Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Cried at the Park Today

After I picked Owen up from school, sat out front and shot a few photos (it was red day) and I loaded the kids into the car, we went to the park. This park is near the airport and Owen and River both love watching the planes take off or land. Today they were taking off and it's pretty cool! We called a friend to join us but she wasn't home and her cell phone went straight to voicemail. Knowing her, she probably lost it again. It happens.

When I first got to the park I parked next to a maroon Volvo. I noticed this for two reasons. I've been hunting a dark coloured Volvo to get a photo of the grill (long Twilight story) and because the woman inside who was reading a book said something nice about my kids. I don't remember now what it was but it was jovial.

The playground is covered with recycled tires which I think is just gross. I get that you're using something that would otherwise be trash but I think it's a poor material to use where a child will be playing. Good in theory but not in practice. It smells, it's incredibly filthy and it is a projectile. Not to mention that if my small child is going to pick something up and stick it in her mouth, I'd prefer it to be a piece of mulch instead of an old piece of tire. I'm just sayin...

Anyhoo, we were at the playground for well over an hour and I'm doing what I always do. I'm taking waaaay too many photos of my children and their surroundings. It's what I do. Sue me. Almost the entire time Owen was playing with the sweetest little girl. He played with her so much, she's in almost every photo I took of him. She's in the green St Francis School shirt. Normally I would have waited for her to move or even asked her to scoot to the side but this kids was clearly in dire need of some conversation and a friend to play with and I just didn't have the heart. I asked her how old she was and what her name was and she told me she was 5. She also told me her name but I didn't understand it either time she told me so I let it go. Owen was calling her Ava so I went with that.

When we first got there, there were many other kids and parents so I didn't really think much of this girl hanging out with us. She was very sweet and seemed to like the attention she was getting from us. We're pretty cool so why knock her for wanting to be near us? We get that a lot. As the playground started to empty and there was only a dad and myself I asked him, "Is she with you?" His reply was, "No, I was going to ask you the same thing."

I looked around the playground and there was no one else there so I asked her where her parents were. She pointed to the parking lot but no specific area. Without even thinking of it I said, "Wow!" It was totally inappropriate for me to do that but it was a natural reaction from someone who would never leave her kids anywhere unprotected like that. I freak out on Owen if he goes too far down the isle at Giant. I guess not every parent is like that. She noticed my reaction and the rest of the conversation went something like this:

"Is that bad?"
"What, that your parents are in the car?"
"Well, wouldn't it be fun for your mom to be here playing with you?"
She let out a long sigh. "Yeah, that would be fun."

It was at this point that I had to hide my face because I teared up at her reaction. She was clearly a sad child in desperate need of attention which just made me angry because she was so sweet. She was clearly resigned to her fate of being lonely and she's five years old! There is no excuse for leaving her here like this. The fact that you may or may not be able to see her from the cushy seat in your car means nothing. I asked her if she could show me where her car was and she just shrugged her shoulders. What I wanted to do was find the car, drag her parents out of it and bitch slap them right under the passing outgoing Southwest flight but I refrained. I clearly couldn't leave a 5 year old girl in the parking lot to go home and safely put my own daughter down for a nap. I thought about putting her in my van and driving over to the state police which is right up the street but I thought better of that. I wonder if she would have even known to not go with a stranger. This girl seemed to be left to her own defenses which is just the kind of kid that the crazies look for. Alone, in need of attention, sweet and trusting. It sounds like a fucking poster.

I looked around the parking lot and saw 4 cars with women sitting in them. None of these women looked towards the parking lot when I looked at their cars and I spent some time watching them, trying to make them see a strange woman sitting on top of the slide talking to their daughter. No one came. I sat up on the top of the slide for a good ten minutes talking to Owen and this girl. My back was to the parking lot and she was in front of me, hidden from all the cars. I'd hurt my foot on the way up and was waiting for it to stop throbbing. It still hurts and I'm having a hard time walking on it now so it really hurt then. No one called for her or came looking. Can you even imagine?

