Won’t Somebody Think About the Children?

 

During a crisis in The Simpsons, Helen Lovejoy, the nosy wife of the minister, raises her eyes to heaven and asks “Won’t somebody think about the children?”

I need to ask the same question, but with a little more sincerity. Recently I was leaving a restaurant and I passed by a table with a little girl and her father. I smiled at the girl (aged about 6 or 7), because that’s what I do. She did not smile back, and I heard her say “Daddy, why did that lady smile at me?” I did not hear his response, but I was stunned by the question.

We have so stunted our children’s social growth with lockdowns and masks that they cannot even imagine a stranger would smile at them, just because. So when you are out and about, think about the children, smile at them, and interact in a positive, friendly way when possible (no being creepy). They need the reassurance that adults are not scary or contaminating. Smile at their parents, too. Children need to learn, and adults need to re-learn how to live without fear, be cordial and friendly and human.

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  1. DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax)
    @DonG

    Wow.    Soft times make weak men.

    • #1
  2. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Between the lockdowns, masking and interacting via the Internet the skill of human interaction are getting lost.   I recall reading one of the early users of the Arpanet (precursor to Al Gore’s invention of the Internet) opine …

    ”You want to meet and talk to new people? Go to a coffee shop or diner and sit at the counter.”

    As much as I love Ricochet, Im under no illusion that it substitutes for real life.

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Sometimes I smile at the parent first,  and if the child sees that gesture, I think they are reassured and might smile back. Some kids are just shy. And some have been told not to respond to strangers. It’s gotten complicated.

    • #3
  4. Juliana Member
    Juliana
    @Juliana

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Sometimes I smile at the parent first, and if the child sees that gesture, I think they are reassured and might smile back. Some kids are just shy. And some have been told not to respond to strangers. It’s gotten complicated.

    I agree, and you can generally pick out those shy ones right away. Then I might make a funny face to kind of break the ice. The good news is that toddlers generally don’t have that reserve. But it’s the ones who missed kindergarten or early elementary, masked up and told that they had to stay away from people to stay safe and healthy that really need the interaction.

    • #4
  5. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I think this is as much to do with the fear of strangers (possible predators) that our kids have been raised to have as it is due to the pandemic. Before the pandemic hit, grandchildren were being told to stay away from touching their grandparents and aunts and uncles. 

    I predicted that kids would withdraw from interacting with the world of people around them, and it has happened. You raise your kids to be afraid of everyone they meet, and this is the result. It’s going to cause isolation and mental illness eventually. When the pool of people you interact with shrinks, then if something goes wrong in that small pool, and it inevitably will because you are dealing with immature human organisms who will make social mistakes, it magnifies those relationships and causes the person to become socially anxious. That is the largest cause of mental illness and drug addiction in our country. 

    • #5
  6. Dbroussa Coolidge
    Dbroussa
    @Dbroussa

    I always try and smile at kids when I am out.  I might also wave at them with my smile.  Sometimes they react, sometimes they are blasé.  Doesn’t stop me, but yeah, it is a sad state of our culture.  I had a friend who now lives in Japan and he thinks that hardening schools is a terrible thing and a comment on our culture.  I think that “stranger danger” is a worse comment on our culture, but that is me.

    • #6
  7. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    I can go back and forth from smiling at people to going into subway mode where you avoid all eye contact. Kids are one thing, but I am not sure that I can walk past a baby without making some sort of silly face.

    • #7
  8. Juliana Member
    Juliana
    @Juliana

    Dbroussa (View Comment):

    I always try and smile at kids when I am out. I might also wave at them with my smile. Sometimes they react, sometimes they are blasé. Doesn’t stop me, but yeah, it is a sad state of our culture. I had a friend who now lives in Japan and he thinks that hardening schools is a terrible thing and a comment on our culture. I think that “stranger danger” is a worse comment on our culture, but that is me.

    I agree that hardening schools is definitely a comment on our culture – which has many intertwined roots (in the case of school shooters – mental illness, seeking attention and glory, anger, frustration, depression, loss of the value of life, no hope for the future, drug addiction). And stranger danger is a real thing – was when I was a kid, too. But there is value in teaching that interactions that take just seconds – a smile, a wave – have an important place in society as well. 

    • #8
  9. Juliana Member
    Juliana
    @Juliana

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I think this is as much to do with the fear of strangers (possible predators) that our kids have been raised to have as it is due to the pandemic. Before the pandemic hit, grandchildren were being told to stay away from touching their grandparents and aunts and uncles.

    I predicted that kids would withdraw from interacting with the world of people around them, and it has happened. You raise your kids to be afraid of everyone they meet, and this is the result. It’s going to cause isolation and mental illness eventually. When the pool of people you interact with shrinks, then if something goes wrong in that small pool, and it inevitably will because you are dealing with immature human organisms who will make social mistakes, it magnifies those relationships and causes the person to become socially anxious. That is the largest cause of mental illness and drug addiction in our country.

