She looked like a nice lady, strolling through the kids section of Barnes & Noble with what I assumed was her grandchild’s little backpack full of toys on her back. But she lingered a bit too long, lurking near shelves and displays to watch children and something just felt off. I kept my eyes discreetly on her as my husband and I sat watching my son at the train table from nearby chairs. She moved our direction and I realized finally that she was alone, she had been here for 10 minutes with no kid in sight. She drifted to a shelf just behind us and pretended to look at kids books but her eyes never skimmed the pages, they hovered for a moment on my little princess, snuggling in a sling on my hip and settled on the handsome 3 year old playing trains. My child. Not hers. She stayed focused on him, momentarily lost enough she didn’t pretend to look at the books even, minutes passed and still she stared. Her odd behavior had now drawn the attention of my equally perceptive husband. Sensing potential for danger he stood and pretended to glance at a storytime paper, repositioning himself so that she was no longer behind him and forcing her to make eye contact. I also moved so that I was now able to see her eye to eye, faced with two attentive parents she suddenly moved away.
At the end of the shelves a parked stroller with a sweet toddler sat unattended, she leaned down and began talking to the girl which caught the attention of the mother, only two feet away looking at the display of new books. She quickly dropped the book and placed her hands on the stroller, asking the woman an indistinguishable question before backing away, clearly uneasy as well. When she turned back to see my husband and I also still keeping an eye on her she swiftly made her way downstairs and out of the store without stopping.
Was the woman dangerous? My gut told me possibly, was there a temptation inside her to have a child at a cost I might never understand? I believe so. Hopefully she will never act on her desires even if an opportunity presents itself but it was clear to me that it was something she may consider. (The fact that myself, my husband and another mom all independently reached the conclusion she way not be safe speaks to the fact her behavior just wasn’t right).
There is no such thing as too vigilant with your child. No one who has ever had a child taken thought it would happen to them (most abductions are not strangers though). Never feel like its “judging” someone if your intuition says something is wrong trust it, be extra cautious, make your presence known. Too many parents live on eggshells now, afraid to be politically incorrect or stereotype someone but you shouldn’t silence your inner voice when it tells you someone is not safe or something is not right.