for the word "friend"... each of them carrying a nuance as to the level of friendship involved... Can't give that speech either, since English is limiting me...

So, here I am, facing a big dilemma... For the first time in a long time.. the talk and the walk don't match... and I am really not sure what to do about it..
Because I can tell you one thing for sure... I do not plan on stopping my conversations with my "strangers" anytime soon.. They have been way too valuable to me.. I would rather "take a chance" on "strangers", then go back to my "semi isolation."

I just may have to do something I swore I would never do as a mother.... avoid and delay that conversation with my kiddos...

Situation Status: UNRESOLVED