“Can You Help Me for a Sec?” The Question We Must Ask!

Hi ynyhehhhsy
Readers! Here’s a note about something that went right. but it could have gone even, uh, righter. — L

Dear Free-Range Kids: I had my first half-way Free-Range encounter with another parent the other day. I was at the ice rink with my toddlers, watching the kids on the ice from a bench near the front door. A man with a young boy, 4-ish, approaches the bench and sort of looks us over. The dad then tells the boy to stay here and wait, but is looking at me strangely. Then he goes to the desk maybe 10 feet away. After a bit of chatting with the boy about his plans to go skating with his dad and brother I realized the dad was outside the rink, down the stairs heading to his car for his tween son. He wasn’t gone very long.

I realized that the strange look was him deciding that I’d probably keep an eye on his kid for the 5 mins he was gone to haul his hyper-texting tween out of the car. He probably figured a mom with two toddlers was pretty safe. But my thought was: WOW, he could have just asked me to keep an eye on his son. I would have been happy to — my kids were enamored of his skates and the kid had a great time showing them off. It seemed to me that the dad was thinking he was doing something wrong and was afraid to ask.

Wouldn’t his son have been safer if (like my parents used to do) the dad just said, “Hey, I’m running out to the car (it was raining buckets and the 4-year-old  had on his skates). Can you keep an eye on Jr here?” No big deal. So sad. Not that his son wasn’t safe this way either 🙂 — Dee

Lenore here: Yes, it would have been better, and nicer. I wish folks would stop equating “leaning on each other” with “imposing.” Part of the whole Free-Range idea is that when we connect instead of suspect, we create the very thing that makes kids (and parents) happier and safer: Community.



49 Responses to “Can You Help Me for a Sec?” The Question We Must Ask!

  1. anonymousmagic January 14, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    Of course the guy should’ve asked. If for some reason you hadn’t notice the kid, you wouldn’t keep an eye on him if he didn’t ask — while he would probably hold you responsible.

    I find it much more imposing to expect someone to keep an eye on your kid without asking.

  2. Linda January 14, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    I think there’s another factor at play here, beyond “not wanting to impose,” which is, “If I ask, they might think ill of me for leaving my kid with a stranger, and I might get a tirade (or worse). If I say nothing, there is at least some small chance that they won’t notice what I’ve done, and I’ll escape.”

  3. bequirox January 14, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    If it makes you feel any better, I recently asked a stranger to hold my baby in a public restroom while I changed my toddler’s diaper. And she was SO HAPPY and even excited to hold her!

    (By the way, it neer would have occurred to me to ask someone, if not for this blog.)

  4. Robin January 14, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    It could be a man thing, too. They can’t ask for directions, so maybe he thought it would look “weak’ to need help.

    There have been times when I’ve spoken up and volunteered to watch kids or stuff before they thought to ask. Usually the look I get is complete gratitude. Try it, it’s fun!

  5. Ruth January 14, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    A few weeks ago, I was asked to watch a woman’s stroller with 2 babies while she popped into a shop that was not wide enough for a double stroller.

    I had a great time playing peepo with the babies!

  6. tana January 14, 2011 at 10:11 pm #

    my dad traveled a lot for work when we were growing up. it was a normal sight to see him walk off a plane with some woman’s luggage, stroller, or even baby. a few times he was asked, but more often he offered- ‘ma’am, can i help you with your bag/stroller/baby?’ now he’d probably be labeled a pervert for that, but i know there were some grateful women out there who smiled and told my mom she was a lucky woman to have married such a gentleman! ask for help when you need it, offer help if you see a need. keep your eye on the emergency exit in case someone calls the cops for it!

  7. Brian January 14, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

    Or perhaps he knew his kid would be fine waiting there for 5 minutes without anyone “watching” him.

    Maybe it would give the kid a feeling of responsibility and maturity to be trusted. And most of all, perhaps the dad, correctly, assessed that there was no realistic risk in leaving his kid there for 5 minutes.

