• Supervision is a tricky thing.  As parents we want to ensure our children’s safety, yet we don’t want to be Helicopter (see our Playdate article Over Parenting) parents circling and constantly intervening.  Most of us try to find that balance.  Yet lately I’ve noticed more and more parents are ignoring their children altogether to enjoy their own social endeavors…at inappropriate times and at inappropriate venues.

    When I go to the park with my children they love to play with other children.  Not necessarily children we know, just any willing children. And I love that they enjoy being kids.  I don’t mind being the only adult actually playing with the kids, but what I do mind and don’t love is being the only adult supervising while the other parents are talking on their cell phones, or are nowhere in sight.  Having a 7 year old girl in our midst with no other adult in the vicinity is worrisome.  And, truth be told, irritating.  When she falls and is crying, is it appropriate for me, a stranger, to hold her and comfort her?  When I look around and notice that no adult is interested in the situation, am I supposed to leave my own children to search the park for her family or caretakers who have not come over after 5 minutes of her sitting on the ground crying?  How has this other child become my responsibility instead of her own parent’s?

    Having a 7 year old girl in our midst with no other adult in the vicinity is worrisome. And, truth be told, irritating.

    This past weekend I took my children to the Los Angeles Zoo. One of their favorite attractions is the petting zoo. Most of the children in the petting zoo area were there with their parents.  There was one very energetic four year old boy running around and pulling on the goats’ tails. One of the two zookeepers, a lady in her mid to late sixties (whom I later learned was a volunteer), asked the child nicely to stop and looked around for his parents. The boy laughed and then ran to the front of the goat where he began to point his finger at the goat’s eyes. The lady politely intervened and shooed the goat away, asking the child to stop. She once again looked out at the crowd behind the fence hoping to catch the eye of this child’s parents. The boy again ran around her and began to poke the goat in the eye more aggressively. At this point, the volunteer zookeeper had enough and took the child’s hand to prevent him from harming the animal. She walked him out toward the exit gate looking for his parents. Of course, immediately a woman stood up from a bench, tossed her cell phone into her purse and charged toward the exit yelling, “Let go of my son, you have no right to touch him!” She then grabbed her son’s hand away from the zookeeper and demanded to speak to a supervisor. The zookeeper tried calmly to talk to her but to no avail. She made contact with a supervisor and proceeded to file a complaint.

    I understand that no one wants someone else touching or parenting his/her child. But what do you do when no one is parenting that child? If you’re out in public or at a friend’s house, then you have to realize that your child is an extension of you. If they pick-up and destroy a precious item in someone’s home, then it’s as if you did it yourself. And when it comes to harming themselves or others (animals included), if you are not there to stop them you should be grateful if someone else is.  If you don’t like the idea of someone else stepping in then you need to step up yourself.  So, do us all a favor and realize that children actually want someone to parent them and provide structure. It lets them know that you care for their safety and wellbeing. Put down the phone and get rid of other distractions so you can be a part of their world. And if there are times when you know you will be distracted and cannot adequately supervise them in public then stay home or bring someone with you to help care for them. Your children are your responsibility and should not be let loose to be some other responsible adult’s burden. Also, keep in mind that the time and attention you give them now is like money in the bank- it will pay off in dividends when they are older!