Yesterday at the park a little girl about three tapped me on the side and asked if I could help her climb up a pole like I helped Lincoln climb up it.
“I’m sorry, honey,” I said sadly. “I can’t. Where’s your mommy?”
She pointed over to a woman several yards away with her back to us fishing with a bunch kids older than this little girl.
“Get your mommy to help you. I’m sorry,” I said.
Last week, while sitting on the crowded steps of the river walk downtown waiting for the Fourth of July fireworks, a little girl about the same age was switching back and forth between sitting with her mom, who was sitting behind me on the steps, and her grandmother, who was close to the river. Each time this girl passed me, I held her hand so she could step down that big last step.
I felt weird in both situations – like I was doing something wrong.
So, I ask you, what do you do?
I try to measure the level of involvement by me, a stranger, in determining my boundaries. I also factor in the possibility of injury. For the girl on the steps, I was just holding her hand. For the girl at the park, I’d be picking her up and pushing her up the pole. However, my thoughts on our interaction may not be the same as their mothers’. Honestly, I have no idea what to do!
I wanted desperately to help the little girl at the park. He mother wasn’t paying attention to her and never really turned back to make sure she was still there where she left her. She really wanted to go up that pole. I would have been fine helping her, but would her mother?
Neither the mother nor the grandmother said anything to me when I helped the little girl down the steps each time. No “thank you.” No “don’t touch my kid.” No nothing. Was I doing something wrong or not by preventing her from falling and smashing her face on the concrete?
Also, I feel weird when I tell another kid not to hit or push Lincoln or to take turns when they’re trying to cut in front of Lincoln in a line. I fully believe it’s in my right to tell a kid not to hurt or bully my kid, but I still feel funny about it.
What are your boundaries with a stranger’s interaction with your kids in these situations? Would you care if they helped him or her up the pole or pushed them on the swing or held their hand so they wouldn’t fall? What if they reprimanded your kid for doing something wrong to their kid?
What would you do for another kid you didn’t know?
Erin Hill is a first-time mom to Lincoln, who was born in January 2010. She's learning as she goes and is experiencing everything a new mom goes through while seeing the humor, irony, and enjoyment in her adventures.
Erin is a full-time technical writer and features freelance writer in her "spare time." She lives in Plum with Lincoln, her husband, Adam, their dog, Roxie, and five (yes, five) cats, Nirvana, Gary Roberts, Elvis, Talbot and Forrest.