    I agree, ask for help when its needed, but lets get beyond this idea that every kid needs an adult “watching” them constantly.

  8. TressaRay January 14, 2011 at 10:40 pm #

    I don’t know if I’ve told this story before, but I think it fits perfectly.

    About 6 months ago I was on a road trip with my 2 1/2 year old daughter. The drive was about 8 hours long, and I tried to make plenty of stops. When we were about an hour from home, she said, “I need to potty,” and I frantically looked for a rest stop. I found one, pulled in, unbuckled her, raced into the bathroom, and she peed in the stall right before I got her pants down. Then she started crying, and another woman walked into the bathroom. Rather than leave my girl alone in a stall, or walk her outside to get a change of clothes, I just asked the woman if she could hang out with my daughter. I ran out to my car, came back with a new outfit, and saw that the woman was squatting down in front of my girl, holding her hands and talking to her. I am so glad I was comfortable asking for help, and that she wasn’t bugged about it.

  9. Donna January 14, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

    I agree with Brian. I wouldn’t have asked for the woman to “watch” my 5 year old. I would have told my child that I was running to the car and to stay in the rink and off the ice until I got back (something that he may have done before the child went over to the bench). I wouldn’t have expected the woman or anyone else in the rink to look after my child for 5 minutes. She is perfectly safe in a skating rink by herself for a short period of time and I expect her to obey my rules.

  10. Quincy January 14, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

    I have to admit that I often hesitate to ask if someone will watch my kid, but more for fear that they will say no and I will be stuck having to drag my kids out to do whatever. Mine are relatively young 5 and 2 and my 5yo in particular is like velcro in his attachment to me.

    That said, on a road trip last weekend, my 2 yo had an accident in the car, so when we stopped for gas, I changed her and left them in the store for a moment (being entertained and entertaining to the woman at the counter) while I ran the dirty pants to the car. Of course, there were donuts in the near future for well behaved kids, so that may have been part of it….

  11. sarah January 14, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

    I’m with Brian, as well.

    I don’t think he was not wanting to ask… He told his son to wait where he put him and was scoping out who was around him. If the writer had been someone “scary” he probably would have stuck his son on another bench.

    Why, because there was an adult around, should the dad have asked her to “watch” his kid?
    That really doesn’t give the kid the idea that he is trusted and capable.

  12. Erika January 14, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    When my daughter was 4 or 5, I got her to a swimming lesson only to realize I’d left her suit at home. Our house was about 5 minutes from the pool. If I brought C home w/ us, I knew that it’d take a lot longer–getting her out to the car & in the booster, getting her back out & into the locker room after we returned, plus I think she was already semi-undressed.

    The session had been going on for a few weeks, and I’d chatted w/ another mom there a few times. THis other mom was in the locker room when I realized I didn’t have the suit. I can’t remember if I asked her to keep an eye on C., or whether she volunteered, but I do know that I left my daughter there w/ a relative stranger, forgot to get the woman’s name, didn’t even give her my cell#, and zipped home & back fast enough that we were only a few minutes late for class.

    My husband was horrified–but I knew how to find the woman if anything happened, she knew how to find me, since the life guards had the registration list, and her own kids were at the class, so I wasn’t all that worried about her running off w/ mine & leaving hers there…

  13. Anthony January 15, 2011 at 12:19 am #

    Yes, I love how you make this social, Lenore.

  14. EricS January 15, 2011 at 12:22 am #

    @ Brian: That would be the ideal way to go about it. But why give the mother a “strange look”? Would he have dealt with it differently if it was a single male (perhaps an employee) sitting there taking a break? If he’s teaching his son a sense of responsibility, it shouldn’t matter if a mother of two is sitting there, or a man by himself. Teaching your child responsibility also includes trusting him. So if you’ve taught him right, in how to deal with certain situations, and trust him to remember a do what he’s suppose to, it shouldn’t matter at all.

  15. Paula January 15, 2011 at 12:31 am #

    On a recent flight from Orlando to NYC, a mom was traveling on her own with a toddler and a baby. When I told her I loved babies, she handed him to me and I ended up holding him the entire flight! She was seated two rows behind me. No joke. Talk about trusting a stranger!

