Yesterday we were leaving the community centre after the kids’ soccer tournament, and there was a little boy, probably 2 years old, about to run across a very busy street. He was crying and could not speak intelligibly, but he was asking for his mommy. Another family had stopped and kept him from going across the street, but he was determinedly hysterical that his mom was over there and he needed to get to her. We stopped and I got out to help. He had no concept of traffic. He was a little aboriginal kid with a mouth full of capped silver teeth like baby-bottle mouth kids get. We tried to herd him back into the club but he was adamant. He couldn’t or wouldn’t tell us his name or where he lived. Soon, a smaller girl, who was, by resemblance, obviously his sister, and still in diapers, wandered around the corner of the club from the opposite direction. She was not upset. The little boy went to her when he saw her but he was still crying hard and wanting to go across the busy street. When he made a break for the road I scooped him up and carried him kicking and screaming into the club. There were no adults in the vicinity who appeared to be looking for them. I suggested we call the police. Another mom agreed, just as a very pregnant aboriginal woman came in through the back door of the club. While the kids did not immediately run for her, they did go to her and I was satisfied enough with their reaction that I felt comfortable leaving, assuming that she was someone they at least knew.
Our kids, sitting in the van with Trevor, watched this process and, of course, asked questions when I got back to them. Who was that kid? Where was his mom? Why was he scared? Why was the little girl not scared? Did his mom come back? I tried to tone down the experience and not make a big deal about it, but I was a bit rattled. I realized how lucky our kids are. They trust us implicitly, because we have never given them reason not to trust us. They have a safe home, and a nice new van with car seats and parents who can, and do, enroll them in soccer and swimming lessons. I am thankful every day that I do not need to worry about them when I go to work, because I am satisfied that their caregivers are trustworthy and nurturing and I have absolute faith that they are safe.
It would be easy to assume that these wandering kids are poorly parented and live in the low-income project behind the club, not the middle-income neighbourhood across the busy street where the kid was headed. I am hoping that their mom, or babysitter, or whoever, was in the bathroom for a minute and the kids just opened the door and wandered away, got turned around, and couldn’t remember how to get home. I hope that she was just as panicked when she realized they were gone as Trevor was the day Jack had his adventure. I keep telling myself ‘there but for the grace of Someone go I’, because it can happen so fast. Unfortunately, I think in this case, my benefit of the doubt may be overly generous. I wonder how long until they get away and get good and lost or hurt. I wonder if she knows how lucky she is (and they are) that it was us and not some pervert, or a semi doing 70 km per hour who found them.
While I ought not assume that these two little lost kids are/were poorly parented, seeing them and their silver teeth and their unintelligible language, makes me grateful that mine have two parents who are, perhaps, attentive to a fault, educated, and who were able to give them the advantage of planned pregnancies with all the benefits contained therein. I give that credit to Trevor and I being attentively-parented, which gave us the tools to make good choices about behaviour and education and when and under what circumstances to have children, not to mention role-models. It all filters down. Our parents gave us good advantages, and we are giving the same ones to the next generation. Cycles are hard to break, good or bad.
Having said that, there is obviously a cycle at work in the lives of those two little kids, but I am not a generous enough human being not to pass some judgment on their mom (assuming she was not at work and the barely-interested pregnant woman was a babysitter or something). It’s a character flaw, but one I readily acknowledge. I was lucky; I had little, if anything to overcome. She would get a lot more credit from me if she managed to break the cycle. It’s not fair, it sucks, but if she is to fully accept the responsibility that she took on when she had (and kept) those kids, she she has a collateral responsibility to make a concerted effort to give them a safe and healthy upbringing. Assuming, of course, my impressions of their family situation are correct.
Ok, comment away. It’s late, I’ve been judgmental enough for one night. It may not have been eloquent (in fact a little stream-of-consciousness, in review), but it all boils down to what I consider a parent’s responsibility. Give it your best shot. Maybe I can elaborate in response. But, if you don’t mind, sign your comments, so I know to whom to direct my defense.