    Not sure I agree that most kids are afraid of their family members. I would think most parents would trust family first (whether that trust is well-placed or not). But now, teachers are suspect. You used to have to just watch for insidious political indoctrination and correct for error. Now, teachers are in a prime position for secret, or not so secret sexual grooming. It’s no longer only stranger danger, it’s who can you trust? And parents are often deliberately left out of the loop. You used to be able to tell a child – if someone tells you not to tell your parents, that is the time to definitely tell your parents. This is no longer the case. Children are being told to keep secrets by the very people their parents trust to keep them safe all day long. Confusion and anxiety are the result.

    • #9
  10. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Sometimes I smile at the parent first, and if the child sees that gesture, I think they are reassured and might smile back. Some kids are just shy. And some have been told not to respond to strangers. It’s gotten complicated.

    Stranger-danger fear has been instilled in children at least since I’ve been a parent. (34 years). I got in many conversations about it with other parents. (My go-to was always: your kids are statistically safer in a room full of 100 strangers than they are in a room full of friends and relatives)

    My children were punished for not responding to strangers as long as they were with me or their dad. Because there’s no excuse for bad manners. My daughter is doing the same with her daughters. The regular interactions her girls have with “strangers” is delightful to watch. The baby (at 15 months old) always has a stuffed animal in her lap in the grocery cart and she shows it off to everyone.

    I’ve had occasion to be in the company of a few young families lately, and the lack of engagement from the toddlers is shocking. One mom just shrugged and said “covid”, as if there was nothing she could do (or could have done) about it.

    • #10
  11. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Juliana, do you have any reason to believe that the response that you observed was common?

    It sounds like a one-time occurrence, which you found strange.  Your post suggests that you concluded that it was indicative of a widespread problem, and that some society-wide changes need to be made.

    Do you see any cause for the concern that you raised — fear of strangers in children — other than this one incident?

    • #11
  12. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    I work at a public library, so of course many of our customers are mothers (it’s usually mothers) with small children. When they come to the desk to check out their books I make it a point to try to hand what are obviously the child’s books directly to him or her, smile, and say something like, “okay, now you’re in charge of these books, hope you like them”. In nearly every case with a mother present, she will intercept the books and the comment in order to be the go-between. She doesn’t let the kid accept the books directly from me. It’s exasperating and infuriating as I am not actually talking to her and her kid needs to learn how to interact directly with other adults. But it cannot be a coincidence as it happens every damned time (and predates covid).

    • #12
  13. Juliana Member
    Juliana
    @Juliana

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Juliana, do you have any reason to believe that the response that you observed was common?

    It sounds like a one-time occurrence, which you found strange. Your post suggests that you concluded that it was indicative of a widespread problem, and that some society-wide changes need to be made.

    Do you see any cause for the concern that you raised — fear of strangers in children — other than this one incident?

    Actually, yes, I have found it to be more common than I was used to. I also work at an antique store and parents will bring in their children. I have noticed that while many of the kids will look at me, they don’t seem to know how or want to respond, even just to say hi. It’s rare to get the older ones into a conversation, maybe about what they are looking at, or even buying, because similar to @charlotte, the parents will intervene. (I hate it when parents won’t let a kid talk for themselves.) I make a point of getting down on the level of the little ones (not too close, but at their eye level), and again, they will move away. This did not happen when I was working as a secretary at our church, about 20 years ago. The little ones would stay and bask in the attention even if they did not know me.

    There could be a lot of reasons for all of this – but a child asking why someone smiled at them seems actually scary to me. As if all trust in society has been destroyed, even for the innocent.

    • #13
  14. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Juliana (View Comment):
    It’s rare to get the older ones into a conversation, maybe about what they are looking at, or even buying, because similar to @charlotte, the parents will intervene. (I hate it when parents won’t let a kid talk for themselves.)

    Glad I’m not the only one. (I mean, not exactly glad, but, you know.)

    • #14
  15. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Juliana (View Comment):
    but a child asking why someone smiled at them seems actually scary to me.

    I just can’t imagine.

    Two things: pets and kids.

    Since I was a teenager and on pets and kids have gravitated toward Me. All the time people’s dogs will walk up to Me, ears down, scrunch Their bodies to a near sitting position, Their tails briskly wagging waiting for Me to pat Them on the head when the person almost always says, “I’ve never seen Her act like that with strangers before.”

    And if I make eye contact with a lil’ kid They almost always stare at Me and almost always reach out My way; in Mom’s arms, in grocery carts. If I’m in a restaurant more than half the time I wind up playing “peek-a-boo” with some kid across the joint. And when I do, almost every time the kid starts to crack up, which makes Mom turn around to see what’s so funny, only to see Me duck under the table or dive behind a wall. 

    This has gone on My entire adult life. 

    • #15
  16. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Juliana (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Juliana, do you have any reason to believe that the response that you observed was common?

