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If you Value that Hand – You will Keep it to Yourself: “Where Are Your Parents?”

So, this Sunday, we met some friends in the city for a little play date.  We went to one of those inflatable jumping places (let’s call it Bouncing Barracuda since they are always heavy on alliteration and have an anthropomorphized animal mascot).  Bouncing Barracuda, versus the country come to town Leaping Llama where we usually go, is culturally very diverse and they serve things like humus plates and organic cheese crackers instead of cotton candy and those red hotdogs. 

Anyway, little E is only 16 months old, he has confidence around other kids, but in those places he is still pretty young and small compared to the other kids.  The environment of the Bouncing Barracuda was supercharged, maybe because children were expelling the rest of the devil that church didn’t take care of, but they were all worked up into a fevered pitch.  It was like a middle school production of “Apocalypse Now”.  As a strict rule - we follow E everywhere he goes in those places because it’s not unheard of for older kids to go ripping through the three and under jumpers bouncing babies into a whiplash, or creaming them with loose toys strewn about the room, or knocking them down without one of those awkward, under the breath “excuse me’s” that come with the realization that a mom is standing there.  These things we are aware of, but what happened on Sunday went beyond the boundaries of errant ball tossing or the clumsy collision of trying to balance as you walked. 

Our baby, our little man, our reason for living - was slapped… not once, but twice.  Two separate kids, two separate incidences, and two moms in shock.  The first time was between E and a 7 or 8 year old girl.  Our friends’ daughter wanted a ball and E went to get one for her.  He had his hands on it first, but the girl decided that E should know through some sort of telepathy that the ball belonged to her.  She screamed at him and slapped his hand away.  Mama K stood there in disbelief about what just happened. She sought her inner chi and told the little girl that it is not nice to hit and that he had the ball first. She should learn to share… she adamantly said, No! To this Mama K replied you are not acting very nicely right now and then the little monster (I mean girl) decided she would give up the ball only by throwing it at lil E’s head. Mama K with her cat-like reflexes deflected the ball and it hit the little girl in the process. Off she went and so did lil E and Mama K.

I did not see any of this transpire, I was in the restroom getting knocked out by the toilet paper dispenser (don’t ask).  I heard about it from Mama K.  “Where are her parents?” “What did you do?” “What did he do?” A series of questions I asked, but he moved on and so did we.  The second time I was there.  Outside one of the big kid bouncers were two plastic police motorcycle rocking things (basically your kid straddles them and rocks back and forth).  E had been rocking on them earlier in the day and they had disappeared. Well E found them, they had been, apparently as we would find out in a few minutes, strategically placed beside the bouncer.  These boys that put them there were physically too big for the rockers, but the rockers were just the right size to fulfill the “Chips” sized fantasy they had going.  E had begun to climb on one as one of the “Chips” wannabe’s tumbled out of the bouncer.  He slapped E’s hand and ripped the toy away from him. 

Little E’s eyes began to well up with tears as “Ponch’s” little left hand collapsed on E’s stinging little right hand.  Mama K told the boy to say he was sorry and that hitting was not nice.  The kid said nothing.  I took over “Who is your mother?” “Where is she?!?”  Nothing.  Not out of fear was the child silent - he knew if he said nothing, we would eventually leave, because we couldn’t wait forever.  I looked for his parents, but who was I looking for? 

Was he with one of the dad’s glued to the Tennessee basketball game on the flat screen above the men’s bathroom (they lost by the way…)?  Was he with one of the internet browsing Betty’s checking in with their Facebook friends, that are either really good friends you talk to on a regular basis anyway or one you friended because you can’t say “no” even though you disliked each other in high school?  Was he with one of the people lounging in the massaging recliners that were not actually massaging because nobody wants to pay a buck for five minutes of rattling around in a chair?  Was he with one of the families in a large group of families socializing in a circle with only those parents facing north able to see the bouncers as big as they are?  Was he with any of those parents that were taking this opportunity to catch up on sleep?  Or, maybe, just maybe… (wait for it…) he was with the mother we saw in her SUV in the parking lot reading a book as we were leaving. 

We will never know because no one approached us and said “Is there something I can do for you (strange adult women I’ve never seen before speaking to my child)?”  But I guess the reaction, or lack thereof, on behalf of the parents summed up the children’s attitudes: No one cares about me - so I do not care about anyone else.  Next time, I guess we’ll alert an employee or, and I like this idea even better, we can go on a school day in the morning when all of these little jerks are trapped in a classroom like caged animals waiting to be unleashed by their parents on any given Sunday. What would you do in this situation? Is it okay to correct another child’s (known or complete stranger) behavior and is it even worth it?

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