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by Abigail Van Buren

Man's Popularity With Kids Is Problematic for Parents

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 38-year-old man with no children. For some reason I tend to attract the attention of children wherever I go. Even though I make no attempt to speak to them, they often approach me. I know when children talk to strangers it makes their parents uncomfortable, but I don't want to be rude to the kids.

I was recently eating at an outdoor restaurant when a friendly little girl walked up, sat herself down at my table, and began asking me questions. I was terse but polite. She was soon joined by several other kids, all of whom seated themselves at my table.

Their parents, who had obviously not been paying attention, shouted at them to "get away from that man!" It created an embarrassing scene with the parents telling me I had no business talking to their kids. The other diners looked at me as though I was some kind of pervert.

I don't want to be rude to children, but what can I do to prevent things like this from happening again? -- CRYING "UNCLE" IN TEXAS

DEAR "UNCLE": The parents overreacted. The next time a child approaches and wants to talk, ask the child, "Did your mother/father say it was OK to talk to a stranger?" If the answer is no, then tell the child he/she must first ask a parent for permission.