My FB status: Grandma to 4-year-old boy at mall play area: ‘I’m going next door (into Sears). I’ll be back in a bit.’ Um.. what?
I was sitting in the mall play area watching my daughter play around when I over heard an older woman say this to a 4-year-old boy. And with disbelief, I watched her walk away.
If you are wondering why I didn’t immediately yell, LADY? WHERE ARE YOU GOING WITHOUT THIS LITTLE BOY, here’s what I was thinking:
1) Perhaps another parent/caretaker in the play area is also in charge of the boy.
2) Perhaps one of the older kids was his sister (the oldest in the area was probably 6 years old but maybe she’s very mature?)
3) Perhaps she was going to be within ear and eyeshot while “next door”
When I realized number 3 was clearly not coming true as she disappeared into the store, I looked around to see about numbers 2 and 1, but no one else seemed to even noticed what had happened. Then my 3-year-old needed to pee.
We went to the bathroom, which is when I popped up my FB status. I really just wanted a reality check because even though I was in the real world, no one around me seemed to be acting like it.
As I came back, the woman I thought might be friends with the grandma was leaving with the girl who was clearly not the older sister. She didn’t even glance at the boy. Numbers one and two were definitely not true. I nearly ran back to the play area because I was afraid he would just be gone and all I could hope was the grandma had gotten him while we were in the bathroom.
He was still there playing. By this point, I was trying to figure out how to contact mall security while still watching my child. This preschooler clearly had no one look after him, and I was going to have to leave soon to pick up my oldest child. Suddenly, the child began to put on his socks and shoes and coat and said to no one in particular, I need to leave now. I walked over to the only other mom left (who was ignoring or hadn’t noticed the situation?): Should I call security? His grandma isn’t here.
She replied: Oh, well maybe she’s in the bathroom?
(For longer than my 3-year-old daughter?) but I said: No, she went into Sears.
She said: Oh.
I turned to the boy: Do you know where your grandma is? Do you know where to meet her?
His answer made no sense, which didn’t surprise me since his grandma had said “next door” when saying where she would be and told him to play here.
The other mom said: Let’s just keep him in the play area until the grandma comes back.
While minding our own kids, we reminded him multiple times that he needed to stay and wait for his grandma. He look confused and scared and mostly stood at the entrance not playing at all. Finally, grandma ambled up the main aisle of the store and towards the play area. I was so relieved to see her, I yelled: YAY! THERE’S YOUR GRANDMA!
He went to her, and I overheard her reprimand him saying: You need to stay here until I come back.
When I got back to Facebook, I was all, Um, no Grams, YOU need to stay here until y’all are done playing. The plastic turtle and me aren’t going to watch your grandson. In fact, I had to leave to take my daughter to the bathroom during this insanity.
But in the moment, I was so overwhelmed and the experience so outside of my norm of parenting that all I could so was focus on the boy. While I believe it takes a village to raise a child and I’m glad I was there, I wasn’t even asked to look after him. In looking back even 30 minutes later, I’m not sure the other mom was right about sitting and waiting rather than contacting security. I don’t think a confrontation by me would’ve made a difference except to scare the boy and maybe the grandma and not in a productive way. But perhaps an officer could’ve taken it to the parents or explained to the grandma that he’s too young to be left alone in the mall play area.
I don’t know if I need mall security on speed dial or I should see this as a fluke. Was I suppose to be the parent police or can I just be glad I helped this child out in the moment?
Update: Many of you suggested that I should’ve called mall security. Since I can’t go back in time to call them, I thought I could at least make it easier for the another person to call security if it happened again so I contacted the mall with my story and suggested that they post the mall security number in the play area. They thought it was a great idea and are talking to the head of security now. Yay! And thanks.