A Conversation with an Older Man

Hi Folks — To be filed under, “What we’ve lost.” Or maybe, “What Free-Range Kids is working  to bring back.” – L. 

Dear Free-Range Kids: I had an interesting experience in the Target parking lot today. While
I was unloading my cart, an older man passed and complimented me on my
four kids. I thanked him, and we struck up a conversation.

When my three-year-old shyly turned away from the man, he said,

“That’s right, I forgot you’re not supposed to talk to strangers these
days.” And he turned to leave.

I said, “No sir, I teach my children that it’s okay to talk to
strangers. They need to learn how to speak with adults. I just teach
them never to go anywhere with a stranger.”

The man said, “Yeah, when I was in my 40s and 50s, I always pictured
myself sitting on a park bench one day, giving dollar bills to little
children. But some wackos messed that up for the rest of us. Can’t do
that anymore.”

I told him the world was worse off for it, and I try to teach my
children that most people are good and it’s okay to interact with
people of all ages.

The man started to leave again, but then abruptly turned around,
pulled out his wallet, and gave each of my kids a $1 bill. I wanted to
decline, mainly because I like my kids to earn their money, but I
could see how delighted they were, and how pleased the man was that he
could do that for him. I realized this man probably genuinely enjoys
interacting with children, and we live in a world where he may not
have an opportunity to do so.

I wonder what our children could learn from old men sitting on park benches.

Lauren Richins

Help! An Old Man is Giving My Daughter Sea Shells!

Readers — You’ll love the answer Dear Prudence gives to this mom who is freaked out by an elderly man — a friend of her parents — who gives her 5-year-old daughter “gifts” like shells and feathers.

Let’s hear it for Dear Prudence! She is so…prudent! And wise! As she tells the mom:

…from your description of this situation, my gut feeling is that you have overactive mommy bowels. If you see every friendly man as a potential predator, you’re going to convey unnecessary fear and anxiety to your children.

And while we’re on the subject of bowel-churning fear of old men anywhere in the vicinity of children other than their own, here is my take on the story that’s gone viral about the aged doctor kicked out of an Arizona Barnes & Noble’s children’s book section because a woman found his presence disturbing. What a disgusting pervert!

The woman, I mean. Imagining a child isn’t safe near any male, no matter how public the place, no matter how minding-his-own-business the man.

At this point B&N has apologized and the man — a doctor — wants to drop it  already. He’s tired of the hoopla. But it’s nice when the media pauses to realize how crazy our fear of men has made us.  (Even if its constant carping on kiddie danger is what made us crazy in the first place.)  – L

Yikes! Old men! Can’t we just lock them all up, for the sake of the children?