  16. Andy January 15, 2011 at 12:55 am #

    Yes, and the first step to making this prevailing attitude go away is, upon the parent’s return, say, “It was no problem. Please don”t hesitate to ask me — or any other parent here — to help out if you need to.”

    You already proved that you were responsible, so the seedling is planted.

  17. MikeB January 15, 2011 at 1:27 am #

    @Paula – How fun for you! As for her level of trust… it wasn’t that much of a stretch, given that she was sitting six feet away and that there was no way for you to run off with the baby in any case! 🙂

    Back when I lived in CA, my wife was out on the sidewalk in front of our house on a busy street. A woman approached, clearly struggling to get her leashed dog under control while carrying her toddler. My wife offered to help and was pleased and surprised to be immediately handed the boy. Once the dog was corralled, they struck up a conversation, and as a result, our families became close and lasting friends, thanks to this mom’s free-range attitude.

    Lenore is right: Our kids are safer when they’re wards of a community, not just their parents.

  18. Cheryl W January 15, 2011 at 1:49 am #

    I am of the opinion that the man thought the child was old enough to sit for a couple minutes. The “strange look” may have been from the fact that he was mad at his other child. I think the mom’s proper response is when the man returns to tell him what a well behaved child he has.

    At times I need to send my kids to sit on the bench at the front of the store while I pack up groceries. (When they are older, I will have them do it. But right now I like my bread to be on top of the cans.) It is always nice when an adult says how well behaved my kids are for waiting patiently.

  19. Hellga January 15, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    Skating rinks… when I was 4, my Dad took me to the open-air rink at the nearby school, saw that there was an older girl (maybe 8 or 9) skating there and just asked her if she would teach me how to skate (neither of my parents can). She did. Since it was maybe a quarter mile away from home, with no roads to cross, from the age of six or so my best friend (and next door neighbor) and I would go by ourselves every weekend and skate and play in the snow to our little hearts’ content. We would come home only when our feet were completely frozen. There were always a ton of kids around, and the only ones with adult supervision were little three year olds and such. Fun times… that probably doesn’t happen anymore.

  20. pentamom January 15, 2011 at 3:08 am #

    The strange look may also have been a result of, “Oh, boy, does she look like the type to call 911 if I walk out the door and leave the kid here?”

    But I don’t agree with everyone who said that asking her to watch him would have been wrong. Some kids at that age can be trusted in that situation. Others can’t, for whatever reason. The mantra of of FRK is “you know when your kids can handle a certain level of freedom and/or responsibility.” It’s not for us here to decide that he “should have been able to” leave his five year old alone without someone to keep an eye on him. Maybe he could have, maybe not.

  21. Jay January 15, 2011 at 3:20 am #

    ITA with pentamom.

  22. Jen Connelly January 15, 2011 at 4:04 am #

    Maybe he was trying to decide if she was the kind to run off and call the cops the second a parent looks away from their kid in a public place.
    That’s usually what I’m looking for when I’m out. I’m not necessarily wanting people to keep an eye on my kid, I just want them to mind their own business half the time.

  23. anonymousmagic January 15, 2011 at 4:48 am #

    Of course, you don’t HAVE to ask someone to keep an eye on your kid, some (or most) of them are capable of looking after themselves in a crowded public place, but striking up a conversation to bind the community is simply the right thing to do.

  24. Karen January 15, 2011 at 5:35 am #

    Absolutely. If I had to leave mine and thought he would be fine for 5 minutes, I wouldn’t be looking around for someone to look out for him, but just looking to see if I was getting snarled at and if 911 was being dialed!

  25. Donna January 15, 2011 at 5:47 am #

    “It’s not for us here to decide that he “should have been able to” leave his five year old alone without someone to keep an eye on him. Maybe he could have, maybe not.”

