Unless someone else's kid is giving me or my own kids a difficult time, I'm hard pressed to play "The Citizen's Parent" and say anything.
But when it comes to the safety of other kids, I'm all for overstepping my boundaries, regardless of whether the parents want me to or not. Mainly because if my kid was in danger or what they perceived as danger, I'd want them to do the same thing.
It still seems, however, that many parents are often offended when another well-meaning parent steps in and attempts to help their child, because for some reason, the need for help is interpreted as "you're not doing your job very well."
However, I haven't exactly come up with a job that we are asked to do on a daily basis that isn't made somewhat better (however you interpret that word) by the assistance of another person.
That's not to say I need or want someone to come in and do my job for me, but when it comes to parenting in public, an extra set of eyes, ears, and hands can certainly come in handy.
A few weeks ago, The Joys and my family were at a local Bluegrass Festival and while Quinlan and I were off getting a snack, we turned around to find an extremely distraught preschooler screaming for her father, apparently lost and unable to locate him. I took her into my grasp, scanning the massive crowd and asking if anyone knew who her parents were while people just sort of oddly stared like one or both of us was crazy.
After a minute or two, her mother rushed over to her, grabbed her tightly, and thanked me profusely, both of us tearing up. Both of us knowing that feeling of fear.
Conversely, at the Decatur Book Festival last weekend I was headed back to grab my stroller and I saw a wobbly toddler about Drew's age walk right off the top of about 10 concrete steps, without any sign of an adult nearby. I rushed over to her looking for her parents; they were about five feet away and gave me a weird look like I was some sort of paranoid freak, told me she was fine, and went back to their business. Apparently their daughter is a stair stepping champion or has a really hard head.
In both cases, I held no judgment towards the parents. We've all gotten engrossed in conversations, we've all turned our backs for "just one second," and we've all had moments when we might feel like the worst parents in the world.
But there seems to be this stigma that we can only accept help if we ask for it. And if we don't watch our kids all the time and someone reaches out to help us, that means we're incompetent.
I've struggled with allowing others to be a "citizen's parent" to my children. It's certainly not something that I rely on, but instead of being offended, I try to let it remind me that I'm human. That I can't do it all. And that I might need to tighten up my "game" a little bit.
As I was rushing into Target the other day, a woman saw me struggling and asked if I needed a "buggy" (Southern for cart). I asked her "God, I look that desperate, huh?" sort of joking. Sort of not. Clearly I would have made it to the door without her help, but it would most certainly not have been pretty. But she responded "Nope, you just look really hot and really pregnant" (both really true) and without even asking, she grabbed a cart, and stuck Quinlan in for me while I secured Drew.
And for the first time ever, I just smiled right back at her and said "You know what? You're absolutely right. Thank you."