So, I said my goodbyes to the girl and went to my car, loaded up the kids and called 911. My goal was not to get the woman in trouble which would almost certainly happen but I couldn't in good conscience leave a five year old at the park, a park where people sell drugs on the path while I went home thinking that is wasn't my problem. I hope that if someone sees my kid at a playground by themselves that they'll call the police. Because if that were to happen, I'm either dead or incapacitated.

It's a shame that I care more for this child than her own mother but it was something that needed to be done like when I called 911 a few months ago for a two year old in the back seat of a car with no car seat. It's illegal because children die like that. I don't feel bad about either of the calls I made.

It's good to know that in Anne Arundel County when you report an abandoned child, the police come out in full force. As I sat in the car, less that two minutes after hanging up, the police car rolled in. First one and then two. I wanted to make sure they were handling this before I went home. They walked to the playground and found her, just as I described. They spoke with her for maybe five minutes as well as the other parent I'd spoken to earlier. After they were there for some time and four other cop cars came rolling in, the mother finally put down her book and got out of her car. Turns out it's the woman in the maroon Volvo that spoke to us when we first got there. We didn't park right next to the playground and neither did she. She was parked way too far away to be watching anyone. I'd moved my car away from the playground so I was no longer next to her but I could see her hands waving when the police wouldn't let her take her daughter with her. She had to go to the car with one of the cops to probably prove who she was. She was angry and I would have been angry too at having my child kept from me but maybe this will teach her to pay more attention to her daughter. She really needs it.

I posted the photos that I took of the woman in her car, reading, not once looking up to check on her daughter while I was with her. I'm standing right in front of her car taking a photo and she didn't even notice me and I'm less than a car length away from her. Her 5 year old daughter is over my shoulder another 30 feet. I took a photo of several cars with people sitting in them but for some reason I knew this was her and I was right. Now this is a heavy woman, but so am I. The difference is that I'm fat and playing with my kids and she's fat and sitting on her ass while her kid plays without her. The cycle continues.

Also, I was kind enough to hide her licence plate number which I was under no obligation to do. Part of trying to be a kinder person, whatever. If you know this woman, don't leave your kids with her. If she ignores her own kid, imagine what she'll do to yours.


  1. Oh my gosh!! I really am not certain what I would do in that situation. I would never leave the girl alone at the park (with a dude sitting on the bench nearby? not a chance). But, I don't know if I would have the guts to call 911. I would probably end up walking the girl to the moms car and then leave. Lame, huh? Well, I'm glad it was YOU at the park and not me! That woman has got to be more careful. Poor girl...

  2. Wow. I hope that was a wake up call for her. I can't imagine. I mean, I try not to hover over my kids, so I don't follow inches away from them on the playground, but I'm always on the playground and if one disappears into a tunnel, I'm always checking on them.

    There is no excuse for leaving a child alone like that.

  3. That's horrifying. I hope she learned a big lesson. Good for you for doing the right thing.

  4. She makes me sick. You know I came across this alot when I was teaching in a school up in that area. Sick. I hope the polic did not give that girl back or at least right away. That mom needs to get a little scared maybe she will learn.

  5. This was definitely the right thing to do. Good for you. I hope everybody that reads this remembers that they can do the same thing if they think a child is in danger. It's better to be safe than sorry.

  6. Wow even photos - I dig the way you work (I have 3 kids and agree with you) Like the sarcasm pic. It looks good up here.
    Mr Monkey

  7. That would make me cry too! You did the right thing Michelle, absolutely.

  8. Good for you! You absolutely did the right thing. That poor child. It doesn't matter that her mother is fat. I'm fat and I still make an effort to play with my kid. Even if I don't feel like playing, I still walk behind him and keep an eye on him. At a minimum, she could have sat on a bench and looked after her. Not only was that child at risk of wandering off, being kidnapped, etc. but she simply could have gotten hurt and that mother would have had no idea. I hope they turned her butt into social services and she has to attend parenting classes. The days of dropping your child off somewhere unattended are over. Is it unfortunate? You bet but that's the world we live in.

  9. Good for you! Both as a social worker and as a mother you absoutley did the right thing by calling 911. More people need to get into other people's business when it comes to our community's children.

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