My children and I are "regulars" at our own mommy and toddler version of Cheers. Yup, it is true.
We go to a place where everybody knows our names, they're always glad we came, and very often the people and our troubles are all the same.
They have even named a drink after me! (And I may have been sitting there, without kids, drinking one while I wrote this!)
I am of course speaking of our local cafe and play place, the wonderful Cafe O'Play.
This parent's dream of a cafe was the first of its kind in our fair city and it is a very busy, bustling and yes, often chaotic place to be. There are kids ranging from 0-5 years of age running around, playing, eating, sometimes crying, and otherwise behaving as kids of that age often do. And their parents all sit and sip yummy lattes and watch them play (or play themselves on their various mobile devices)!
With that many kids around there are bound to be some tussles, there will be hitting and/or pushing, play car crashes will occur and someone will fight over a toy. Really, it is all to be expected if you ask me (if you need some insight into toddler behaviour, check out my guest post over at PhD in Parenting).
But I have a beef. Not with Cafe O'Play, nor any of their great staff.
Nor is it with all the crazy, cute and chaos-inducing kids running around.
I have a beef with the parents.
Let me explain.
When we go to the cafe, we go in and get settled at a table. I then do a 30 second assessment of who is there. I check out the kids and try to match them up with their parents. If my kids start playing with or around another kid or group of kids, I try to make eye contact with their parents, so that we all know who is with who.
For the most part the layout of the cafe is great. The play area is in the middle and the tables and chairs surround it. You can see most of the action from just about any seat in the house. But there are a few blind spots, and kids go in and out of the play structures and you may not be able to see them 100% of the time.
Yesterday, about 5 minutes before we were about to leave, I heard my 3-year-old screaming. I could not immediately see her (she was behind one of the play structures), but I knew it was more than just a "someone hurt my feelings' cry, this was an "I am HURT" cry. And as I got up to go get her, I took a look around and saw a room full of blank stares. Everyone could HEAR her and some parents were very close to her, yet, no one DID anything.
When I finally got her calmed down enough to tell me what happened and also found her brother for corroborating evidence, I found out that another child had pushed her off the top of the stairs going on to one of the play structures.
And here is the crux of my beef...
Did not at least ONE of the parents on that side of the cafe see this happen?
Quite possible they did not, but when L started screaming and crying AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS, you would think that someone would pay attention, perhaps see what the problem was and oh, I don't know, check to see if she was OK??!!
Have we become so far removed from the 'it takes a village' mentality that we can not even make the effort to say or do something when a child is hurt or crying?
I don't know.
Maybe it is just me.
Motherhood changed me. A LOT.
Sometimes I feel like it made me a universal mother of sorts.
I don't mean that to sound all high and mighty.
What I mean is this.
If I see a kid about to do something dangerous or stupid and there is no other responsible adult around to stop them, I WILL.
If I see a kid about to hurt, hit, push or otherwise do something to another child (especially mine) and I am within reaching or reacting distance, I will remove one or the other from said situation.
If I see a dad with two older kids and a set of infant twins waiting to get a table at the cafe and trying to wrangle all of them and their winter gear together when they finally get called to go in, I will walk over and offer to help carry a kid, a car seat or a handful of coats and boots in for him.
If I see a mama struggling with her toddler while also trying to calm a crying newborn, I will offer to take the baby for a few minutes.
If I see a child stuck in a play car, about to fall off a play structure, who has slipped and fallen on the floor, or whatever else may happen RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, I will check to see if he or she is OK and look around to make sure mommy or daddy is coming over or take said kid over to them.
I will say something to an older child if I feel that he or she is consistently breaking the "house rules" and no one else seems to want to intervene.
Some may think this makes me a busy body.
Some may think that I should never say things, especially disciplinary type things to children that are not my own.
I just don't agree.
I believe that it does take a village to raise our children. At a large play date or at our beloved Cafe I think this concept applies even more.
Because quite often we are outnumbered!
There are always more kids than adults and although the effort is made to keep an eye on them while they play and
wreak havoc have fun, another parent's eyes and ears can easily become the ones you have always wanted in the back of your head. I say use them!
Now, don't get me wrong. My kids are not perfect angels and more than a few times, I have had fellow moms come up to me at the cafe to tell me that one or the other was starting to get a little aggressive. Am I slightly embarrassed by this? Kind of. But more so, I appreciate that they took the time to find me and let me know what was up.
Letting a kid know that biting or hitting or pushing or whatever is not acceptable behaviour is NOT a judgment on your parenting skills. They are kids and mostly toddlers for that matter and certain behaviours are age-expected. Any discipline that occurs likely involves removal, re-focus and often a snack break. And I don't know about you, but hearing another mama say something about behaviour or rule breaking seems to have a lot more credibility with my kids and makes them sit up an listen just a little bit harder!
I think we would all benefit from more of a village mentality and if we all made the effort to looked out for each other and each other's children more, especially when we are sharing a space together.
What do you think?
Photo Credit: Toddler fight over the Car from joannamarieharris on Flickr