Parenting is a bit like driving. That analogy may not stand up to scrutiny in all respects but does in one way, at least. Take your eyes off the road (or the child) at your own peril.
There’s a large communal playground at a shopping centre near where I live. Adjacent to it, behind the playground fence, is a promenade of different cafes and restaurants. Perhaps for that reason – as well as the fact it has equipment suitable both for little kids and bigger ones – this is one popular kiddie paradise and thus one riddled with unaccompanied minors.
At the entrance to the playground is a sign which reads: “Children must be supervised by an adult at all times while within the confines of the playground…” plus some other standard legalese protecting the centre from any negligence claims.I’d venture 95 per cent of parents bringing children to this playground don’t even notice this sign or, if they do, studiously ignore its direction about unaccompanied minors.
The temptation of dumping (there’s no other word for it!) the kids and heading for a leisurely coffee or dinner at one of the eateries is too great. In fact, they gang up with friends to collectively park the children in the playground and head to the café for some serious natter as part of ‘adult time’.
I should add that some of the food and drink establishments are not in the sightline of the playground. The children can actually – depending on exactly where the parents disappear away to – be not seen and not heard.
More than once, I’ve been the sole parent inside this playground while at least 25-30 kids of ages ranging from four to fourteen have run around like lunatics for extended periods of time. The only adult.
I’m sorry, but that’s shithouse.
Unaccompanied minors in general but more specifically kids who are pre or early teens can be particularly nutty. They barrel around playing super-intense games of Tag without a skerrick of thought for the little ’uns in their path. Numerous is the time I’ve seen them run square into a smaller child coming around a corner and do damage of the bleeding nose/bruised forehead kind.
And guess who comforts and picks up that smaller child? And then tries to find their parents somewhere among the 12 food outlets? Well, old mate writing this rant, of course. I’m the only adult there. Meanwhile, I have to leave my own child unattended while I go find some other kid’s slack-arse mum or dad.
At first, I was kinda philosophical about it my attitude. About the fourth or fifth time, I decided to call the parents out on their attitude towards unaccompanied minors. The anger and outrage I receive in response is truly galling. They seem to feel perfectly entitled to leave their kids out of their sight, to be comforted by a complete stranger when there’s an accident. I don’t get it. I’ve also seen this happen in lots of other places where adults have a convenient ‘out’.
Afterwards, once I’ve settled down, part of me wonders whether I’m the palooka here. Maybe I’m too overprotective of my child. Maybe these parents experience no qualms leaving their children alone and out of reach for a while because they see it as teaching them valuable life lessons about resilience, toughness, independence. Can they be that calculated?
Then I see another five or six-year-old screaming at the top of its little lungs, blood dripping from the end of its nose, crying for its nowhere-to-be-seen mummy or daddy, and I think, “fuck you, supervise your kids.”
Full attention all of the time is not possible, I get it, even when you’re present. We all do a bit of catch-up browsing on the ol’ smartphone because you really can only watch your kid go down the spiral slide so many times. But at least I’m there when a potential disaster makes itself manifest. Are you?
Parenting ain’t a matter of ‘minding’ or ‘babysitting’. It’s your job when they’re with you, and it’s most definitely not part-time because you want to escape with other adults. Hopefully, this rant encourages you to do drop the ‘un’ from unaccompanied minors.