    It sounds like a one-time occurrence, which you found strange. Your post suggests that you concluded that it was indicative of a widespread problem, and that some society-wide changes need to be made.

    Do you see any cause for the concern that you raised — fear of strangers in children — other than this one incident?

    Actually, yes, I have found it to be more common than I was used to. I also work at an antique store and parents will bring in their children. I have noticed that while many of the kids will look at me, they don’t seem to know how or want to respond, even just to say hi. It’s rare to get the older ones into a conversation, maybe about what they are looking at, or even buying, because similar to @ charlotte, the parents will intervene. (I hate it when parents won’t let a kid talk for themselves.) I make a point of getting down on the level of the little ones (not too close, but at their eye level), and again, they will move away. This did not happen when I was working as a secretary at our church, about 20 years ago. The little ones would stay and bask in the attention even if they did not know me.

    There could be a lot of reasons for all of this – but a child asking why someone smiled at them seems actually scary to me. As if all trust in society has been destroyed, even for the innocent.

    Thanks, Juliana.

    • #16
  17. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Sometimes I smile at the parent first, and if the child sees that gesture, I think they are reassured and might smile back. Some kids are just shy. And some have been told not to respond to strangers. It’s gotten complicated.

    That might be difficult in the restaurant situation, for example, if you’re facing the child but the parent is on the other side of the table, facing the opposite direction.

    • #17
  18. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Juliana (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Juliana, do you have any reason to believe that the response that you observed was common?

    It sounds like a one-time occurrence, which you found strange. Your post suggests that you concluded that it was indicative of a widespread problem, and that some society-wide changes need to be made.

    Do you see any cause for the concern that you raised — fear of strangers in children — other than this one incident?

    Actually, yes, I have found it to be more common than I was used to. I also work at an antique store and parents will bring in their children. I have noticed that while many of the kids will look at me, they don’t seem to know how or want to respond, even just to say hi. It’s rare to get the older ones into a conversation, maybe about what they are looking at, or even buying, because similar to @ charlotte, the parents will intervene. (I hate it when parents won’t let a kid talk for themselves.) I make a point of getting down on the level of the little ones (not too close, but at their eye level), and again, they will move away. This did not happen when I was working as a secretary at our church, about 20 years ago. The little ones would stay and bask in the attention even if they did not know me.

    There could be a lot of reasons for all of this – but a child asking why someone smiled at them seems actually scary to me. As if all trust in society has been destroyed, even for the innocent.

    @juliana – I just read your comment aloud to my daughter on the phone and she burst out laughing. After she stopped laughing, she surmised it’s because families are so small. When someone, anyone, engages her children she’s thrilled to pieces to get even a small break.

    I’m amazed at the places she’ll go to with all three (one still in diapers). She’s even flown several times alone with them. I recently asked her how she did it and she replied that she dresses them in matching outfits, as cute as possible (usually Buckee’s onesies). When people fuss over the children and offer to help, she takes them at their word and lets them help.

     

    • #18
  19. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Juliana, do you think you’d get different results wearing a rainbow-themed outfits and/or accessories?

    • #19
  20. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Juliana, do you think you’d get different results wearing a rainbow-themed outfits and/or accessories?

    Who knows, these days a person might get more favorable response by pretending to be a “drag queen.”

    • #20
  21. AMD Texas Member
    AMD Texas
    @DarinJohnson

    kedavis (View Comment):

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Juliana, do you think you’d get different results wearing a rainbow-themed outfits and/or accessories?

    Who knows, these days a person might get more favorable response by pretending to be a “drag queen.”

    From the parents anyway

    • #21
  22. Juliana Member
    Juliana
    @Juliana

    kedavis (View Comment):

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Juliana, do you think you’d get different results wearing a rainbow-themed outfits and/or accessories?

    Who knows, these days a person might get more favorable response by pretending to be a “drag queen.”

    That would really be scary.

    • #22
  23. Juliana Member
    Juliana
    @Juliana

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    Juliana (View Comment):
    but a child asking why someone smiled at them seems actually scary to me.

    I just can’t imagine.

    Two things: pets and kids.

    Since I was a teenager and on pets and kids have gravitated toward Me. All the time people’s dogs will walk up to Me, ears down, scrunch Their bodies to a near sitting position, Their tails briskly wagging waiting for Me to pat Them on the head when the person almost always says, “I’ve never seen Her act like that with strangers before.”

    And if I make eye contact with a lil’ kid They almost always stare at Me and almost always reach out My way; in Mom’s arms, in grocery carts. If I’m in a restaurant more than half the time I wind up playing “peek-a-boo” with some kid across the joint. And when I do, almost every time the kid starts to crack up, which makes Mom turn around to see what’s so funny, only to see Me duck under the table or dive behind a wall.

    This has gone on My entire adult life.

    My husband is like this with dogs. They all seem to recognize a kindred spirit. What a gift!

    • #23
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