Last week we ran out of food in the house, like, Ran. Out. There was no more cereal, no cheese, no milk and worst of all, no coffee… I like to wring as much as I can out of the fridge and freezer before I do another shop after Christmas, and needless to say I most definitely needed to do a “big shop”. You know the one where you look like you’re feeding an army of people and your fridge is groaning with the effort of holding all the food you’ve put into it.
So off we tootled to the shop. Me, the baby and the toddler. Joy.
As we were walking around Toby was doing his usual and running up and down the Isles being “helpful”. After he’d put the third type of melon in the trolley, I told him off. I like melon, I do, but not that much and, honestly, I don’t like bad behaviour at all, so a stern “put it down and stand by the trolley” was issued. Along with the promise of a cake. Or two. I’m not perfect.
As we were going down the second isle he thought he’d give the “trolley dump” game a second go and started on laundry cleaners. So again I told him off. I’m pretty sure all of this will sounds 1000% normal to most, everyone has had that experience even if it’s only been a one off. What inspired me to write this post was what happened next.
A man suddenly turned around and said (with a smile), “C’mon Toby, what do you think you’re doing? Behave yourself!!” I looked at him. Toby looked at him. We both stopped. He started to laugh, “don’t you remember me little guy? You should!! Isle 1, by the broccoli. Haha!”
Toby didn’t flinch. He didn’t move towards me, he didn’t look for reassurance. If anything, he edged towards this total stranger and looked as though he was going to engage in conversation. The man was clearly just a jovial guy who was trying to be fun and polite but it freaked me out. Big time. Like I wanted to pounce on him for it. Who was this creep who’d just a.) used my child’s name so had clearly been listening to us as we stall the vegetables like hungry herbivores, and b.) why the fuck did he think it was ok to try and trick a toddler into ‘remembering him’.
It genuinely upset me. I’m not sure whether it was the realisation that leading my child off or getting my child; my silly, beautiful, badly behaved 3 year old son; to engage with him, was so easy. So easy.
We’e subsequently had the stranger danger talk, but I don’t want to make him nervous of strangers or people in general. I just felt for the rest of the shop that every time he was out of my sight (as in, went to walk down the next isle ahead of my trolley) he was vulnerable. Not from this man, I have no doubt that he was only playing and triggering my over-protective mummy senses was completely unintentional. He will no doubt never know he freaked me out or that he sparked a car journey’s worth of ‘stranger danger’ chit chat.
Whether it was meant as a bit of fun or not, I really didn’t think it was. I didn’t know this man, not at all. What if Toby had said yes, I do know you? What if it encourages Toby to talk to strangers in the future because all the adults were smiling and laughing? Ok, on a logical level I realise I’m probably taking it a bit too far by being so annoyed and upset by it, but on another level I can’t help it. The whole thing seemed really unpleasant and just like an invisible barrier had been crossed… or leapt over Jessica Ennis style-e.
Does anyone see my point? What would you do in this instance?