Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Toddler Left Alone At Park!

I started to explain to someone recently why I originally decided to step up and start a blog. The story chokes me up so this post is going to be in draft mode for a little while until I feel I've been able to express my thoughts well. So if I am kind of all over the place with my days, it's because it took a while to post this...

One day during the summer, DH, the kids & I all went to see my nephew play Little League baseball at a park in northwest Davenport, Iowa. There were three fields, all totally packed but we eventually found him. (Probably would have helped if we knew what his uniform looked like!) We watched him for a little while before the kids just got impatient. We decided to take them to the playground to play on the swings. The playground was close enough to the ball field that we could see the game anyway.

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When we got to the playground, there were a few kids there... and no adults. Most of the kids were "old enough" to play by themselves, I guess. At least I remember being about that age and getting to play at the ball field playground with my friends. As a parent, I can firmly say that I don't think I'll let my kids play out of my visual range until they are driving their own cars. There was one girl on the swing who I guess I could say was old enough to be alone. Alongside her in one of the toddler/baby swings was a little boy, couldn't have been more than two. He couldn't talk, or at least didn't. I figured she was keeping an eye on him while their parents were watching one of the games. She wasn't really playing with him - he was just sitting in the swing. Not swinging. So I asked if he needed a push but he didn't answer. The girl spoke up and said something about him being alone. Excuse me? Alone? I asked "Isn't he your brother?" and she again replied "No, I think he's alone." I looked at my watch to mentally note the time and subsequently checked my watch every 30 seconds for the next 10 minutes.

It was about that time that I decided I needed to do something. I sat on my hands, giving the mom more time to get back, while I looked around. In my mind, I kept thinking, "Thank goodness there wasn't some stalker around." The road was extremely close and cars were parked right there. If another adult approached, I was going to act like he was mine. I started looking around for the concession stand and decided if another minute passed, I was taking the child - screaming, if necessary - to the concession stand or the nearest police officer that I could find.

Shortly after that, a mom, with another child in tow, came strolling back along the pathway from the nearby restroom. I don't know if she was in the restroom or at the field just beyond the restroom, but I didn't really care. She had left that child alone. ALONE. Maybe she didn't realize how long she was gone... or maybe I'm just tarnished from having lived in Los Angeles.

When DH and I first realized that she was the mom (dare I call her incompetent or stupid), he said "Do you want me to say something?" He was just as annoyed and angry as I was. I told him I would think about it. She walked up to the child and said something to the effect of "Hey Bubba. You ready to go?" She pulled him out of the swing and headed back the way she came and continued to the ball field. As she headed off to the field, I sat there steaming, wishing I had let him give her a piece of his mind. After several minutes of being sick to my stomach, I said "Maybe I'll go over to the field and say something." He told me if I wanted to say something, when she first came back would have been the time to do it...

So here I am, months later, still stewing about this one 'insignificant' event in my life. It brings me to tears when I talk about it, even to my husband. I tell him that I'm kicking myself for not doing something. Last night, as we recapped the event and discussed the blog, he said "You didn't 'do nothing', Nicole. You watched him and made sure he was okay. That's not 'nothing'." (Thanks, honey, I guess I didn't think of it that way.)

So here is my official 'something'... putting it out there for others to see. Maybe that mom, maybe other moms, maybe just to clear my conscience. It's only Iowa, but bad stuff happens here sometimes too. For now, I'll stand behind my statement that my kids will be driving before I let loose of the reins.


  • WhiteTigress

    I am sorry that you had to endure such an emotional situation. I don't know what I would have done if it would have been me. I know that staying with the boy was the best thing anyone could do. Talking to people when I'm mad isn't my strong point, so I most likely would have stayed quiet too. I hope that people read this blog entry of yours and think hard and long about it, and also pass it on to others. This world isn't a safe place anymore. Even in a town as small as the one I live in, I won't let my 8 year old play by herself at the park area of the ball diamond my son plays at. Your kids are lucky to have a mom like you.

  • wheresthebox

    Wow, I have no idea what I would do in that situation! I can't even imagine doing something like that.

  • Jeanne Hammer

    I'd have done pretty much the same as you, Nicole. Watched over the kid and when it was time for ME to go, he'd have gone with to the concession stand where they'd have to make an announcement to claim him. How awful to leave a toddler alone that long. I wonder what she does in the "comfortableness" of her own home?