“Don’t take sweets from strangers” is a pretty standard rule we make kids learn at a young age. Drum it into them. Don’t take sweets from strangers. It’s drummed into all children from all walks of life by parents, teachers, after school TV shows. We all know it, we’ve all heard it. Even if we don’t have children ourselves, we will have had it told to us as children.
So WHY do adults, total strangers, keep offering my three year old daughter sweets?
It has happened time and time again. Strangers giving my child sweets. Strangers asking my daughter if she’d like sweets. I refuse offered sweets, but they’re thrust with insistence. I tell people that no she doesn’t need any sweets, but she’s told “You do want some sweets don’t you, here.”
I throw them away and I apologise profusely to Miss Rose. It’s not her fault. But a) I don’t trust strangers and b) I don’t want her thinking the don’t accept sweets from strangers rule isn’t real. Sweets can be tampered with, sweets can be used to lure her into dangerous situations. Just because a stranger has a kind smile and seems nice doesn’t mean we accept sweets from them.
Today it was a lady in a shop. First she spoke to me. She asked me about Baby B who was sleeping in a sling on my chest. She stroked Baby B’s face with a grubby finger and admired her. I didn’t stop her.
Then she asked Rose if she likes sweeties and obviously Rose said “Yes!” She asked Rose if she wanted a lollipop and Rose got very excited and said “Yes!”
I stepped in and said that Rose had already had a lollipop today so no thank you. The lady turned to me and said “Nonsense, I’m the lollipop lady. I give all the kids lollipops!” Then she turned back to Rose and said “You’d like a lollipop wouldn’t you! I’ll go and get you one!” Then she scuttled off out the door where her shopping cart was waiting and started rummaging in it.
Her innocent little face looked up at me wide eyed and excited. It was a lady mummy had been speaking to. A lady who was going to give her a lollipop. Miss Rose LOVES lollipops. She was so happy and so excited.
My mum was by the door. I quickly raced over, got her attention, and filled her in. I told her I needed to distract Rose and I didn’t want the lady giving her sweets. My mum hurried outside and told the woman that we’re teaching Miss Rose not to accept sweets from strangers so please don’t give her the lollipop. She was surprised. She was disappointed.
Call me cruel if you will, but her desire to give my daughter sweets is less important than my desire to keep my daughter safe.
The chances are this was just a kindly woman who likes to give sweets to kids. And part of me thinks she’s doing nothing wrong. But most of me thinks no! Every strange child whom receives one of her lollipops will have the stranger danger message depleted a little. Every child who has a positive experience accepting sweets from strangers will listen to their parents teachings a little less. She is the adult and they are the children, it’s her responsibility not to offer the sweets more than theirs not to accept them. My three year old should not be put in the position to apply a rule that’s still such an abstract concept to her.
And there’s always the chance she’s not a kindly woman. There’s always a chance that she’s slipping drugged sweets to kids, or befriending children with sweets to then lure them away later. Small chance, of course, but a chance.
Don’t accept sweets from strangers. Don’t offer sweets to strange children. It’s a simple rule but it saves lives and it should be respected by people of every age.