highly honest post on gender disappointment which I published last week. I understand that there are always things going on behind closed doors that others don't witness but the fact that I've seen so many things recently that have had me feeling as though they are bordering on neglect, I simply had to write this post.
There are many accepted parenting styles and if I was challenged to say which style I've adopted as a mother I'd probably say that I'm a mix of permissive and attachment. I don't expect a lot from my son but I do expect him to be respectful and caring towards others, I listen to his demands and try to meet them as best I can, I want him to see me as someone he can speak to rather than an authoritative figure and although my own mother tells me that - "you can never be friends with your child", I'll damn well give it my best try. I also co-sleep with him from time to time (he never wants to leave my side since I became pregnant) and did baby-wearing with him, the boy is always close to me and instead of finding it to be a 'rod for my own back' as people would say, I find it quite endearing that he always wants to be with me.
Last week my boy caught his baby finger on his toy pirate ship, you know, one of those injuries that is so teeny but hurts like a mother... that kind. I decided that only one thing would calm him down and make him forget his woes and cheer him up was to head for the playground. Now I usually avoid the playground in our town like the plague, if you can even call it a playground of course, it doesn't even have swings or a proper slide... but it was late in the afternoon and I didn't feel like driving to the next town to visit our usual haunt so we settled for the crappy 'playground' instead.
Once we arrived I was delighted to see that there were only three kids there, usually the place is ganged, however, I also noticed the distinct lack of adults. This playground is enclosed within a very busy and long car park, the gate can be easily opened by children and it's right next to an open quay with deep water too, so you can imagine my surprise at the lack of supervision for these children. It was a lovely, sunny evening, if a bit chilly, so there was no excuse for parents or guardians to be anywhere else other than the playground with their little darlings, where were they all?
Looking around I spotted a car parked not in a space but just a bit away from the playground railings with an older lady sitting inside - I'm guessing this was two of the children's grandmother. I was a bit taken aback that a grandmother of all people would leave her grandchildren off to their own devices - my Nan won't even let me take my son out to her garden without a bombardment of "hold his hand" and "make sure he doesn't fall!" being repeated at me, but there she was, sitting in the car, too far away to make sure the children were behaving themselves or were indeed okay on the playthings in the 'playground'...
At this stage the other little girl was making herself very vocal, bossing the other kids around and not letting them on the playthings, including my son. This is one thing which I dread about the playground, soft play, etc. as I've always taught my son to take turns, give other children a chance to play, etc. and usually other parents are very accommodating with this too, but where were this girls parents? Looking around the place some more in the hope that someone would come along and discipline the girl I saw two cars parked up next to one another, both with women inside having a smoke, chatting through the windows, I quickly figured out that one of these was the girl's mother. The little girl, who was at most three and half in age, opened the gate to the playground and walked out by the open quay to get to one of the cars. Well, my heart almost stopped, not only could she have fallen into the water, but she also left the gate open for other sprightly children to make their escape too. In fact, the girl went over to the railings by the water (which are very much open) and her mother still just sat in the car, shouting at her to "come back"... anyone with a toddler knows that this method of getting a child to return to you never works, so eventually she had to get off her arse and actually put her back in the playground herself.
It seems two instances of neglectful parenting/grand-parenting weren't enough for this half an hour in the playground... another car pulled up, this time parked a fair distance away from the playground itself and across the busy car park (the only free parking in the town so you can imagine how busy it is), a young woman basically dumped the child, a boy around the same age as my son, in the playground and told him she'd be back "in two minutes"... famous last words there. The boy repeatedly got fed up of playing on his own, opened the gate and actually ran across the car park to the car, only for her to dump him back in the playground again and again, it was so sad to watch. Every time she left and came back there was a distinctive smell of something illegal in the air too... (I've been to Amsterdam more than once so I'm familiar with the scent), so I don't know if she was smoking in the car, hence it being parked far away, but whatever she was doing, it was obviously far more important that playing with or supervising her child.
This was just one half hour at the playground and I had encountered three instances of neglectful parenting, in fact, I felt like the minority actually sitting there supervising my child, maybe I should have fecked off too... but I'd never do that, he's my son and it's my responsibility to look after him, make sure of his welfare and to mind him as best I can. I don't even let him walk out to our car on his own when it's parked in our driveway as I know cars speed down the road, I may be verging on the overly-cautious side of parenting but I'd rather that then neglecting him altogether. I thought that it was really sad that this neglect was happening at the playground, a place that should be a happy and safe place for children to be. Is this dumping of children at the playground a done thing? I'd never encountered it before last week and to be honest, I hope I never witness it again. These were all young children, if they're being left alone at this age what will happen when they're older?
In addition to the playground neglect I've lately also seen children, six and under, being left to roam busy roads after dark, being left walk home from school alone in the rain with no coat and being left in the car alone for long periods of time whilst their parents go and do the food shop. It may be convenient for parents to allow their children to do these things, but do I think they're right? Most definitely not. My son won't be roaming the roads after dark until he's at least a teenager, he'll be dropped and collected from school until he's at a responsible age to be able to walk home himself and he'll certainly be supplied with a coat! I never leave him alone in the car because I'd be terrified someone would break in and take him or that he'd free himself from his car seat and release the hand break or something equally as dangerous.
Once we give birth to or become a parent to a child it's our responsibility to look after them as best we can. As I said, there can be circumstances where children do just have to walk home in the rain - I remember having to do it as a child back in the 90's as my mother was a single parent with no car and the bus didn't stop for me, but the fact that I'm seeing obvious neglect of children on a daily basis just doesn't sit right with me. There were three people at that playground that evening neglecting the children they were looking after and putting them in danger of cars, deep water, etc. What could have been more important than minding them properly? A fellow mother who arrived after us even asked me if it was 'a done thing', she was as shocked as I was.
Maybe neglectful parenting is just an accepted thing these days. Parents are becoming lazier than ever and really, it's easier to sit on your ass than actually look after your child isn't it? However, I'll never accept it, I think it's awful and really does make me wonder why these people had children in the first place if they can't even do something which is naturally supposed to come part of the parcel of being a parent - actually looking after your child and making sure they're safe. The world is a dangerous place and to willingly put your child, or any child in your care, in unnecessary danger is just so wrong to me.
Have you encountered neglectful parenting recently? Do you think it's a rife as I now believe it to be?