Let me start with expressing gratitude to people who pointed out which way my 2-year-old was running last Saturday at the shopping center in Bay Farm. Thank you, dear strangers!
To give some context: I was having lunch at Subway with my two sons, and when the 5-year-old needed to use the bathroom, I made the call to leave the 2-year-old eating his soup at the table while we popped into the restroom for two minutes. It seemed like a safe decision at the time.
Well... he wasn't at the table anymore when we returned. It took another few minutes to look around near the lagoon — nobody there, no bubbles on the water — and then, hearts pounding, we started running along the parking lot yelling the little one's name at the top of our lungs, and some helpful folks said they'd seen a boy running towards Leydecker park playground.
We caught up to the little escape artist after he'd already crossed the busy driveway leading from the road into the shopping area. Fortunately, he was safe and sound, and we were just a bit shaken up.
Again — thanks to those who helped us!
And here comes my plea to the community: next time, if you see a small child running alone near a parking lot, please feel free to stop him (yes, by physically grabbing, if necessary) and ask where his parents are. If the kid happens to be mine, I will be forever grateful and will never feel like you're stepping on my parenting toes.
Similarly, feel free to reprimand my child if he is acting aggressive at the playground and I'm slow to get involved; by all means, get my child down from a tall climbing structure if he is dangerously dangling there; give him a push on the swing if he's asking for one and I'm not answering; use your adult judgement and do what the situation calls for (including nothing, of course) and don't worry about offending me, the parent.
I feel the need to ask in the light of the recent fame of "Please Don't Help My Kids" blog post by a local Alameda mother which may have the unfortunate effect of making people curb their impulse to assist children.
For full disclosure, I actually mostly agree with the "free range kids" philosophy and own Skenazy's book that became the bible of the movement. I also happen to have the type of children who never need to be encouraged to climb up to the tall slide; rather, my job is to ensure at least minimal safety while they fearlessly explore and I spot them.
However, I am neither omnipresent nor all-knowing and clearly do not always make the safest calls (remember the soup?) and therefore I welcome help of others, and gladly provide my assistance to kids around us.
Obviously, that means I may privately disagree with the kind of help someone may choose to give my kid. Parenting styles do differ, and that's fine. Maybe my son will be helped up or down when he could do it himself. Should that happen, I will remind him to say "thank you," and move on. He'll have plenty more chances to try his own powers, but fewer instances of receiving benevolent assistance from the community.
I welcome every chance to teach my kids that people help each other, and I would like our wonderful Alameda community to stay connected and willing to provide help.
If there is a choice to be made, let's err on the side of helping too much rather than not enough. Thank you.