I got to flex my Crone muscle yesterday and I discovered that it is very well-developed. Coming out of Hobby Lobby, I passed a young woman with a double stroller and a small boy perhaps 4 or 5 years old. The boy was crying and, from the mom's comments, it was clear she had just spanked him. Now, I've been known to spank a kid or two myself, so I didn't get alarmed about that, but what happened next really made me angry.
Mom got to the entrance of Hobby Lobby, put the boy up against the wall outside, and went in with the other two kids. I watched for a bit, thinking she would never leave him there, but she did. She strolled far enough away that I could no longer see her and, of course, the little boy couldn't either. That just made my blood boil. Besides being criminally stupid from a safety point, it was also a calculated terror tactic inflicted on a child too young to know that his mother wasn't really going to leave him behind. (And, you know, sometimes they do leave the kid behind.)
I walked back to the store from my car. I had given her quite a bit of time to return by the time I got to the store's vestibule. I walked by the boy, still crying, and said, "I'm going to talk to your mommy." Inside, I told her, in a calm, firm voice, "If you leave him there, I am going to call the police." You know, it didn't faze her as much as I expected. She told me she wasn't leaving him, she put him in time out. I pointed out that he was terrified and that she darn well knew it. She rejoined that she could see him, so everything was fine. I pointed out that he couldn't see her, so that was not fine. "Kids can't see there parents in time out at home," was her justification. "This is not your home and this is not a safe place," was my final comment.
Mom decided to retrieve the child and I decided to go to my car. I didn't get in it, though, until I saw mom walk away with all three children in tow. When I first approached her, the mother was at the far end of the Hobby Lobby vestibule from where she had left her child. If someone had driven by in a car and seen an opportunity, the little boy could have been snatched and gone before mom could have done anything more than yell about it. And, when I went in, she was bending over the stroller taking care of the toddler and baby she had in there. She wouldn't have even seen her son disappear.
Some people might consider this to be interferring or intruding; I consider it to be flexing my Crone muscles, that well-developed sense of wisdom that one achieves by living a long time and paying attention. Note to all young mothers, it is never okay to leave your pre-schooler outside a store while you go inside. Whatever lesson you think you are teaching is not worth the risk to the child and is not worth the terror of abandonment you inflict on the child. All the young mothers of my acquaintance probably already know this, but apparently no one pointed it out to this young woman prior to our encounter.
Since I turned 60, I seem to lookback on my own life more than I used to and I see many instances where I wish I had been smart enough to make different choices than the ones I made. About childrearing, I wish I had laughed more and gotten annoyed less. Is the wisdom of old age merely self-criticism? Do we understand how to do things better because we see the consequences in our own lives? Perhaps so. I have to say, though, that even as the rawest recruit to motherhood, I would never have left my child outside a store while I walked inside. I'm glad I was there yesterday and I hope that mom understood the "not safe" part enough to never do it again.