Friday, May 13, 2011

Playground Politics - A Rant

Yesterday morning, at a local park: Kids were everywhere, mamas and day-care providers, too. Everyone was soaking up the glorious sunshine and basking in the glow of our brand-spanking new playground equipment.

Luke headed directly for a giant climbing rock and began putting his Croc-clad feet into child-sized toeholds, grinning. Matthew was soon shrieking down the slide, Isabella fast behind him, both of them laughing. All was well.

I turned to greet some mothers I know, cooed over a five-month-old princess, let my gaze scan the park every now again, seeking the children, one by one. Luke = rock. Matthew = swings. Isabella = slide.

Check. Check. Check.

A few minutes passed and I again eye-swept the area: Luke is still on the rock. Matthew is playing soccer, while nearby, Isabella builds sandcastles. Wow, Luke must love those rocks. He’s been in that same spot for about 5 minute….


I jogged over and was mortified to discover that Luke hadn’t been gazing about in wonder, as I’d assumed. Instead, he’d gotten stuck and then scared and, unable to move had been crying the whole freaking time.

Feeling awful, I quickly scooped him off the rock and into my arms, shushing and bouncing his heaving little body. I then glanced over to the three mothers standing a few steps away, let my jaw drop as they merely glanced back and walked away.

My son had been BAWLING for close to 5 minutes and they did nothing. Not. One. Bloody.Thing. No helping him up or down, no motioning me over. NOTHING.

This has irritated and saddened me so much. I cannot seem to let it go:

First of all, I am angry with myself for not noticing sooner, but I refuse to beat myself for it any longer. All afternoon is enough. But am also angry at three –count ‘em, THREE – mothers who could not step out of their own comfort zone long enough to wind an arm around a crying child and help him to safety. 

It takes a village, my ass.

A friend suggested that it’s society’s fault – that people are too afraid to reach out for fear of being sued or misunderstood or worse.

I guess I get that. I don’t actually accept that – especially not for me or my children – but I get it. But it saddens and angers me, all the same. Is THIS what we’re teaching our children - to be afraid to offer a helping hand? To know that strangers are not friends we haven’t met yet?

Surely, that can’t be right.

Is it?

 If you were those mothers, what would you have done? Any similar stories out there?


  1. I would never leave a child crying and not offer help. I couldn't live with myself if I hadn't. I am after all, a Mother/Woman/Human Being. Strangers ARE friends we have not yet met. I cannot afford to think the opposite of that. If I were to do so, I would not be able to make connections with other humans. Human connections are a basic need for human survival. We lose our minds without connections, without love of all degrees.

    Not wanting to get sued? That is a whole lot of crap! DO THE RIGHT THING! Our children learn from example.

    Then again, the 3 numbskulls could have just been that - numb in the skull. I can only hope that yesterday's gathering of people at the park was some kind of shitty anomaly, because I tell you - after what I saw going on there - I am not likely to allow my kids into unstructured daycare anytime soon.

    Liz, you have nothing to beat yourself up about. If we don't let go, they just don't learn. You can't prevent every hurt, every mistake. If you could - you would be a robot. A cool wonder-woman robot (of course), but definitely not human. In our efforts to strive for perfection (cause we are just that nuts) we mustn't forget that a perfect human is riddled with failures.

  2. I too, Dolphin, cannot get on board with the "I could get sued" cop-out. While Karla Holmolka and Terri-Lynne McClintic have shown us that female predators do exist, it is still an overwhelmingly huge percentage of that particular brand of evil that are men. So huge is that percentage that I highly doubt many of us would look at a woman in a poplulated park tending to a crying child and think "predator".
    No, I'm afraid this was just a plain ole case of "not my kid, not my problem" cold, apathetic dismissal. And of all the heart-wrenching, sigh inducing feelings this brings up in me, two stand out the most. 1) These poor excuses for humans and even poorer excuses for mothers will likely never be held accountable for their reprehensible behaviour and 2) that this kind of crap always seems to find YOU, the most sensitive, nurturing, kind-hearted, open-minded person I have ever known. One of these days, dear Dolphin, this will happen when I am around and trust me, more than glances will be thrown. I'll go Leanne-nice all over their asses!!


