There were many other mothers there that day but oddly enough, they weren’t doing any of the things we were. In fact, they were happily parked on benches yapping with each other like they were at Starbucks with a nanny at home. In the meantime, their children were terrorizing ours in ways that would have gotten them arrested if they were a few years older. My girlfriend’s three-year-old made it all the way to the top of a very precarious perch just to have some overanxious boy shove her off. She fell about 10 feet to the inflated surface below, unharmed but scared and screaming. The boy, about 6, never even looked back, his mother an invisible mystery. No adult came forward to claim the vicious little brat or to reprimand him and demand an apology for this anti-social behavior. My 5-year-old made a beeline for him and told him off in her babyish way. “That wasn’t nice!” she said in her best Mommy voice. He shoved past her and went on with his reign of terror.
Two minutes later, my 2-year-old was happily standing on top of a plastic baby slide just watching the chaos in front of her when another little boy, old enough to know better (7?), came charging up to the slide, grabbed the whole thing, and started rocking it and tipping it over. Something snapped inside my brain as I watched my baby’s face shrink in terror as this monster tried to topple her tower with her in it. I was on him in less than four seconds. I dug my fingers into his ribs and shouted at him, “NO!” in the exact same voice I reserve for the dog when he’s got my shoes.
He dropped the playset and turned to me, shocked, and I continued to scold him uncaring of who was watching. I’m not sure what I said, something about manners and ending up in jail, but I hope he’ll remember it the next time he tries to harm a baby. I looked up, expecting to face his either sheepish or angry parent and to my surprise, no one came. He disappeared into the melee and that was that.
These are only two of the episodes that occurred in that hour. Other, equally disturbing acts of torment continued for our time there, and in no instance did any parent but my friend or me intervene. This parenting trend to outright ignore one’s children is puzzling but everywhere. I’m no Parent of the Year here. I mean — I ignore my kids plenty when we’re at home and they’re safe and I have stuff to do. But to take them out somewhere were they could hurt themselves or others and ignore them is an outrage. But I have a solution that I’ve decided can reverse this problem, but it will require your help: We’re going to engage in verbal fisticuffs.