The other day, after dropping the two older boys off at school and sweating my ass off on the exercise bike, Soren and I decided that it was too beautiful to spend the day inside. So we decided to hit a local park and enjoy the non boiling weather.
When we got to one of the smaller parks near our house we were the only ones around. Soren played on the slides, the swing, the rock wall, and had a ball. I watched him, cheered him on, and checked up on my email on my phone. And then suddenly we weren't alone. In front of me was a little boy smiling, holding a basketball. I looked around for the parents, happy that there was another child for Soren to play with, and to say hi. but as I looked around, I realized that there was no one else here. Just me, Soren, and this little boy.
This little boy was the FRIENDLIEST little kid you have ever met. He sat right down next to me and started talking like we had known each other all of our lives instead of 2.5 seconds. While he kept talking, I continued to scan the area looking for someone who had to have been there with him.
Nothing. No one. Not even a glimpse. My super awesome rebel parent powers kicked into gear. Something wasn't right.
So I asked the kid how old he was. He was five, Ashe's age. And then I asked him where his parents were. He told me they dropped him off at the park while they went to a few stores. What stores, I asked? He didn't know. Did he live nearby? Maybe somewhere you could see from the park? He lived within walking distance, but you had to walk down a lot of streets to get there.
This kid was all alone in the middle of downtown with no supervision. Fuck.
So I waited around for a good 30 minutes, hoping that SOMEONE would show up for this kid, but no one did. So finally, after a lot of "WWSRMD"? SRM decided to call the police. The police were happy that I called, because like me, they thought five was waaaaay too young to be by themselves at a park with no supervision.
They came by, got the same story from the kid, looked around the park and came to the same conclusion that I did (the kid was definitely by himself). By this time no parents had shown up, and it had been over an hour that this little boy was on his own. When the police finally told me I could leave they had gotten Child Protection Services on the case. I went home quietly with Soren, all sorts of fucked up. Why? because I have a kid this boys age and I could never, EVER imagine him by himself for so long. Images of "What if's" ran through my head for hours:
- what if the kid ran into the road to chase his ball?
- what if the kid fell off the playground and got hurt?
- what if the kid talked to a stranger who WASN'T a mom?
- what if the kid left the park and got lost?
- what if he was kidnapped, or worse yet, killed?
- what if it was my child?
When the boys got home from school we had a very serious talk about this incident. We talked about stranger danger. We talked about what to do if they got lost. We talked about how it's never ok to go off by yourself without telling your parents. we talked about how it's not ok for parents to leave you alone. We've had these talks before, but it really hit home for all of us when faced with this real incident. Even Ashe knew right off the bat that it was never ok for him to be at a playground or anywhere without an adult.
The next day CPS called me to recheck my story and to fill me in. Supposedly both parents were home, and the little boy had been over at the neighbors house. When the kids went inside the house, instead of going in with them or going home, the little boy headed to the park without telling anyone. Supposedly the parents thought he was at the neighbors house. Supposedly when the kid didn't come home they started to get frantic. Supposedly they were worried sick until the police showed up.
So here is my opinion. Supposed my ass. Why? Because of the line that both parents were home, and frantic. I smell bullshit. If our son was missing, J and I both agreed wholeheartedly that one of us would be out pounding the pavement, screaming our kids name at the top of our lungs, and stopping every single person we passed asking if they saw our boy. The other parent would be home, on the phone with the police, news stations, and friends setting up a search party. No way in hell would we both be home, wringing our hands without having at least called the police.
While it is out of my hands now and the kid is home and hopefully safe, this is still bothering the hell out of me. I'm not usually a judgemental parent. But on this case, I judge. And all I can hope is that the parents learned how NOT OK this kind of parenting is, and that they were BEYOND lucky another parent was concerned enough to call for help, instead of a pedophile finding their child. They were BEYOND lucky this kid didn't get hurt and break his neck on the playground. They were BEYOND lucky to get their kid back. And I hope that with the police showing up on the doorstep and with CPS involved,that they realize how serious this was and they get their act together. When you have kids you have a responsibility to feed them, clothe them, house them, love them, and KEEP THEM SAFE.
And I swear to Bob, if I see that kid on the playground again by himself, there will be SRM hell to pay. So keep that kid safe and watched over. Or I will come beat your ass for shitty parenting.