    I think that the fact that he DID leave his child alone indicates that he thought that the boy could handle it. I wouldn’t have a problem with someone who doesn’t trust their particular child alone in this situation asking someone to keep an eye on him. 4 year olds vary in trustworthiness. I object to the notion that this man did (nonverbally) or should have asked the writer to take care of his child. That implies a feeling that 4 year olds shouldn’t sit on a bench unsupervised. Dee jumped to a conclusion that this man must have wanted her to watch his child, but that may not be what he wanted at all. I would guess that it wasn’t since he addressed the child and told him to sit and wait but didn’t say anything to her at all. He was likely just deciding if it was okay to leave his child unsupervised at all or questioned her as a seatmate for him while he waited.

    Personally if I had been in this situation, I would have done exactly what the father did. I would have told my daughter to wait for me and not said a word to the mother. This is absolutely NOT because I expected her to keep an eye on my child but because my child can keep an eye on herself for 5 minutes. Only if I didn’t trust my child to do that, would I have said anything to the mother at all(outside of a pleasantry but it seems like dad was not in a pleasantry mood). It is irreponsible to leave a child that you can’t trust alone with some person without letting the person know. That mother could have been leaving right that second and not paid the child any mind. I think this is the least likely scenario while the most likely is that the child didn’t need minding and Dee jumped to the conclusion that he did for some reason.

  26. julie January 15, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    we were at Disney World in line for one of the rides a mom had two small kids and was getting frustrated because she could she could see her husband quite a distances away but he wasnt answering the cell phone and was too far to hear her…i guess it was several city blocks.. so I said to her ” go get him Ill watch the kids” She looked so relieved that she could take off and and move quickly without the kids..and not waste the time she had waited in line… after all what was I going to do convert them to satanism in line at disney world?

  27. Monica January 15, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    I have the problem of trusting my child but having all the strangers in the world think she’s not to be trusted. I’m the one always being stopped because my child wondered ‘over there’, or being offered help with my child when none is needed (no, my child doesn’t need to be right next to me holding my hand at all times! And yes, I’m aware she wondered ‘over there’ and I’m perfectly fine with that!) arrgghh! Trust me, I would ask a perfect stranger if I needed help.

  28. pentamom January 15, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    “I think that the fact that he DID leave his child alone indicates that he thought that the boy could handle it.”

    I agree, Donna, it’s just that I was getting a vibe (at least in some cases) that any suggestion that he might have wanted to ask someone to keep an eye on the kid would automatically have been out of line or something, as though not trusting a five year old in a public place is some kind of sin against Free Rangedom. If I read into some comments something that isn’t there, then it’s my mistake.

  29. Robin January 15, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    Whether the child was capable of being left alone or not, it’s common curteousy to actually say something to another human. If he seated his child near her, why not tell her and him, I’ll be right back. I’m not sure when we lost the ability to talk to other adults.

    I was at a minor league baseball game and a couple rows in front of us was a woman with 4 kids all about the same age. It looked like one or two were hers and the others were their friends. At one point she left them all there to go get something from the snack bar. She pointed to each seat and told each of them what number seat they had to stay in. The kids never moved. When she came back we complimented her on their behavior. I think she was relieved to know they were good.

  30. Mr. North of 49 January 15, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    I know this is off topic but I had mentioned this to Lenore previously and I wanted to pass on with the sourcing. This is a note about the famous kid’s band. The Wiggles. From their wiki:

    “their signature finger-wagging move, was created by Cook after seeing professional bowlers do it on television.[12] It became the group’s policy to use this pose when being photographed with children. They insisted that touching children, no matter how innocently, was inappropriate. The use of the pose protected them from possible litigation; as Paul Paddick has explained, “There is no doubting where their hands are”

    Source: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2005/12/01/1133311137232.html?page=fullpage

  31. crowjoy January 15, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    I am eternally grateful to every person who ever gave me a sympathetic look or offered to help or agreed to help when I had 2 infants 3 months apart. I can’t even tell you how generous people can be when you’re open to their help. So now, even if I get a tremor of “I hope they don’t think…” I offer to help. Kid screaming uncontrollably while Mom tries to wrangle the littler one? I chat with the kid (ha, or now just send mine to see if they can make the child laugh.) Let me help with the door while you drag that stroller in backwards. Let me watch you kid in the cart while you have a pee (and honey, go ahead and take an extra minute to yourself, that’s awesome.) This is what we build!

