Yesterday, after school, I took my three little monkeys to the library. We have an awesome library with this wonderful kids area. It has all sorts of cool developmental activity centers, including those magnet tables with spiders & bugs, a farm house and a Thomas the Train table/track/set.
I can browse for chapter books to read with the girls while still able to see the kids. When the boy (he's 2) gets a little feisty, I'm just footsteps away to shush him! How do you spell "shush"?
Anyway, yesterday there was another mom of 3 in the same area. She had three boys, the dear (read this for my take on nurture vs. nature), but it seemed like more as they came from all directions constantly. She had a nice, big bump indicating the arrival of another within a few months. I could only shake my head in empathy and wonderment (I am not meant for more children! We stop at three for the sake of my sanity).
As anyone with 3 or more young (mine are 6, 5 and 2) children knows, it is very difficult to keep them all rounded up. The littlest one is inevitably the fastest and most curious and always runs away from mom. It's a great, wonderful game to run away and be chased! And the middle child is constantly offering up attention getting behavior just when mom is busiest.
As the clock edged toward the dinner hour, both the other mom and I headed toward check out. Older kids love to do this themselves at our library. We have self-checkout just like at the grocery store. I'm laden with books and kids and my little guy tries to escape. Fortunately, the doors are heavy and there are two sets before getting outside. I wrangled him and continued helping my oldest scanning her books (while he is of course wriggling and screaming to get away). My second daughter is suddenly standing by the exit door. It isn't far, but I like to keep my children within arms reach in public. You just never know.
The other mom was fairing similarly. Chasing her youngest while the oldest stands staring off at the wall between the two sets of doors. The middle child walks right out the second set of doors and is standing outside. The mom sees him and to no avail, tries to get the oldest to help her get him back.
I'm summoning my middle child at the same time, still clinging to my squiggly, loudly protesting toddler. It must have been quite a scene for the observing librarians and other patrons.
Finally, my children all with me, and books checked out and placed in the bag I remembered to bring this time, we walk out. The middle boy of the other woman, who is still wrangling her toddler and checking out books, is still standing outside.
We live in a relatively safe city, but safety is relative. And there's a scary sort standing in front of the building smoking. I asked the little boy to go inside with his mother. Stranger danger has been taught well enough and he pushes his face into the corner without responding. The door was still open, so I called to his brother, but he also ignored me. So, we waited with him. Just standing there to make sure he stayed safe until his mom, who was nearly finished, came out.
When she did, she thanked me and then our attention was turned to this older woman who jumped out of her car and hollered to the mom, "You lucky I don't call 9-1-1 on your a$$! I'm about to call 9-1-1 on yo' a$$ you leave him out here all this time!" Then she got back into her car grumbling the same over and over as she drove off.
Whoa! Give a mom a break! How quick she was to judge this woman. How was she to know that this poor mother hadn't been frantically searching the library for her kid? She couldn't see the mom from her car, only the boy.
I agree she should have stopped what she was doing and come out to get her middle child, but it isn't that easy and instead of judging, lend a hand. Instead of shouting at someone when you don't have a grasp of their situation, take a breath and seek to understand. Reserve your judgement, extend a patient, helpful hand.
It still takes a village to raise children. We just don't have the same villages anymore.