Stranger Danger?

So the new thing that keeps me up at night is wondering how to deal with MZ's newfound stranger shyness -- not necessarily anxiety, but head buried in my knees or shoulder, I'm-not-saying-hi shyness. I have a tendancy to encourage her to say hello to people who speak to her, but I realize that we're on the edge of the Stranger Danger thing now that she's a toddler capable of wandering away.

Since she was a wee baby, people have stopped to talk to her or touch her and for the most part, R. and I have been open to the attention. We believe that a city is a distant but not cold place, and that our daughter can have interesting, unique and warm experiences with its inhabitants. We've never felt the need to tell someone not to touch her (although we have asked children to touch feet and not hands and faces). That's not to say we never would, we just find ourselves more likely to run into the grandmotherly Latina head stroker than the hepatitis-ridden junkie cheek-grabber.

Well, there was that time a pretty hard-bitten woman went for a cheek-grab face before I had a chance to stop her on the bus, and I did worry about that for several solid hours, okay, days, but she was just months old at the time and everything made me worry that hard.

But MZ is now at an age where it's quite conceivable that someone could walk off with her in the blink of an eye. Can it be entirely accidental that we're seeing her first strong hesitation with strangers? It seems developmentally appropriate, the way it coincides so perfectly with the independance and boundary pushing and the literal ability to run that comes with toddlerhood.

I realize I need to consciously overcome my tendancy towards openness 1) to respect where she is, 2) to make her feel confident that we/I am taking care of her; and 3) to help her learn to trust her gut -- the absolute last thing I want to do is teach her to override her gut. She can learn openness again once she's learned that her initial response to things is worth listening to and trusting.

But this sounds so much easier than I suspect it's going to be. How to respect her space and feelings while encouraging healthy cautiousness without introducing terror or closing her off from friendly people entirely? As with so many other things related to parenting, I feel like I'm going to have to wing it and hope things go alright.


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