I'm sure I'm giving my daughter mixed messages when it comes to who she should talk to. One minute I'm asking her to tell someone I've bumped into at the shops all about something she's done, the next I'm asking her to stop bothering the lady she's befriended on the bus. Perhaps I have mixed feelings too. My daughter was holding full on conversations before she was 18 months old and hasn't really stopped since, but I was prompted to write this post after an experience we had when we went to London recently. It was both one of the funniest and unsettling experiences of my life!
We were visiting my best friend who is Evie's Godmother and she lives in Crouch End. We'd promised to go to the London Aquarium, otherwise known as the 'Fishy Zoo' and this involved a bus and tube ride into central London. On the way there she was a bit unsure of the whole public transport thing, and was particularly wary of the tube as she couldn't see out and we were on one of those ones with the dodgy lights that flick on and off, so quite often it was pitch black for her. After the aquarium though she was full of beans. My friend had also bought her the Cath Kidston London print bag so she'd had great fun seeing all the things on her bag, including the London Eye and a red bus!
I wasn't looking forward to the return journey though as I was anticipating a tantrum, especially seeing as she was very tired. How wrong I was. The tube was much quieter on the way back so Evie had a spare seat next to her. The tube journey from that moment went something like this:
E: "Daddy, whose seat is this?"
D: "That's noone's seat at the moment.
At the next stop, a lady got on and sat next to Evie.
E (to the lady): "Hello, who are you? I'm Evie, did you forget that this was your seat?"
L: (somewhat bemused) "Hello, I'm Anya, it's lovely to meet you."
E: "Well this is my bunny, that's my mummy and daddy, that's Jenny, she's my Godmother, and this is my brother Harry who's asleep because he's a baby, but he's a boy so he has a little willy."
The lady at this point was crying with laughter. Evie then regaled her with every intricate detail of our day so far. This took a good 15 minutes! Finally in an attempt to get Evie to leave the poor lady alone we told her we'd have to get up because soon we would be getting off the train:
"Well in a minute, we all have to get off this train to go on a bus, so you will look at the seat and you will wonder where I am and you'll be shouting "Evie, where are you?" but I won't be answering because I'll be on the bus!"
At our stop, Evie actually cried and wanted to give the lady a cuddle before we left. While very hilarious, I can't help worrying that if a complete stranger came up to her with different intentions, would she know the difference?
Anyhow, you'd think that was the end of it wouldn't you? Would you believe me if I said that on the second part of our journey this happened:
Sat near the back of the bus on the side facing seats: "We know a song about a bus don't we mummy?"
"Which song is that?" This prompted Evie to sing the first verse of 'The Wheels on the Bus.' A couple of people looked mildly amused. She then turned to my friend and said, "Jenny, do you know the bit about the wipers?" This was fine, and we got through the next verse. She then turned to a lady who was sitting opposite and said "And do you know the bit about the conductor?" I would've let the ground swallow me up. I will cut the story as short as I can now, but never in my life have I had an experience like this. My 3 year old daughter got the back of a London bus joining in together singing 'The Wheels on the Bus' with actions! This doesn't happen does it? Perhaps in cheesy movies or something, but not in real life, and definitely not with my three year old daughter at the centre of it! She's normally so reserved when around a lot of people at once!
I know my daughter felt safe and secure because she was with three adults who care greatly about her so I know this is just a funny story and something we can talk about with a smile on our faces, but to what extent should we allow our children to talk to strangers? When is it appropriate and when does it go against all the principles of stranger danger? Sometimes I wish I could just jump into her three year old bubble world where there is no bad. What a wonderful place that is!