    Lenore, I LOVE “don’t suspect, connect” LOVE it. Pair up a free range logo with that and you have a T shirt I will buy in every size.

  32. sherri January 15, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    When my younger son was a newborn a stranger carried him to the van for me as I wrangled my tantruming three year old out of McDonalds. I was so grateful when she offered, but I never would have thought to ask.

  33. Donna January 15, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    “If he seated his child near her, why not tell her and him, I’ll be right back.”

    While I agree that people should be nicer to each other and exchange pleasantries more often, I disagree with this statement completely. If someone sat their kid next to me and said, “I’ll be right back” to me, I would then take that to mean that the person expected me to be responsible for their child until he got back and I think it would tell the child that the person was responsible for him until his parent got back. The fact is that the writer DID hear the father tell his son to sit there until he came back. If the father expected nothing from this woman, as I believe was the case, he need not tell the woman anything. Yes, a pleasant “hello” would have been nice, but nothing was needed. Would you go with your husband to a bench and then tell the person sitting next to him that you’ll be back in a minute? Of course not because you don’t expect that stranger to care whether you return or not because she’s not responsible for your husband.

  34. pebblekeeper January 16, 2011 at 4:04 am #

    Connect Instead of Suspect. You need to patent that quote. 🙂

  35. pebblekeeper January 16, 2011 at 4:05 am #

    Copywrite? Claim? Its Saturday. . . .

  36. SKL January 16, 2011 at 4:16 am #

    Can’t read all the responses. But I lean toward the idea that maybe the dad felt his kid was OK without anyone being assigned to supervise him. I have left my 4-year-olds to go run out briefly, when it would have been a much bigger problem to drag them with me. At such times, I didn’t ask someone to watch them because (a) they didn’t need to be “watched” and (b) what if they said “no”? Then I’d HAVE to take them with me.

    However, one of my inauspicious evenings went like this. After a very long and busy day, I stopped at a McD Playplace for dinner. While the kids were playing, I used my cell phone and then absent-mindedly placed it on the food tray, which I later emptied into the trash. I realized this on the way out, after the trash had been taken outdoors. So an employee was assigned to go dig in the trash compactor for it, and I needed to go out there with him. It was bitterly cold. I left the girls inside for a bit but it was getting long, so I came back in, prepared to drag them out with me. A woman who’d been observing offered to watch the girls, and I gratefully accepted. I’d noticed her watching, but wasn’t sure whether she was the type to call the cops or whatever busybodies do when moms walk off without their kids. (We did find the phone but I felt so bad for the poor guy who had to climb in the trash to find it – wish I’d had the presence of mind to tip him!)

  37. Staceyjw aka escaped to mexico January 16, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    I ask for help all the time, and offer it quite a bit too. last month I drove an old lady around to help her find her car in the parking lot. She had been wandering, freezing for awhile hoping someone would ask her if she needed something!
    My first flight with my then 4 month old (who was 20# already) was interesting. I had a laugh with a girl in line, I told her if the baby was loud not to worry, I would drug him, and she said it was OK cuz she brought duct tape- classic!!! She ended up sitting by me (by choice) and helped occupy my son with videos.

    It did surprise me, in a bad way, how many people could watch me carrying my baby, trying to balance a bunch of luggage, and not even think to offer a hand. I was obviously struggling to make it to the airport from the car, but everyone looked away. On the way home, a few times I had to get stuff out of the overhead bin, and when I asked the person next to me to just make sure my baby didn’t face plant onto the floor (I buckled him in) while I stood up for 2 min, they couldn’t be bothered to really try. jeez people! I did ask men to help me, and they always did. But no one offered. I always offer help, I have even wheeled people in chairs to baggage, carried people bags, etc. But no one could be bothered to ask if I needed a hand, not even going through security, trying to separate liquids, taking off shoes, even babys shoes, etc.

