February 12, 2007

When do you let go?

I had a Bad Parenting Moment today. Recently, a Chik-Fil-A opened near us and they have a great toddler-friendly play area. The food is okay, not overly greasy and the service is super. So, Arun and I have went a few times. Today, we went with my friend S and her daughter A for lunch. The problem started when we went into the playarea. There were several kids there who clearly did not have parents in the area supervising them, even though signs say parents should be in the play area. These kids were pretty rowdy and loud, but did not seem overly aggressive. Arun almost immediately scampered to an area of the tunnels where I could still see him, but couldn't actually get to him. The structure itself wasn't unsafe for him, but I felt nervous with him being so unreachable. However, I struggled with feeling like a Nervous Nellie and X often says I am too paranoid. And Arun was having a blast up there.

But, of course, the inevitable happened.

Arun started crying because a little girl did something to him - what it was, we'll never know, but there are no lasting injuries or any that left a mark, at least. I managed to reach him and pull him out, but it was rough going. I twisted my hamstring in the process and NewKid was probably smushed a bit.

Obviously, I made a mistake letting Arun go into the structure. I am a genius with that 20/20 hindsight shit. However, I am always conflicted with that need to protect Arun and that desire to let him explore his surroundings. I guess the key is he can't do that stuff until he can talk? Or hit back? When? It didn't help that I was PISSED OFF that parents were just letting their kids run amuck while they enjoyed a quiet Kid Free meal in the dining area.

Anyway, today was a disheartening day. I left the place feeling furious with those irresponsible parents that spoil it for everyone else, but mostly I was very angry with myself for not protecting Arun.


Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Oh Cagey...girl, you took a risk. You didn't want to cut him off from a new experience/exploring and you considered that he might not be ready for it on account of being too young, still. It didn't work out for the best but at least now you KNOW.

I know I'm not a parent and it must make you feel super-guilty that he was hurt-but you were close by and at least you were aware of the situation so you could get to him reasonably quickly (though slower than you liked).

He seems social and sweethearted. Most of the interaction with other little kids comes from a supervised playgroup and his cousins, right? He probably hasn't been exposed to out-of-the-blue aggression that wasn't caught as it was happening or severely reprimanded afterwards. That will come with time, and like you said...maybe after he gets more verbal.

Don't beat yourself up. I know it doesn't mean much from the singleton peanut gallery here but you really didn't abandon him to the wolves, and like I said, now you know.

Anonymous said...

For a singleton, Monkey speaks like a pro!

I think that is one of the hardest decisions to make when to let them go and explore the world on their own. I remember hubby getting tears in his eyes watching Audrey ride a train when she was about 18 months and he said just watching her made him feel so helpless.

I was always Mama bear when the girls were little to make sure they didn't pushed around and now I am Mama bear to make sure they aren't doing the pushing. I hate the parents who don't bother to watch their kids - no matter what age!

Diana said...

Rats. Now you feel all bad and stuff when I honestly think you did do the right thing. It didn't turn out the way you (and he and all the rest of us who read and love you) wanted, but I will still maintain that you did the right thing in letting him explore. You didn't let him get into a truly dangerous situation, he just had a bad run-in with an unsupervised kid.

I wish it would be his last, but I'm betting it will be his first of many.

I think the whole 'letting them go and be kids' part of this gig is the hardest and there are no rules for vast areas of gray.

I know none of what we say will probably help, but you truly are a marvelous mom.

Jenn said...

I feel like that everytime I leave Althea at daycare. I know they are watching her, but there are 3 -4 teachers and 10 - 15 kids. They bump and bruise each other and when it happens, I'm not there to give the motherly hug after.

Maybe it's good for them, to a degree? *shrug*

Still sucks...

Anonymous said...

I think you did the right thing. The only thing I might have done different is to say something to the restaurant management about the parents not supervising their kids in the play area.

Dee said...

I had a similar moment with Zach at the play area at the "Y" during my nephew's birthday party. I ended up making all of the big kids get out while I climbed up into the tunnel and rescued my boy. I felt bad as well, but as I am often told, you can't protect them all of the time.

A. Nonny Mouse said...

I think you did the right thing. It is so hard to let them toddle off on their own, especially when you think they might be the victim of random kid violence.

I agree with Bridget that I would, in your situation, probably have said something to management about the unsupervised kids in the play area.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

Bridget and Erin,
Ironically, we had just talked to the management right BEFORE going in. The management admitted that it is hard to keep on top of it because parents don't like being told what to do with their kids. I am sure it's awkward for the management because which customer do they piss off? I don't blame the restaurant, but the parents.

Anonymous said...

Yikes. I've seen it happen many times; parents thinking that an unsupervised (basically) lump of plastic means that their kids are fine for the twenty minutes it takes them to eat their burgers - these are the ones who don't even ATTEMPT to supervise them while they're in there.

And it's bloody frustrating; because the parents that DO care, end up babysitting someone else's kids as well as their own. STUPID.

I hope Arun is okay, I still think you did the right thing letting him experience it. I think you did well with protecting him by getting him the heck OUT. Stupid people.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

Arun was not really hurt that I could see, but the little girl had him backed into a corner. I think that all parents will agree seeing your child's face smushed up in fear is heartwrenching. I rarely ever, EVER see Arun actually scared (oh sure, curious, concerned, cautious - but not scared), so that probably prompted my own feelings as well.

Heza Hekele said...

Always go with your original gut feeling! Makes the 20/20 hindsight a little less painful! And when it comes to toddlers, overprotective is better than underprotective!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I have been to the top of a Burger King gerbil tube to rescue my two year old when 8 months pregnant. Its...awkward. And tight. But he wasn't being chased or bothered by another kid, he just got up really high and then got scared to come back down.

I have also been known to chastise other people's kids (lightly) when they act out, especially when there appears to be no mommy in sight. I guess my feeling is if I'm the only mommy who sees it, then I'm the one who should respond, and I expect the same from someone else if I'm the absent mommy. It takes a village, afterall. And if that mommy wants to get mad and get in my face I'm totally ready. Of course, my oldest is the biggest tattletale you've ever seen, so I don't usually miss what really happened even if I don't see it.
I do now sometimes let my kid play in the play area without me being right there, but I always sit so that I can see in there and keep an eye out. But mine are big enough now to understand they have to be careful around the babies, and they also know that if I see them do something, even if its an accident, I will be right on it, and I'm going to yank them out by their ankles and go home (which I've done) so they know to be good.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

I have no problem chastising kids either when the parents aren't around. I did tell the girl that she wasn't being nice and she needed to stop it immediately. I don't like telling other people's kids what to do, but those parents didn't leave a choice, did they?

Leo said...

It's not your fault. Repeat to self several times daily.