A thing most brutish

Here's another raising-kids-in-the-city problem: teaching both stranger danger and kindness. We went to Millenium Park yesterday to show Nugget the bean and the giant-spitting-faces fountain. As Nugget was tottering around near the bean, a friendly older couple began exclaiming over him (who can blame them) and trying to get him to interact. And I encouraged him to be friendly, but I was thinking, how am I going to teach him not to talk to strangers when I ask him to be friendly toward them when I'm around?

It just occurred to me that I don't even want to teach him not to talk to strangers. Of course I will, I have to, but it sucks that I have to. It sucks that I have to teach my kid to act like the whole world is out to get him. How do you do that and still make your kid feel safe? How do you do that and still teach your kid to be friendly and polite to everyone?

A little later we walked by a lifesize bronze cow statue. Trent jumped astride its back and I put Nugget in front of him, and then stepped back to take a picture. A woman who looked like she might be crazy came toward us. She kept staring at us, smiling, and coming closer, seemingly fascinated. It was really heartbreaking. I took the picture quickly and we walked away, but I wished we didn't have to. I have to protect my child, but I want him to know that it is important to be kind to people. How do I balance those two things?

I want to say screw the conventional wisdom, I'm going to teach him to be a decent human being and not to live in fear. But there is real danger--that story about the girl who was snatched right in front of her stepfather and held captive for 20 years is really haunting me right now--and this is my baby we're talking about.

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