Only a few people know this story because I was so upset by it when it happened. But, in light of recent discussions on blame, shame, accountability and the ever illusive ‘village,’ I am finding the courage to share.
About a year ago, the boys and I were outside playing, as per usual. I’ll paint the picture as best I can for this specific day. We live on a cul de sac with five other houses and we are the corner property. From the time my oldest was learning to ride his scooter and balance bike, we came up with rules for how far to go on either side of the circle. Without fail, they know where to stop and turn around.
During the day, our small street is usually empty minus one elderly neighbor and us; our cross street is also relatively quiet, only a few cars pass by each hour, I’d say.
On this particular day, I was doing some organizing in the garage while the boys were riding bikes and scooters. The garage is attached to the house and faces the street where they were riding on the side walk. They would ride past the garage about every 60 seconds or so but were also busy yelling to each other about who was winning the race, so on this day, I had either eyes or ears on them at all times.
And, to be honest, this is not even always the case. I often work outside while they are playing which means I’m staring at my computer while they ride or chase or climb.
I guess this is one of those times with parenting that no matter what, according to one person or the other, I’d be making the wrong choice. I’m either a bad parent for putting them in front of the TV while I work or I’m a bad parent for not keeping my eyes on them every single second. Or maybe I should work when they sleep and not sleep myself. Or, or, or…
Back to the story.
It was time to go inside for lunch, so we were cleaning up the toys when a police car came down our cross street, which was odd. Then they turned into our circle, this was very odd. Then they pulled into our driveway. What is going on???
The boys and I all froze and stared at the police car in our driveway. The cop waved me over and as I got closer he said, “We got a call that there was an unsupervised 2 year old wandering the street.”
I don’t think I said anything at all because I could not process what was happening.
He quickly followed up with, “But, it looks like they are being supervised.” I said something to the effect of, “I was in the garage” and pointed in it’s direction. He took a quick glance around and decided everything was fine.
As he pulled away I realized I was shaking and the boys were looking at me. Looking at me for an explanation of what happened and for clues on how to act. I’m sure they could sense that I was stressed, upset, confused and instead of thinking, ‘hey, cool a police car!’ they were clearly concerned. We went inside and I explained as best I could that he was just checking up on us to make sure everything was okay. Luckily, that satisfied their innocent little minds and they moved on quickly.
I gave them some food and sat them in front of the TV.
I sat down and tried to process what had just happened.
Someone drove past my house and saw my 2 year old riding his scooter and assumed he was outside by himself. They didn’t stop their car and get out. They didn’t assess the situation to make sure he was safe. They didn’t knock on my door to make sure everything was okay. They didn’t even call out to see if there was an adult within ear shot. They called the police and drove away. They felt that this child was in need of police care but not their care.
Was it not important to them what actually happened to him? They were concerned enough to call the police but did they not feel some responsibility for his safety? Did they think that their 30-60 second evaluation of the scene was enough to assume negligence or abandonment?
All I could think was ‘where do I live and who are these people around me that would do this?’ They placed a judgment on me and/or my child’s safety but showed no concern for our actual well being.
This is my village? This is my community?
I was very, very upset. I couldn’t help but think that if something had actually been amiss that day, if my son had gotten out without my knowledge, if something had happened to me… That the one person who drove by and saw him and thought he was alone would have just driven away because it wasn’t their problem.
It took a while for me to stop harping on it in my own head, and now writing about it all has me agitated all over again, but I think it’s important for us all to remember to look out for each other. Try not to assume the worst but if you do, dig deeper. Get out of your car and look around.