By Laura LaVoie
This really happened to me.
A couple of years ago I was at a camping festival with some friends. Two of us are child-free by choice and the other is one of the coolest Moms I know. Her son has successfully grown into adulthood. Even so, none of us are particularly maternal. In fact, I would argue that we’re not maternal at all.
One hot afternoon we decided to sit in the swimming pond at the campground to keep cool. We perched at the edge of the water and chatted. Next thing we knew, a Mom arrived with her very young child.
They walked to the water’s edge and sat just a few feet from us. I’m bad at judging babies’ ages, but the child was old enough to hold its head up, but not so good at sitting upright for prolonged periods of time.
Then, without a word, the mother walked away.
The three of us were perplexed. Were we supposed to watch the kid? If so, I don’t think it occurred to the Mom that this was a supremely bad idea.
Within minutes, we noticed that the kid was starting to lean over, getting closer to the water. Right then, another adult walked by, so we said, “Hey, that kid is going to end up face down in the water.” That person intervened. I don’t think he was related to the kid either.
In my opinion it was not, in any way, shape, or form, our responsibility to protect this kid. Especially when we weren’t asked to do so.
I recently read some Facebook commentary where a Mom complained about “child-haters” in public. The woman suggested that rather than scowling or saying something negative to parents, commenters on behavior should calmly and politely correct the child, because “It takes a village, after all.”
Well, sure, if that village is part of a consensual agreement. See, I am not part of that village. I do not want responsibility for any child, much less yours. I opted out. How dare I assume that parents will make sure their children don’t encroach on my personal space?
I have a lot of social anxiety around little kids. I don’t feel like I should be expected to take care of a child just because I am adult. That is why I don’t have parties at my house where kids are invited. I would spend less time enjoying my own party and more time worrying about whether or not the kids were safe in my house, or my house was safe from the kids.
And what happens when non-parents do intervene?
My brother-in-law tells a story of being at a popular buffet restaurant when a toddler ran unattended around the food stations. My BIL is a large man, and when the little kid ran into his leg, she fell down. Without thinking about it he reached down, picked her up, and placed her back on her feet so she could continue running the opposite direction.
“You snatched up my grandbaby!” The shrieks of the child’s guardian echoed through the buffet. He suggested maybe she would want to make sure the kid didn’t run into anyone else because she could get hurt. The grandmother actually called the police.
She didn’t thank him. She didn’t ignore him. She immediately called the police because he dared to touch her free-range child.
It appears that a non-parent’s conduct toward children out-of-control in public is a no-win situation.
What is supposed to happen when a Mom leaves one of us with the responsibility of watching her child without warning? We’re told it takes a village, but if we didn’t ask for the task, and choose to shut up and mind our own business, are we out of the village? When were we inducted? I get so easily confused.
(Original Post Date: 6.11.15)