    I know it’s no ones responsibility, but come on, how much trouble is it to ask if that mom needs a hand????

  38. SKL January 17, 2011 at 4:06 am #

    One day I had the girls at Wal-Mart (neither could walk yet) and it started to pour like crazy – and it was cold out, too. I waited for about a half hour in the hope that the rain would lighten up, but no luck. My car was parked almost at the far end of the parking lot. You can imagine all the ideas that went through my head – could I just leave the kids in the stroller and run for the car? Could I ask someone to give us a lift to the car? But alas, every thought led to the concern that someone would report me for “endangering” my kids. Finally I pushed the stroller to the car and loaded the kids in. All three of us were soaked to the skin by the time we got into the car. Now that was a time it would have been nice for someone to just stand with the stroller for the few minutes it would take me to get back with the car. But somehow I didn’t feel like anyone around was willing to sacrifice a few minutes to a stranger. I was a new single mom and still in the “I can do it all myself” mindset, too. Now that I’ve had a few other humbling experiences, I’d probably be less reluctant to ask for help in a case like that.

    Oh, and that is also the day I decided that I would NEVER take the “closest parking spot” unless I was desperate. I would hate to put another mom with wee kids through that kind of experience – nor an elderly / sick / hurting person. Yuck.

  39. Jana January 17, 2011 at 5:40 am #

    I couldn’t agree with you more. The least he could do was to ask you to keep an eye on him.

  40. pentamom January 17, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    “Oh, and that is also the day I decided that I would NEVER take the “closest parking spot” unless I was desperate. I would hate to put another mom with wee kids through that kind of experience – nor an elderly / sick / hurting person. Yuck.”

    Thanks for the reminder of that — I’ll try to bear that in mind in future myself. That is what infuriates me so much about people who abuse handicapped spaces. It’s not that I’m one of those people who gets bent out of shape over petty violations (I really DON’T care if you have 22 items in your cart as long as you aren’t incompetent at working the self-check) but I always wonder if there isn’t going to be some genuinely disabled person coming along and being put to major inconvenience by your conviction that you’re so special. And the same goes for moms of littles — there’s no special parking for them (or only occasionally, I have seen it) but they have as hard a time getting in and out of places as *some* disabled folks do.

  41. Kimberly January 17, 2011 at 8:33 am #

    I’m a person that pretty much parks at the back of the lot. Exceptions would be if my asthma/allergies are acting up.

    That said please remember there are invisible disabilities that limit walking and qualify for handicapped parking. Some people undergoing chemo or having a heart condition can look healthy at a glance but need the handicapped parking.

    There have been times I’ve driven a disabled family member somewhere and the HC spaces have been full, so I’ve dropped them off and parked a the back of the lot. Leaving if a HC space is available and we need to load a wheelchair or walker, I’ll use park in the HC space to avoid blocking the pick up area/traffic. I’ve been yelled at more than once, while walking in to get my family member. The cops have been understanding, when I explained.

  42. SKL January 17, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    I understand about hidden disabilities – in fact, we have probably all been in a situation where it would have really been problematic to park far away. But we all know there are many people who seem to think that parking is a competition. I have friends who would rather drive around the parking lot 3 times than take a spot halfway down the lot. And not only are they able-bodied, they could use the extra exercise. But they feel like there’s something to lose by letting someone else get “that great spot.” I’ve never been one to care for that, but if the weather was sucky or I was in a hurry, I’ve been known to take the closest spot I saw, in the past. But now I run the decision through another filter – the one that says, what if someone who is ill, or needs milk for her wee baby, drives up right after me?

  43. pentamom January 18, 2011 at 2:25 am #

    I know there are people with invisible disabilities — I’m referring specifically to the people who don’t appear to have any sort of disability, as judged by their parking illegally in the handicapped space (that is, in a way that would be illegal even if they had a tag, like sideways), not having a tag, and clearly just comporting themselves as people who have no regard for either the rules or other people’s convenience.

