While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On "never leaving my children with a stranger":
You've had a built-in audience for this, because your children are always present, watching your decisions. What they're learning is that everyone's to be feared until they've proven themselves.
If that's the message you want them to take away, then I'd suggest being prepared for them to take your position to the opposite extreme. There are true red flags out there, people who are legitimately untrustworthy, but if you continue on this path, you aren't teaching them how to sensibly meet and evaluate new people. By teaching them that everyone's a threat, you have chosen not to teach them how to identify real warning signs. So one day they'll figure out that no, actually, most people are okay. And when that happens, they won't have the skills to properly figure out when something's seriously wrong, and they'll go too far in the "trust everybody whee!" direction.
Also, the implied incredulity that anyone could possibly feel differently than you about "a stranger" is probably not helpful.
On discovering you're out of the in crowd:
Groups implode, fade, reconstitute, and more in so many ways. The tapestry is much more interesting with the many hues of the threads that flow through the years.
Step back, people, and really look at who you enjoy; that is where friends form the groups, where people flow in and out of over the years.
Do you really want it any other way? I'm in an inner circle of friends and one outer circle and that's finally just fine, though some people are still not comfortable with it, sounding tentative about talking more with some people and not with me.
I make my life full to overflowing with the people I care about and that's all that really matters to me. And it took a lifetime.
In With All My Friends