Toby’s stranger danger fail & the unintentionally creepy man in the supermarket.

Stranger Danger :: Would this freak you out? via Toby & Roo :: daily inspiration for stylish parents and their kids.

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?

H x


  1. Avatar
    January 10, 2016 / 10:36 pm

    I guess is a lot to do with culture and where you come from. Living in England for 20 years has made me very paranoid too. When I go back to my country on holiday, where strangers will stop us in the street just to stroke my son’s hair and to say how gorgeous he is and hug him, it makes me feel a little weird and on the defensive when is a behaviour which I saw completely normal and friendly when growing up there.
    I realised how really uptight I was when one day I was in Costa having a coffe with a friend and my children, when my children decide to sit on a different table. A man came along and sat on the table where my kids where (was one of those big tables with sofas) and he said it was ok for them to stay he didn’t mind sharing, my face, I’m sure changed colour, I felt it wasn’t appropriate but then I tried to reason within myself and I decide not to let my fears shown, so I just said ok as long as they behaved, I kept on watching them, then I realised the man was very busy on his work and didn’t even exchange conversation with the children. It’s sad that we live in a world where spontaneity is no longer an option, being open and friendly is seen as inappropriate.

    • Harriet January 11, 2016 / 10:52 am

      Zaira you couldn’t be more right, its heartbreaking that we live in a world where this kind of exchange would even been questioned, and yet we do. I am surprised at my own reaction, I’m normally SO laid back, so that was one reason I wanted to see what others thought and I think the response on social has been a real mixed bag. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  2. Avatar
    January 10, 2016 / 9:52 pm

    I’m with you 100%
    Whilst having a meltdown in the Halloween aisle because, (surprise surprise), Sainsburys had sold out of pumpkins on 30th October, my son decided the only thing he ever wanted in the whole entire world was a pumpkin. The day before payday and with only a couple of pounds in my account I had to explain that “no we can’t have the daygo, light up one that costs four times as much as a real pumpkin instead”! A few people looked in horror that my darling three year old was screaming and crying. One lady (in her late fourties not that it’s particularly relevant) and her teenage daughter tried to help but made me feel even worse! Sensing my embarrassment that the whole superstore could hear our conversation, she came over and told him that no they didn’t have any real pumpkins left but look at the daygo ones. A swift look at my face made her backtrack and instead she cajoled him and somehow calmed him down, which was fine UNTIL she asked for a hug and a kiss! Now I will openly admit that I’m an overprotective mother but hang on a minute, some random woman who had a two minute conversation with us just asked for a kiss from my precious little baby. No thankyou!!! He looked terrified and said no, I replied that he doesn’t kiss people that he doesn’t know and asked him calmly to shake both of their hands (which he did). I then scooped him up and got out of there very quickly (still without a pumpkin). We had a very awkward conversation about how you only talk to people when mummy or daddy are there and not to kiss random strangers that we don’t know – (he was going through the ” I won’t kiss anyone, anyway stage”)!
    He is always on a tight lease now and I’m super vigilant. I know she was trying to help, and I may have seemed a little uptight or even rude but I was quite shocked at her request.

    • Harriet January 10, 2016 / 10:05 pm

      Wow! Thats a VERY strange response, though most likely totally innocent like you say. I used to work in retail (Mothercare) and I ALWAYS said high five or possibly thumbs up. I was never unkind if a child threw their arms around me – it has happened, I’m clearly cuddly 😉 – then I would tap their back, but I wouldn’t dream of asking a child to hug and me and woaaahhhhh kiss me is insane!

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