Thursday, 23 August 2012

Free Range Kids Challenge

Pickle and I were enjoying the sunshine in the local square earlier today; it's become a regular spot for a picnic lunch.  Inevitably at some point, Pickle makes a beeline for the water feature where lots of kids splash about in the very shallow water. 

Normally I'd keep Pickle in his nappy, but I'd paid-forward a nappy to a lady in the library earlier in the day, and having just changed Pickle's nappy, the one he was wearing was the only clean one on us.  He'd already done a massive poo earlier, so I knew this wouldn't be a problem (though it surprised me when he got out of the water to do a wee).

Pickle and I in the top section of the
water "fountain" a couple of weeks ago.
He was happily playing and splashing about for around half an hour.  Then a woman approached asking who his mother was.  She said that a "pedo" was watching him from across the other side of the fountain (it's in two parts and is quite long).  I immediately bundled Pickle up, moved into the terraced square to dress him and jump on a bus home.

I scanned the area, but couldn't see anyone obvious.  I don't see every man on his own as a threat, so it would have helped if the suspect looked like a movie villan, but no luck. 

I was definitely shaken, but as I headed home, I started to reflect.  Was I rash?  Of course I wanted to protect Pickle, that will always be my priority.  But should I have asked who the suspect was and reported him to someone?  Should I have queried the word of a stranger, who may have had her own agenda?  Growing up in Australia, I wouldn't think twice about Pickle being naked on the beach or around water in general, but perhaps I should be more conservative in the UK? 

Bringing up a Free Range Kid is to keep them safe by knowing their individual limits (which will obviously be more relevant as he gets older).  And I'm aware that there are less incidences of abuse these days, despite what sensationalistic media reports would have us think - and most abuse is by those known to the family.  However, I think I did the right thing in the moment.  I'll still go to the square and let Pickle splash about, but will make sure to take a spare nappy or swim nappy with me.  I probably give it a couple of days too.  I'll still let him walk around, smiling and waving at everyone (like I could stop that if I tried!).  Pickle is an independent soul, to quash his spirit would be a travesty.  But I can't say that today doesn't have me a little freaked.

Would love to know if you have any advice or experience to offer?

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