I am not blessed with children of my own, but I love the kids in my life just the same. I have an incredible nephew (no bias here) who I adore, and my cousins have started their own beautiful families too ( nope, no bias). I also have several friends who have equally beautiful children whom I enjoy spending time with as well. I understand that this gives me a very limited view on parenting children, but sometimes I have to wonder. I have had a couple of experiences that make me think that some parents could benefit from a refresher course.

A while back I was waiting patiently in line at the grocery store, my purse over my shoulder and my hands resting on my cart. I feel a not-so-gentle tug on my shoulder. As I turn around, I’m greeted by the face of a 5 or 6-year old boy who has his hands around my wallet and is attempting to remove it from my purse. I look up and see his mother who is busy talking on the phone. I started to take back my wallet from the little boy just as she turns around towards me. 

You would think, most parents would be surprised, perhaps they might scold the little boy. Nope. Not this mom. Rather she glared at me as I took back my property, never once stopping her conversation.

“Excuse me,” I said, “Your son reached into my purse and took out my wallet.” I though that maybe she was upset because she had thought that I was giving him something. 

She told her phone friend to ‘hang on’ and then addressed me. “So? Then deal with it.” 

“Pardon me?” Color me surprised, I wasn’t expecting this.

“Yeah, it’s your problem not mine.” She then proceeded to go back to her call. I looked down at the little boy, who by now had reached over to the candy section and was trying to open a newly captured candy bar. 

I could have responded with something about how I could call the authorities, but who is going to arrest a 5-year old. So at the time I let it go. Looking back I wish I had raised a fuss. This little boy, within a span of about 5 minutes, had tried talking my wallet and proceeded to snatch a candy bar. Not entirely his fault, but clearly his mother wasn’t giving him the guidance that he needed. I imagine that when he steals his first car, his mother will blame the victim. She will probably say that person shouldn’t leave it unlocked in their locked garage if they don’t want it taken.

Being an aunt is great, I can learn so much from the parents in my life and I get to be someone that the “nieces and nephews” can have fun with. My nephew will pretend to be upset (“you make me learn stuff in the summer!”) but we both enjoy each other. I love his enthusiasm and his energy, though I admit, sometimes it exhausts me. I admire how my sister and brother-in-law can run after him. But at least they look after him.

Several years ago I managed a restaurant. Despite the long days, it was actually a really fun job. My boss was awesome, the staff were great, and our regulars were always fun. One evening I was running around as usual, helping were I could. Our kitchen had swinging doors so that you could easily go in and out, and I am guessing it looked fun to someone who was small.

I was in the kitchen when a little boy of about 4-5 years old suddenly was standing in our kitchen. I started to approach him but he dashed out onto the floor through the swinging doors. I went to follow him, making sure that he was getting back safety to his parents. Not so much. My hand was almost on the swinging door when the rosy little face popped back in. I tried to coax Junior into going out, but instead came in and out, over and over. Finally I picked him up and began making rounds to the tables to find his family. After about 10 table visits l came to the table where his parents toward the front of the restaurant, starting up at one of the TV’s that we had around the restaurant.

“Excuse me folks, but do you know this boy?” Both parents turned their heads around eyes wide. Both mumbled an excuse as I explained where he had been found. I made some reply about how he was safe and sound now and told them to enjoy the rest of there dinner.

Guess who came to the kitchen for round two 15 minutes later. Hello Junior.

This time I picked up the little boy and took him to the hostess station up at the front of the restaurant, a mere glance away from his parents table. I sat there with him, coloring and listening to him explaining his drawings to me. It was close to 25 minutes before his parents came up to get him. Juniors’s mom and dad thanked me for watching him while they enjoyed their dinner.

Now, I consider myself a non-confrontational person, but this was unacceptable. I calmly explained that while it was a family establishment it was not a babysitter or day care provider, and that the only reason I sat was him as I had, was for the safety of my staff and other guests. I let the know that they missed their child’s presence for nearly 45 minutes and that they were lucky that I found him, not some creep. They quietly left and the next time that we saw them, Jr. was seated on the inside.

We live in a time we can’t always treat our kids the way we grew up. Many summers were spent walking over to a friends house a delaying past dark before walking home. We drank out of water hoses, played in mud puddles and rode our bikes across town to swim in the local pond. We had respect for our neighbors because if we did something naughty the neighbors made sure my parents knew about. And my parents knew that the neighbors weren’t to blame but their own children. Frightening as it is, we can’t always do that anymore. And it is such a shame, because it was a great way to grow up.

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