Mama bear and inner hysteric show faces at same time - not pretty

When it comes to my child, I often fail at keeping my innner mama bear in check. Today, my son, who is 4, was riding his bike to school. He wobbled a bit, as he always does, but he usually stays upright.

I was walking maybe 10 feet behind my child when a stranger started moving towards my son, grabbed him by the shoulders and stopped him. "I know you're trying to help," I all but growled, "but please don't touch my child."

The man said nothing and kept walking. Guilt washed over me. This man thought he was preventing a fall, and I lectured him. Don't I want people looking out for my child?

My rational brain told me I overreacted, gave in to hysteria about strangers. But my gut is telling me the man's actions, even if well-intentioned, were strange. My son was not heading into traffic, after all. The man could presumably see that I was watching and not concerned about an imminent crash.

Paranoia is never pretty, but how do you tell the difference between a benevolent stranger and a psycho? Occasionally, people will start talking to me and my son. Sometimes, one of them will ask him his name. They never ask mine, and I don't want a stranger knowing his name. One time, when a man asked my son his name, I blurted, "Do we know each other?"

Turned out the guy was my new neighbor, and I feel like I got off to a bad start with him. Why didn't I have the presence to extend my hand and say, "I'm Miriam"?

How do you handle these situations?