Other People’s Children

I took my children out today for lunch. Since our family is down to one vehicle for the time being, and my husband drives it to work Monday through Friday, we rode our bikes. Fortunately we live less than a mile from a nice park along the Sinnissippi Recreational path, and just a few blocks further takes us to my favorite 24 hour diner.

We had our fill of lunch and rode directly to the park, which was deserted when we first arrived. This was about 11:30 am (give or take) and the boys were ready to RUN! They had a lot of fun, and I’m grateful they were mostly oblivious to the shining examples of modern humanity we saw there. They enjoyed the day, and I came away with a true sense of heartbreak and concern for the future of society.

First concerning thing I noticed that day; there were condom wrappers (fruity flavors!) on the ground just outside the playground’s border of wooden pilings.More than one had apparently been used in the vicinity, and as disturbing as this was to me I just couldn’t bring myself to pick them up and throw them away. Maybe I’m a bad person, but… ugh.

Next we had to make an emergency bike run to the bathrooms, which are all the way on the other side of a field the size of maybe four baseball diamonds. We rode right over and while my youngest was doing his #2 in the toilet (WOOHOO! No accidents all week!) a man and a woman (I’m using these grownup titles, but they could have been teenagers) walk past fighting. When I say fighting, I mean he’s calling her all sorts of wonderful colorful terms that I won’t repeat here, but they were as bad as you can probably imagine, and she’s beating him. He continues berating her, only parts of which I can make out, and threatening her verbally while she continues to beat him (hard) over the head with a plastic bag she’s carrying. Occasionally she’d kick at him (also, not playing but HARD) but the two never slowed or stopped walking. My 9 year old is on his bike quietly taking this in (thanks, assholes) and fortunately my 4 year old is busy making me “super proud” of him for his responsible bathroom use. I decide not to call the police because they’re moving through the park and will soon be gone, and no one seems to be getting hurt badly enough to stop walking or yelling.

After this passes, we head back to the playground where the kids continue pretending to be pirates and hiding and go-seeking for a while with nothing more than the usual slightly-older kid that’s annoying but not really breaking any significant rules. Then I notice a little boy pushing my older son’s bike around inside the playground. He’s walking it across the wooden mulch chips toward us and I point out to my son, “That kid’s got your bike and you need to go get it”. The little boy is small and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere with it -in fact he came right to me after I pointed him out.

To his credit, he did ask me to let him “just sit on it” for a few minutes. This child eventually sat with another mother (who my friend and I had casually chatted with and borrowed a band-aid from) and she began to question him. He revealed that he was here by himself, looking for his friend. He was 6 years old and lived on the other side of the busy four-lane road that bordered the park and bridged over the river and path. While the three of us exchanged concerned glances, the boy answered that he had no mother, that she was in jail, that his father was either at home watching TV or in jail but that we didn’t need to take him home because his dad “didn’t care” that he was out, and regaled us with tales of sleeping in the holding cage while his father was incarcerated and going to his grandma’s house when his dad “couldn’t wake up”.

My friend is a graduate student in elementary education, and while we pulled out phones and debated which agency to call -two police cars began patrolling the path. After she walked over and told them where to find him (they had been called because he’d been spotted wandering alone at a restaurant several blocks further away earlier in the day) he seemed frightened. He backpedaled like a professional con.

It really tugs at my heartstrings to see a child so young and vulnerable wandering out into the world without a single responsible adult to wonder where he’s gone. If this is how we deal with responsibility, with our own young children, what is going to happen to humanity?

Is it jumping to conclusions if this whole situation makes me acutely aware of all the other people in the world harming their children either directly or through neglect? Being a part of this situation today, on the heels of the Caylee Anthony case, really makes me worry for all of us. If even half of the pro-lifers out there foaming at the mouth to stop abortion would turn their passion toward improving the lives of the children who have already been born and abandoned or neglected in this country… maybe we’d have a shot.

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