Friends, I need to take a break from cooking posts to talk about something that has been grinding my gears. I've learned from experience lately that, "It happened so fast" isn't something people say to absolve themselves of neglectful parenting: Even the most watchful and concerned toddler parent misses something going into the mouth or a wrong step on the playground because it happens approximately 700 times a day and most of us can only handle 699 incidents.
But let me back up. A few weeks ago, M, who is fascinated by elevators, attempted to make a solo journey in our local library. The entire first floor is a kids' section, which means that the elevator's gaping maw is right beside the board books. As we sat on the floor reading stories, the elevator opened and he made a run for it. I wasn't far behind, but several adults watched my then 16-month-old streak into an empty elevator alone and made no attempt to help. No one stuck a hand out to keep the door open, no one engaged M before he ran through the doors, nothing. Luckily, I'm also quick, but I could definitely have used an assist.
Cut to last week, my mother-in-law was watching M at a nearby bookstore that has a great kids' section. Not surprisingly, there is always a scrum of strollers parked near the entryway. In order to find our stroller, my MIL had to put M down for a second and he ran right out of the bookstore's (VERY EASY TO OPEN) door. Again, she was right behind him and disaster was averted, but a few more seconds and he could have run into traffic on Columbus Avenue. And again, several bookstore employees and patrons as well as people passing on the street just watched as my MIL ran after a very small child darting from a bookstore. When she told me about it, she was most upset that no one had helped.
And then this week, M fell on the playground and skinned his nose. Certainly not a catastrophic injury and something that happens to everyone, but I can't even count the number of people-- strangers at street corners, cashiers in stores, etc-- who have asked about it. The drugstore cashier was the worst, asking if M had been BURNED. I'm sorry Dr. CVS, MD, but what the hell? It's a scab! It looks terrible and is in the middle of his face, so I understand that people will see it, but COME ON! If he had been burned, that would have been a terrible story that I certainly wouldn't want to share with a random stranger ringing up my deoderant and water.
At first I fought my irritation telling myself, "You can't have it both ways." If I want a village to help raise my kid, I can't pick and choose when they get involved, right? WRONG! The people asking about M's nose weren't trying to help. They were being nosy (pun!) and judgemental. (Maybe I'm just projecting my own guilt that I couldn't stop M from getting hurt, but I don't think so. I live in the real world where the internet is to judgment what standing water is to mosquitoes.) But those watching as M ran away from his caretakers could really have helped and yet they stood by and did nothing.
Is it the Kitty Genovese theory that college students learn in intro psych classes? You know, the one where bystanders assume that someone else is helping and therefore, do nothing? Are people that afraid of lawsuits that they won't grab a toddler running into the street if it isn't their toddler? Well I say, FUCK THAT. If I see a kid about to fall or get hurt, I'm going to stick out a hand. If I see a little one leaving the playground unattended, I'm going to ask where their grownup is. And when I hear about or see someone else's injury or tragedy, I'm going to remember that just because that particular injury or tragedy didn't happen to me, it's probably not because I'm a better parent. Who's with me?