A seemingly benign incident highlights a dilemma many parents face.

On 20 February, residents of Hyogo Prefecture were alerted to suspicious activity via the regional Safety Net website, where police reports are posted. The details of this incident were as follows.

“20 February, approx. 3:15 p.m.: In Nishitada, Kawanishi City near 2-Chome a speaking incident occurred. A woman carrying a baby was told something to the effect of “That’s a cute baby, isn’t it?” and even after leaving the place the person was still nearby for a while.
The person is described as a male, 180 cm tall, in his 30s, with a slim build and long hair, wearing an all-black tracksuit and white earphones.”

The notice also added some recommendations on what to do if you encounter this man such as “call out for help,” and “run away and notify police immediately.” Those seem rather extreme since his offenses thus far amount to calling a baby “cute” and being in the same general area as it for too long.

People online were especially baffled as to why this simple exchange required police intervention.

“Isn’t this normal social interaction?”
“Maybe he wasn’t following, but just going in the same direction.”
“Perhaps it was suspicious because the baby isn’t cute?”
“Beautiful Japan, where you get reported for complimenting a baby.”
“It depends how he said it, but I don’t know how to make ‘that’s a cute baby,’ sound threatening.”
“An old lady did that to me the other day. I should have reported her.”
“Clearly this means the guy wasn’t handsome.”
“It must be hard being a cop and dealing with this stuff every day.”

“I get that a lot when I’m out with my child. It’s far more older ladies than middle-aged men, but still no problem.”

As some comments pointed out, some key details were missing from the report, namely in what way “that’s a cute baby” was said. Considering it was enough to send the woman to the police, there’s a strong possibility it was not as sincere as it seemed.

On the other hand, the report also never identifies the woman as the child’s mother either. It could have been another person, and as such not used to the attention a baby can draw from total strangers. When my kids where babies, people of all ages and genders – from teenage boys to elderly ladies – would stop and tell me the baby is cute all the time.

However, I’d also say that in about 50 percent of the cases, said person would then begin acting very unusually – either mumbling to themselves, violently rocking back and forth, or lingering a little longer than comfort would allow.

It initially made me very nervous, but they were all ultimately harmless, and after a while it occurred to me that maybe the reason they were especially interested in my child was that they possibly couldn’t have one of their own due to whatever situation they were going through at the time.

I can kind of relate to that feeling. As my children grew up I felt myself longing to have a baby around again and gravitating more towards them and interacting with them on trains and other public places. It’s probably just human nature and also just pure luck that I don’t happen to have any kind of nervous tick or other unconventional behavior that would deem me “suspicious.”

In such an instance, running away screaming doesn’t seem like a sensitive response to a person who might not be able to behave in the way society expects them to. But that being said, when the safety of your child is at hand, it’s probably better to err on the side of caution too. The best we can do is gauge each person as they come carefully and fairly without making any snap assessments.

Whatever the actual situation was in this case, it’s interesting that many people online were so quick to judge the woman as being so quick to judge the man who complimented her baby. Perhaps we all need to slow down our judgments a little more these days.

Source: Hyogo Security Net, Itai News
Top image: Pakutaso
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