Eighteen seasons ago I was trying to teach Eldest about strangers. She was 3.5 years old and growing extremely independent, so I had stepped up my game.
As with most of life's dangers, I wanted to scare but not immobilize her. I needed for her to be wary enough to stay away from strangers when I wasn't around, but remain open to meeting new people. We were a military family at the time, so meeting new people was a large part of our existence.
In what I thought at the time was a moment of parental brilliance, I told her that strangers are not necessarily bad people, but they don't love us. Then we played the game of trying to decide if the people we encountered during our day were strangers. The lady at the bank, although we see her on a regular basis, is a stranger because she doesn't love us. That guy walking his dog on the beach seems really nice and his dog is cute, but he doesn't love us. This game went on for months.
We talked about how she should never, ever open the door for a stranger. I never let her open the door anyway but thought to cover that base because she had taken it upon herself to answer the phone one time while I was in the shower. She was not allowed to answer the phone, either, but that detail didn't stop her.
See Wednesday's Times Sentinel for the full story.