Anyway, the park APPEARED empty. Isaiah and Leah made a beeline for the jungle gym and Chris and I followed a bit behind them. When we caught up, our son, who refuses to talk to anyone when he doesn’t care to, was carrying on a warm conversation with a man who was crouched under the playground equipment, using a metal detector and a trowel.
Isaiah called over to us in a very excited voice, “Mommy, Daddy… I found a guy. I found A GUY! He’s looking for stuff. Come meet him, Mommy, Daddy! Come meet him!”
I was not in the mood to meet some weird guy, who in my opinion shouldn’t even be at the park. Like I said, it’s not that I’m anti-social or that a metal detector automatically makes you weird. But being a mom, my pedophile-spotting sensors are stronger than anything NASA can boast of, so I don’t take kindly to adults using a playground as their personal hangout.
The guy may have been a little odd (judging by the fact that he was spending his day in a park with a metal detector and trowel), but he was smart enough to realize he’d better metal detect somewhere else. He went to work on the edges of the basketball court and left our little family to play in peace on the playground.
Isaiah, however, could not leave well enough alone. After checking out all the toys, I noticed him standing at the very edge of the wood chips, watching THE GUY metal detect. His whole body was tensed in a twitchy, wiggly, I’m-about-to-get-in-trouble kind of way. My mom sensors are also adept at spotting child-mischief that is about to happen, so I nipped his plans in the bud:
Mommy: “Isaiah, don’t you dare go over by the guy.”
Isaiah: “But why? He’s looking for treasure!”
Mommy: “That doesn’t matter. He is a stranger and we don’t talk to strangers.”
Isaiah: “He’s not a stranger. He’s looking for treasure!” (because looking for treasure negates stranger status, of course!)
Mommy: “Yes, he is a stranger. We don’t know him and he could be a bad guy.”
Isaiah: “No he’s not. He doesn’t look like a bad guy. He didn’t talk mean.” (Oh, the wisdom of 5 year olds!)
At this point I realized I wasn’t making a dent, so I sent him to appeal to THE VOICE OF AUTHORITY (Daddy).
Chris gave Isaiah a very thorough explanation of strangers and stranger-ness. He concluded with a brilliant dissertation on the qualifications that label one a stranger, namely that Mommy and Daddy do not know them. At this point, Isaiah assured him we did know the guy, because he had been under the playground toys. Obviously, that makes him a good person. I think, in Isaiah’s mind, the park provided the guy for his own personal entertainment, as part of the playground equipment.
Through perseverance (and probably a few threats of leaving the park) we convinced our son that THE GUY was in the stranger category and that Isaiah was not going anywhere near him. And, through this enlightening experience, we are now aware that we need to step up our stranger awareness training. As things currently stand, our son would invite Blackbeard the Pirate into our living room, as long as he professed himself to be searching for treasure!