    IOW, I’m not going around watching to see whether everyone who parks in a space “appears” to be disabled, but there are people who make it pretty obvious that they neither are qualified to park in the space, nor care whether it’s wrong to abuse the space.

  44. Kymlee January 18, 2011 at 7:24 am #

    We have to be willing to ask that question. The danger in not asking is that I’ll assume your kid will be fine if I walk off to deal with my own thing. If you ask, I’ll be sure to stay and wait for your return. It’s safer to ask, than not. And it builds community.

    Lenore you’re right. Leaning on your neighbor, or even engaging in single serving friendships is not an imposition. It creates the interconnectedness we build walls against, but really crave.

  45. Robin January 18, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    Donna – sorry I didn’t elaborate. I was thinking more along the lines of a conversation, maybe.

    “I’ll be right back.”
    “Do you need me to watch him?”
    “No, he’ll be fine right here if you need to leave.”

    Then both the kid and the other adult know it’s okay for THEM to talk to each other, too. Maybe her kids and theirs might actually be able to skate together and then the mom and other dad could have an adult converstion while they watch their kids skate…

    It opens up many possibilities that not communicating can’t. That’s all I was trying to say.

  46. becky January 18, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    I remember the first time I was offered help with my (then) six week old twins. I was trying to feed them at the mall, and a total stranger came up to me, and offered her help. I accepted. She fed one of the babies, I fed the other, she burped him, I burped the other, and she went off on her way after I told her thanks and offered to buy her a soda.

    I *also* remember, having my (at this time, 2 year old) twins at Panera Bread and I got sick quite quickly. I quickly asked the lady at the next table if she would keep an eye on them for a minute. After leaving the restroom, she told me that she had 12 year old twins and she had fun watching my two year olds.

  47. crowjoy January 18, 2011 at 11:41 pm #

    I thought of this post when I offered to watch a toddler while mom took the infant into the rest room to get changed. We were at a kids’ museum and the toddler did not want to stop playing to change a nappie. Happy to keep an eye on her I said, and though she peeked out at least once (the mom that is) she seems grateful. I know the kid was. 🙂

    I was just sitting there, waiting for my own to come out. I hope next time she’ll feel freer to ask the stranger.

  48. AS January 20, 2011 at 2:26 am #

    I did just this on Monday, as I was inspired. I was with my kids at the bookstore so they could play with the train set (since of course the library is closed on a school-holiday). I really had to pee. They were happily playing and besides, who wants to drag a 5 and 2 yr old into the stall? So I asked a grandmother who was reading there while her granddaughter was playing if she could keep an eye on my kids. Her whole face lit up and she said yes. I came back and she thanked me for trusting her and then joked that even if she wanted to kidnap them, there was no way to drag 2 kids plus her own granddaughter out that quickly. 🙂

  49. Tara March 9, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Sorry for the late reply – I am not a habitual blog reader, it occasionally occurs to me to go and catch up on blogs I like!

    If that dad was, in fact, hesitant to ask you to watch the kid, it may have been less fear of your response and more fear of being imposing. Our society is very strict about the idea that each child is solely it’s parents responsibility, and any failure to be everything and anything the child needs at any moment is a leech on everyone around him. Obviously not true, but that message is so ingrained that we are really afraid to ask for help.

    Alternately, rather than being worried about asking you to keep an eye on the kid, might he instead have believed that the boy was perfectly safe on his own in that space for two minutes, but was pondering whether you might be the kind of person to raise a stink if he did it? And he finally judged you to be a rational person, and therefore to be trusted not to call CPS because he walked further than six feet from his kid? I know I make that kind of judgment all the time. I know when my kids were that age, and even now (my younger is 6), my fear is not, “Is that person safe,” or “will that person help me if I don’t ask,” but, “will that person judge me and call the cops because she thinks I’m negligent for letting my eight year old use my pocket knife to slice an apple in public?”