Yesterday evening after dinner, I went with the kids (all five of them, my three plus Niece and Nephew) to the parking lot so they could ride scooters and bikes.

It was kind of a disaster. I’m not really sure how it got so badly out of control so quickly.

Flora, Niece, and Nephew were mostly fine. Kate and Michael, on the other hand, were whiny, cranky, melt-downy messes that were hard to deal with.

It started when M wanted to ride Kate’s scooter. And Kate deliberately teased him with it (riding very slowly past him, ignoring his pleas). This is actually very unlike Kate. She generally treats M well, seldom teases him, and usually shares with him — without me even having to ask.

Not yesterday. Nope. Nothing doing.

So, while I tried to negotiate that (basically have Kate give M a turn on the scooter), Flora was running up and back to the house, and Nephew and Niece were whizzing around.

The noise (M crying, me yelling — calling, really, to the kids) must have attracted some attention. I don’t know when I noticed him. I think it was when Kate finally started *her* meltdown. She had given M the scooter, and wanted to ride Flora’s bike, and wanted me to help her get rolling, and she was nervous about it (which in all the distraction, I didn’t realize) and I had walked up toward the house to put M’s shoes in our mailbox, and Kate FLIPPED OUT and was screaming “MOMMY MOMMY” and suddenly this guy was there with nothing on but shorts, and I wanted to pick up all the kids and run away.

I am generally not the kind of parent who sees a pedophile in every bush. I give my kids free rein, and I trust them to 1. Stay together and 2. Not do foolish things like get in a stranger’s car. We also recently had a long talk about where to hit someone to hurt if they needed to. I’m free range, but I’m not a dummy, either.

I want to give this guy the benefit of the doubt. I do. He’s probably in his 60s, or so, not overtly threatening, but he is giving me the heebie jeebies.

First of all, I’ve got five kids, one of whom is my 2-year-old — who is not close to me. He’s up in the parking lot with Niece and Nephew. And a scooter.

Second of all, Kate is having the mother of all meltdowns because she is having All The Feelings, and I walked away from her. I even got an “I hate you!” She’s sitting on the ground, and this guy is like, “Hey, pretty girl, don’t yell at your mom.”

Third of all (third of all?), I can now see that M wants to go into the parking lot in front of the gymnasium, which means I won’t be able to see him anymore, and I can also tell Nephew is having a hard time persuading M to come back the other way, and really it’s just a matter of time before Niece and Nephew give up, because, let’s face it, they aren’t babysitters.

But I can’t run to assist them, and leave Kate in this state of high distress, with the guy — again, no shirt, no socks or shoes — hanging about, calling her pretty girl.

So on top of worrying about the kids and being pissed off at Kate, this guy is stressing me out. I know some of my neighbors, and I recognize most of my neighbors, and I have no idea where this guy came from. I’m assuming on of the houses across from the school, but I don’t recognize him.

Somehow or another, I manage to make Kate understand that we will deal with our feelings later (and I will help her ride Flora’s bike) but RIGHT NOW and I mean RIGHT EFFING NOW (I didn’t say effing) we have to go get M.

I walk, Kate follows, this guy follows, still talking. He’s using encouraging words, “You’re a good mom. Pretty girl, you follow your mom; she loves you” but it’s all wrong.

When I get to M, *he* decides to have a meltdown because I won’t let him go his own way (I AM SUCH A MEAN MOM), and as I pick him up and the scooter, the two older kids dart away. This guy by now is down on the street, which is separated from the parking lot by a strip of grass and bushes, and HE’S STILL TALKING TO ME AND MY KIDS. Again, right words, “You’re doing the right thing, Mom. Maybe his feet are hot (M has no shoes on). It’s really tough. You’re a good mom.”

Part of me wants to say to him, “Look, you may be well-meaning, but I got a lot on my hands right now, and your running commentary isn’t helping me.” Another part of me pretty much wants to flip out on the guy, like, “Buddy, get the hell away from me and my kids. You’re a weirdo.”

Most of me just wants the screaming to stop.

Long story short (“Too late!”), I get all the kids back up to the house. I send Niece and Nephew next door for a minute. M gets a short time out for not listening (and also for hitting and biting, oh the joys of having a toddler!), and I have a talk with Kate (somewhat fruitless — she thinks I promised to do something that I don’t recall promising to do, and seeing me walking up to the house made her mad, and she is not in a listening frame of mind), and a longer talk with the two of them.

About The Guy.

I told them that the guy being there stressed me out. I said, “It was a little weird that he was walking around outside without a shirt and shoes on. It was also weird that he saw I was dealing with upset kids and was trying to talk to us. I didn’t like that.

“So, if you all are out, and this guy approaches you, and I’m there, you all come to me. (I had this talk with Niece and Nephew later as well.) If I’m not there, you all come together. You aren’t mean to this person — he’s an adult. You aren’t rude to him, you don’t scream when you see him. You say hi, and tell him you’re going home. And then you come home.”

I kind of scared Flora, and I’m sorry about that. I apologized to her, and I explained I was scared too.

“I’m sure he’s not a bad guy, Flora. I’m probably overreacting. But I’d rather make you a little scared of him, a little freaked out, than tell you nothing’s wrong when I don’t know that.”

Eventually everyone chilled out. We went back to the parking lot, and Kate successfully rode Flora’s bike. And then we came back to the house and had strawberries with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. And everything was better.

I feel like I did the right thing. Sometimes, you just gotta go with your gut, and my gut did not like this guy.