  3. That breaks my heart. I can't imagine letting a child who is obviously afraid or in pain just wail when I can help. What incredibly selfish women.

  4. There's a reason that you're all my friends -because you GET how asinine it was, for them to have done nothing.

    MamaB - I so wish you'd have seen it, because I suspect you'd have gone all Leanne-nice on their butts.

    Leanne, meet MamaB - I think you're gonna get along famously!

    Karen - It sorta breaks my heart, too. Poor Luke.

  5. That is crazy!! How can you stand there listening and not DO SOMETHING?!?! He's a little kid and needed help! I would have gotten him out in heartbeat and walked over to you with him to explain. Poor Luke, he was probably wondering why non of those Mommies were helping him. =(

  6. I help kids all the time, society-be-damned!

    I'm glad Luke's okay now.

    Love, Sarah xo

  7. It IS crazy, isn't it? I help kids all the time, too. Luke's fine, but he was likely quite bewildered as to why I wasn't coming over AND why no other mum stepped in.

    I've taught the boys to look for a mom, should they ever get lost. A mum with a stroller or kids. Mums always help, I said.

    Here's hoping that the Trio aren't the mums they stumble upon, should they ever need help,eh?

  8. Fortunately if you could see Luke, he could also see you. So even though he was stuck and those callous ladies didn't help, he knew you were not far away and that a good cry would have you come running. He's lucky to have you.

  9. So sweet, Veronica. You're right - eventually, he knew on some level, I'd get to him. And if there are tears, I usually get there faster!

  10. Unfortunately Liz this is where we are today. People are not neighbors anymore, they just happen to live in the same town as you. We are so detached that it is sickening. When I was young and growing up in Bowmanville,we used to go downtown once a week. My mother would pack Jason and I in a wagon and away we went. Back then we knew every second person that we passed, but even if we did not, my Mom always said "Good Morning!". Our society today drives home,parks in the garage, draws the curtains and thats it! We are so alienated from one another that our world is not what it used to be. I can tell you that as a Dad if I had been standing nearby and young Luke was stuck and crying I would not have hesitated and helped him out. But thats just me and my old fashioned small town values I guess ;)

  11. Do you really believe that, Jamie? Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. *I* am that person who says "Good Morning!" to strangers and waves at trains. Is it a small-town thing?

    You raise some good - though sad and disturbing points about how disconnected we are, as neighbours, as townspeople, as a society.

    I guess the next question should be: how do we CHANGE it? How do we become a society of people who automatically help, who bid good morning and good night and who know who our neighbours are?

  12. It's up to the individual to think and act as a neighbor, isn't it? I am definitely interested in living in a neighborhood and being part of a village. I want to be part of that "It takes a village..." and I want my kids to have that support around them. I don't think that's asking too much. I guess the buck stops here. What can I do to encourage or coax others in our town into being the village neighborhood ideal?

    "If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of being." -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    SIGH. If only I could be that... I don't know, Good? Loving? Forgiving?

    I think I need my own blog.

  13. K Belly, you are freaking me out. I wrote my last post while you were writing yours.

  14. Kindred spirits do that, MamaB.

    Overall, I think that Belleville IS a friendly place, like its nickname suggests. It's a town, wrapped in "City" paper. But then again, I came here expecting good things and hopeful that I would meet like-minded people. So far, I have been very, very lucky and that is my reality. I think it's why I am so jarred when I stumble upon people who AREN'T that way. You know?

    Can you move your crew over a few streets? Mine's pretty good and most of our neighbours are awesome - I'll share 'em with you!

    You DO need your own blog - get on it! (But don't stop commenting on mine!)

  15. It's hard to believe. And sad. Where is the empathy? If not for the child, for the mother?