A Walk in the Park....
It's a beautiful 70 degree day here in SE Michigan. Spring has arrived and the days of having the township park all to myself for my (almost) daily 3 mile walk are over. The play area is now overrun with pre-schoolers, daycare groups, and elementary school field trips. And so it should be.
However, today I was unwittingly drawn into an incident that (I hope) one mother will not soon forget.
This is the pond at the park. Way beyond the right margin of the photo (to the east), across a road, is one of those big multilevel wooden play scapes amid a sea of cedar mulch.
I usually start my walk on the path to the southwest side of the pond. This morning on my first lap around the park, I encountered a little boy, who was probably between 18 mos. to 2 yrs. old at the white X on the photo. There was no one else near him and he was headed for the water. About 1/3 way around the pond was a man setting up to fish and one other man was coming around the path, counter clockwise to my usual clockwise route. So, I asked the man coming toward me, "is he with you?" pointing to the little boy. "Nope, I thought he was with you." was the reply.
So I asked the little boy if he was with his mommy or daddy. The little twerp just looked at me and started running ahead of me on the path. Okay...so maybe he was with the fishing guy. I proceeded to have a lot of disparaging thoughts about a guy that was so wrapped up in his fishing that he would let that child wander around the drainage pipes to the pond which was swollen from yesterday's cloudbursts.
The little wanderer preceded me on the path around the pond and as we came near the fishing guy, I shouted, "Is he with you?" pointing to the little boy. The guy took his cigar out of his mouth and yelled, "NO!" Okay...here we are headed further and further away from the play structure, headed up an 8% grade on the path. The circuit of the path is a mile. Each time I talked to the little boy, asking if he was with Mommy or with school, what is his name?...he just giggled and ran ahead.
Considering today's world, there was no way I was touching this kid...not to hold his hand, direct him from the shoulder, pick him up or whatever. I could see it in the headlines of the local paper "Abduction Attempt Thwarted" with my mug shot.
My cell phone was clipped to my waistband and I figured I'd just try to encourage the kid to stay on the path and herd him back around to the playscape. If he conked out on me at the top of the hill, I'd just call the police to come meet us and let whoever lost track of him deal with those consequences.
I'm ashamed to admit that those under 2 year old legs handled that 8% grade well ahead of me and even gathered steam on the downhill side of the path. He still wasn't talking but he was singing something in his own little language as he trotted along. Just as we were coming to the bottom of the hill, where there's a little bridge across the stream, two women came running toward him.
I asked the ladies who they were (thinking if they were a day care center their license should be pulled). The smaller, dark haired woman was his mother. She picked him up and started to shake him. Then she looked at me and started to say thank you. I told her that he started walking with me almost 15 minutes before when he was across the road and over by the water! Why wasn't anyone watching him? She said she was, but she thought he was in the play scape. I then told her the two consequences she had narrowly escaped:
- he was less than 25 ft. away from the pond 15 minutes ago, so he could have been in the water all that time.
- in another 50 ft., I would have called the police if no one were looking for him.
It's my sincere hope that she recognizes that at his age punishment is not what's needed: closer supervision is.
Meanwhile, I know at least one little guy is going to take a long hard nap sometime today!