I stopped at Annie Blooms on my way up the hill yesterday. After I snapped my ritual photo, I retired to the shade to review my purchases. One of them was Dispatches from Anarres: Tales in Tribute to Ursula K. LeGuin
The park was busy as per usual for a sunny afternoon. A girl about 6 or 7 years old (with her family) was fascinated by my pile of books. Her mom (or other guardian) hovered protectively nearby.
“What is that book?”
“It’s a tribute to Ursula LeGuin, a famous author from Portland.”
“oh I KNOW WHO SHE IS! I have a book full of famous girls & shes in it!”
We talked for a short while about Ursula LeGuin, and this book full of “famous girls” (like Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Amelia Earhardt). I’m pretty sure we have at least one book like that in our house. Then she noticed I was sitting next to my bike.
She, incredulous: “did you RIDE YOUR BIKE HERE?”
“I bet your legs are tired!”
“Do you trim your eyebrows?”
“No but my kids are always telling me I need to!”
“How old are your kids? Are they girls?”
It is extremely rare as a man alone, to be approached by a kid. I know kids (🤪) … and I also know other parents. As a man alone, when a kid talks to me, I need to project both “interested in what this kid says” but “uninterested in kids.” If you know what I mean.
I remember teaching my own kids something like this. We didn’t want to impart a fear of strangers in them, but we also needed them to know how to pick out reliable grownups. The key is that they should choose who to talk to (like this girl yesterday).
Our shortcut, and it worked well, was “look for a mom with kids.” On several occasions when they got lost or into other minor trouble, they knew there was a certain kind of grownup they could probably trust to help them, or at the least not hurt them: a mom with kids.
Yes it’s super gendered, and I apologize for putting yet another thing onto moms, but it empowered my kids to know they could remain in control of conversations with adults, which is a better lesson than “don’t talk to strangers.”
When I first started summitting Council Crest, I had regular conversations with random people on the hill that looked like this:
They, incredulous: “did you RIDE YOUR BIKE HERE?”
“Wow I wish I could do that.”
“Trust me: if I can, you could.”
I haven’t had a conversation like this in a really long time, perhaps a decade or more. Twenty or fifteen years ago, this seemed to happen almost every time I rode up there! My only theory is that so many more people ride their bikes up to Council Crest, that it has become unremarkable.