Because it is extremely important for my mental health to get out of the house at least once a day with the children, yesterday I loaded everyone up - just after breakfast - and headed to a local park.
With our picnic lunch in hand, we arrived at 10:00 AM.
There was a local playgroup meeting at this same park - so I would estimate that there were roughly 25 kids running around. Within a few minutes of arriving, we were joined by a little boy named Brandon, who had just turned four years old.
Brandon climbed on all the play structures with our children ... took turns going down the slide ... hung on the bars and made noises like a monkey ... and shared a swing with William.
An hour passed.
Although I was definitely looking, not once could I see an adult who was supervising Brandon.
Because it was getting close to lunch time and the temperature was heating up, I herded my children over to a small covered picnic table, beneath a play structure, and pulled out their sippy cups of lemonade and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Little Brandon saddled up next to them and sweetly inquired "Where's my lunch?"
As is always the case, I had enough food with me to feed a small colony of children. I had three full sandwiches, a ziploc bag full of apples, a sleeve of Fig Newtons, three granola bars and two oranges. But, I have no idea if Brandon has food allergies - OR - what his guardian/parent would think of some absolute stranger feeding their son on a playground, so I told him "Brandon, I'm so sorry! I had NO idea that you were going to be here today or else I would have packed something for you to eat, too!"
While my children sat down and ate their lunch and drank their ice cold lemonade, Brandon watched. At one point I asked "Brandon, who are you here with?" And he responded, while pointing at a covered picnic area 100 yards away, "Mommy. She's over there ... somewhere."
I stood up from where we were seated beneath the play structure and looked again, and although I could see a clump of people standing around talking, I couldn't see anyone that so much as glanced in our general direction.
Another hour passed.
Several people left the playground and a few more people arrived. I was busy pushing the children on the swings, spotting them as they climbed up structures that were designed for kids between 5 and 12 years old, and generally - trying to keep them all within eye sight.
I was also trying to keep Henry, who was sleeping in the stroller, protected from a 20-month old who felt obliged to come over and try to shove his pacifier in my baby's mouth. When I reached my hand down and said "Oh that's nice but he doesn't need your pacifier" the toddler's mother walked up and informed me "Timmy has a 7-month old baby brother at home and he loves to share his pacifier with him."
When little Timmy tried again, and again and again to give Henry his pacifier, I finally decided that it was time for Henry to be put in the Bjorn where he would be out of Timmy and his pacifier's reach. As I was lifting Henry up, Timmy's mother gave me an offended look and said "I always let Timmy help out with his little brother."
That's nice, too.
But here's the thing. After having premature newborns that spent six weeks in the NICU, I'm a bit of a germophobe when it comes to babies.
And here's the other thing. Timmy isn't Henry's brother. I've never seen Timmy before. And for all I know, he drank toilet water for breakfast and was just licking the ground. If one of my children so much as tried to touch a strange baby's face - never mind give them THEIR pacifier - it would only happen once. I'd make sure it never happened again, even if that meant physically removing our child to a different part of the park.
Meanwhile, Brandon continued to play with our children, for the next half hour. Not once did his mother come over to check on him ... or to find out if the woman who was obviously looking after three young children - with a fourth strapped to her body - was in a good position to be pushing her son on a swing.
At 12:30, it was time for us to head home for naps.
Because in the two and a half hours we were at the park, I had yet to visually confirm that Brandon had a guardian, I walked over to the covered picnic area and asked "Hi, is someone here Brandon's mom?" A woman who was facing the opposite direction, was tapped on the shoulder by another woman before she turned around.
I said "Hi, are you here with Brandon?" and when she nodded yes, I said "OK, because I'm getting ready to leave and I wanted to make sure that he had someone here who was looking after him. Otherwise, I thought we'd just bringing him back to our house where he could spend the holidays with my family."
She laughed and then turned around to rejoin her conversation.
Brandon actually started to follow us out of the park and towards our car, before I had to stop and tell him that his mom would be very sad if he left. After a certain amount of convincing, Brandon walked back to the park and sadly waved goodbye. It took a lot of restraint to not at least toss him an orange or sleeve of Fig Newton's before I pulled out of the parking lot.
On the drive home, I decided that if I'm a helicopter parent, Brandon's mother would have to be the antithesis, a submarine parent. She just drops her child off and then dives, dives, dives. If she comes up to periscope depth, she might be able to spot her child. But chances are, no one will be able to spot her.
In a way, it's too bad we found Brandon's mom.
William would love to have a big brother.