I wish I could say I was the type of person who embraced every new situation with wide open arms and a boatload of confidence.
But, I’m not.
New situations are often intimidating to me. I find myself dreading interactions with unfamiliar people in unfamiliar places. Plus, small talk can be so dang brutal. However, give me a few minutes to fake it till I make it, and I gradually find myself getting more comfortable.
I think almost everyone can relate. My three-year-old can not.
He is the epitome of a social butterfly. He charges in to conversations with people, old and young, with a confident smile and a big ole, “Hi! What’s your name? I’m Callum!” Every visit to the park results in him leaving with three new best friends. He even yells “Hi!” to every single person we drive past in the car. Not an exaggeration! He doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything.
The majority of the time, I’m so proud that he’s such a confident, outgoing kiddo. Last week, for example, I dropped him off with a new sitter. There were no tears as I said goodbye. I could barely get a hug and a kiss before he ran off to play. When the time comes for him to start school, I have no apprehensions. I can already see him literally running through the front doors.
But, there’s the other ten percent of the time when his outgoing personality worries me.
To be honest, it hurts my mama heart just a little bit to see him run off so quickly without me. Trust me, I’m very happy that he doesn’t scream for 30 minutes at every goodbye. I just sometimes wish he needed a comforting hug from his mom to assure him that a new place is ok.
When we’re in a crowded environment, he’s the kid who will walk away and not look to make sure I’m following. Although we’ve never used it, I will never judge another mom with her kid on a leash again. I can see how easily he would walk off in a large store or crowded event. In fact, I once spent a terrifying thirty seconds running up and down the aisles of the grocery store until one nice employee pointed me in my son’s direction. He still wasn’t concerned with my whereabouts when I found him.
This leads to the obvious concern: Strangers.
Callum would follow someone without asking any questions. I have nightmares where I turn my back for one second at the park, and he’s gone. I think about situations like this and just wish he was even a little bit cautious of new people.
I also worry about how kids will react to him as he gets older. I just know there will be a day he walks up to a new group of kids to introduce himself and just gets laughed at. I don’t want a few not so inviting kids hurting his feelings.
Now my question is: How do I teach him about strangers, interactions with new people, and large crowds without changing who he is? I want him to be wary of some strangers, but I want him to welcome new friends with open arms. I don’t want to shy him away from walking up to a new friend and introducing himself. I feel like there’s such a fine line between teaching him to be cautious of some things versus being afraid of everything.
Like with most of parenting, I imagine this is something that will require lots of trial and error along the way. I’d also love your thoughts!
How do you encourage an outgoing spirit in your kids, while still teaching them about stranger danger?
Maybe some day I’ll figure it out. In the mean time, I’m going to smile and hug him close every time he tells me he made a new best friend. After all, I’m so thankful that he has an abundance of those.
I can completely relate! This is my son Sam exactly! I also struggle with the same questions. I’m very curious to hear responses!