January 5, 2010

Talk to Strangers


 There are certain rules most parents teach their children that don’t apply sailing kids. Things like bathe often (we’ve rejigged that one to bathe when you can, preferably with as little soap and water as possible), get dressed for school (who needs to get out of their PJs to home school?) and eat everything on your plate (an especially hard goal when you’re not even sure what something is…) 

The rule we most brazenly ignore though is the don’t-talk-to-strangers one. In fact Maia learned almost from the outset that if she doesn’t talk to strangers, she’d be pretty lonely. These days Maia can strike up a conversation with just about anyone, on almost any topic. Which has brought us to the point of having to break another one of those parenting rules—Maia’s begun making friends out of strangers and then they invite her places, without us. She’s going places with strangers. 

In fact, right now, she’s swimming in the pool of an adjacent hotel with a little girl called Sophie, and last night she was out on shore until well past dark playing freeze tag with four boys from another boat, and the night before that she went with a family to a bonfire at the beach. For a child who was aching with loneliness less than a month ago she’s really getting this talking-to-strangers thing down pat.

I was startled the first time Maia was invited to play on another boat without me. I knew the time would come—but it really does feel odd to send my daughter to play on a transient boat where (like us!) the owners have no fixed address. We just have to trust they’re not running (albeit very slowly) from the law. Or planning to kidnap her. And hope they won’t be careless with power tools, or something.

As counterintuitive as it seems to send Maia off to play after gathering no more info than a first name and maybe a cellphone number, I realize that it’s really no different than what she’s seen us do. She’s watched as strangers come to our boat to lend a hand, or have a meal and then walk away as friends. She watched us climb into strange cars to go get boat parts or leave in high-speed dinghies to fetch groceries. She’s watched us trust strangers. 

The father of a friend she recently made explained why he likes bringing his daughter to the transient dock in San Diego to make friends. “The kids who sail haven’t been taught to be afraid yet,” he told me “they embrace adventure. I want my daughter to learn that feeling.”

Me too.

4 comments:

Seven C's said...

So great that she is getting into the cruising life!
BTW - if she still wants kid penpals, our four daighters are more than excited about being her e-penpal :)

lifeonplanetearth said...

I'm so happy she's meeting people and having fun playing with other kids. That's great news!

Diane, Evan and Maia said...

Seven C's - she'd love another e-pal. send us a note at ceilydh@yahoo.com and we'll connect. She's still learning to type and her notes are short - but she loves getting mail.
Daine

Nelly said...

One of the best thing that I love love with traveling is meeting people so definitely talking to strangers is my thing. In fact when you are in a foreign place it is but natural to talk to someone you don't know for direction or information.