Kids of Strangers

Today I was a jerk.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a playground with kids, so I hope everyone can forgive me the following rudeness: today I ignored a stranger’s kid who desperately wanted my attention. I was helping Kaitlyn on her swing…and let’s face it, an 18 month old needs lots of help…when a kid who was 6 if he was a day rushed up to the swings beside us. “Wait for me,” he shouted hopefully. “Wait…wait…wait for me,” he chanted as I continued to push my giggling daughter. I know it takes a village to raise children; just a few minutes before that, I had spent some time getting to know the stranger and her 4 month old on the swings while I pushed Kaitlyn. This was different, though. This was a kid who needed someone to pay attention to him for the sake of the attention, someone who needed to feel like he belonged. The new mother was looking for adult conversation and some friendly engagement. The older kid, though, needed something more than I could give him without throttling something growing between myself and my daughter, and I wasn’t about to let that happen for a stranger. No way.

Still…I felt a little bit guilty. That is, I felt guilty until the moment I saw the kid run over to his mother…who was sitting in the car…with the door wide open…talking loudly on her cell phone about the injustice of the fact that she had been pulled over for speeding…and she was cursing. This kid wanted nothing more than a little attention from his parent, but she couldn’t break herself away from her own “very important conversation” to even spare him the time to properly shoo him away. She just ignored him. He eventually got the message.

I could have played with him and my daughter. I could have tried. I could have been a positive influence in his life for just a moment. Instead, I focused on my daughter and kept her laughing. It was all I had the heart to do.

Today I was a jer…no…today I was a dick. I’ll try to do better next time. That’s all any of us can do.

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