I’m at the playground, watching my daughter when suddenly, there’s another kid there and I’m asked by a parent to “keep an eye out for a minute.” This, of course, never means a minute. Here, one minute equals 10 minutes or longer. Before I respond, the parent is on the phone or somewhere else and there I am I’m saddled with another child.
These asks don’t come from the friend-parents I may have come with or met at the park. I don’t mind doing favors for them because I like friends. I know friends. Friends also do favors for me in return because, well, they will see me again at some point in life. In any case, I have nightmares leaving my daughter with good people I’ve known for years. So it’s difficult for me to parse a rando-stranger-parent’s perspective.
But it happens. Often. I obviously have a child who these kid-dumpers see has been kept alive for seven years and is sufficiently well-adjusted to play in a public place. Therefore, I must have had something to do with this and, in conclusion, I must not be some sort of shady character.
If this is not the exact thought process, then what is? Congratulations for keeping your child alive! You obviously faced some long odds against this and are able to watch my child as well as yours as I go off and do something else.
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But the thing is also this: When I’m with my kid, I want to hang out with my kid. If the rare emergency emergency comes up and not one of the air-quotes kind, I’ll certainly do a strapped parent a solid and keep an eye out. But these moments are not rare. Mostly, it’s parents who are too busy swiping their phone at the park to play with their kid and then I get saddled with their kid who wants to hang out because they see me having a good time at the monkey bars with my daughter.
It’s worse at the pool. Here’s a story: On Memorial Day, I was in the pool with my daughter when a neighbor in my apartment complex, someone I’ve had exactly three mailbox discussions with, yells into her phone at someone about something when two fingers go up at me and suddenly, her little girl becomes my legal responsibility.
Her kid isn’t even playing with mine, so I have to ping-pong my eyes across two ends of the pool to keep watch on both. And of course, all I’m thinking about is this article I’ve recently read about how drowning doesn’t like drowning, and how 375 children 14 and younger drown every year within 25 yards of a guardian.
Honestly, I feel like taking the child into my permanent custody.
Not only is Crazyneighbor negligent, but she has also chosen the precise moment I had reserved to pee. I had been putting off my comeuppance for adequate hydration to coincide with a fun-lull in the Marco Polo game my daughter was engaged in and I should have known better because, honestly, when is there a fun-lull in Marco Polo? (You can’t see me but my eyes are rolling right now.)
So now, waiting to call my daughter out of the pool to follow me into the men’s room has become a quagmire worthy of Confucius. Do I drag a stranger’s daughter to the men’s room or leave her somewhere unwatched?
Which possible $12.5 million lawsuit would you prefer, sir?
My choice is obvious. But emergency urine is not pleasant urine to manage. My legs involuntarily cross several hundred times waiting for this person to return before a cloud of yellow discharge explodes from my swim trunks.
You think I’m joking? Look up the death of 16th century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. Guy died from refusing to leave a banquet to relieve himself because he thought it would be rude. Once he got home, he couldn’t pee and died when his bladder burst.
Either because there is either a God or because I owe my life entirely to chance, Crazyneighbor returns at what feels to my nether regions like the very last possible second, thanking me as profusely as I then proceed to relieve myself. At least she thanked me.
I’m all for being a Good Samaritan. But this happens all the time. I’m seriously considering wearing a shirt that says “Not here for your kids.” At the very least, I’m never speaking to anyone at the mailbox again.