And now, for the 2nd installment of: I randomly get out of my car and make things awkward

Apr
05th
2013

Disclaimer: I swear I’m not going to make a habit of this. But you guys, I did it again. Not in the same way, with an angry lady in the Starbucks drive-thru. This time it was someone’s grandpa. And it wasn’t so magical.

I was driving through my parents’ neighborhood. I had to make a quick stop at their house to borrow their umbrella because the kids and I had to run some errands and it was raining and Justin took the umbrella out of my car at some point and legit question, why doesn’t a family of four have more than one tiny, multicolored polka dot umbrella?

Anyway, picked up the gigantic Ikea umbrella from my parents (which was a savior, by the way, thanks Mom) and went on my way, weaving through the neighborhood. At my last turn, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. At the house on the corner, there was a little girl, probably about two years old, standing alone on the front porch, about to walk down the steps. She looked lost and like she had wandered out there on their own. The front door of the house was cracked and she was just standing there, you guys! I swear my heart stopped for a second. The night before, I had just read a horrible news article about a little girl and I was still very much raw to the mama bear rage that bubbles up every time I hear that some psycho has hurt a child. I can’t.

With Jake and the Neverland Pirates blaring in the background and my kids happily singing along while eating their Teddy Grahams, I stopped in the middle of the street. I was going back and forth in my head, waiting for an adult to step outside with the girl and prove my instincts wrong. No one came out. She just stood there, alone.

“Okay, guys. Mommy’s going to get out for a minute. You can see me the whole time, so –”
“YO HO, LET’S GO! Arghhh! — okay, Mom!”

I pulled in front of the house and walked up the sidewalk. I knew my approach here was critical. Don’t look like a child predator, Morgan. Stay 15 feet away. Talk loud enough for a nearby adult to hear. DON’T BE CREEPY.

I stood in the middle of the walkway, far enough away so she could hear me, but not EVEN close enough to look like I was about to do anything shady. “Sweetie, go inside and find your Mommy.” It was the only thing I could think of to say. Quick and to the point. She immediately ran inside and I stood there for a second, kind of like, “Okay, now what? Close the door so I know you’re safe, kid!” But the door opened wider. A man in his late 50′s-early 60′s barreled out and stood on the porch, glaring down at me. Well at least there was SOMEONE around.

“Hi, I was driving by and saw her standing outside by herself and wanted to make sure her parents knew and that she didn’t just wander out–” I don’t know exactly what I said, but it was something panicky, along those lines, because HOLY CRAP, there was an angry man looking like he was about to smack me!

With complete attitude, he said, “Uhh, WE’RE FINE.” and looked at me like he expected me to explain myself.

Me, still trying to plead my case that I’m not a child abductor, just a friendly neighborhood watch mom, looking out for the TWO YEAR OLD STANDING ALONE IN THE FRONT YARD, LOOKING LOST AND SCARED, finally decided on a simple, “Okay, good.”

As I was driving away, I was so shaken up by what had happened. I know I know, I’m dramatic, but I promise you I wasn’t trying to create another life changing scenario on my own, just for the sake of writing about it. I just saw a kid alone and could not continue driving away with a clear conscience without making sure her parents knew she was out there. I would have wanted to know. If they were aware and were okay with the fact that she was in the front yard without any adults around, that’s extremely upsetting to me and something I would never be okay with letting my own children do, but that’s their territory. I think? Is a child, standing alone, off limits to talk to at all times if you think they could be in danger? I mean, it was their front yard and all, but it was “out” and “alone”. Two factors I am never okay with when my kids are involved.

Bear with me as I talk through this.

I have a hard time being defensive toward “Grandpa” about his anger toward me because I was talking to his little loved one and bottom line: I am a stranger. I completely get that. It’s just a weird situation, you know? She shouldn’t have been out there in the first place and my motives were absolutely 110% pure, but what if the first person who came up to her wasn’t me? Gah, I can’t handle even going down that path right now.

I’m sure there are some people who would think I was overstepping my bounds as “the stranger” and should have driven on without a thought. Grandpa probably thought that, by the look on his face. If I were him, my immediate reaction would have been close to the same thing. Then I would have thought it over and been relieved that someone had noticed and cared and then would have promptly DEADBOLTED MY FRIGGIN FRONT DOOR. Maybe she did wander out there alone and he didn’t realize it and was freaked out by the sound of an adult’s voice talking to her outside. SEE, I GET IT. I can keep analyzing this over and over, but the thing is, I don’t regret what I did for a second. I didn’t expect to be thanked. I’m actually okay with the territorial Grandpa approach. The whole thing just sort of makes me sick to my stomach.

What would you have done if you were me? What would you have done if “Grandpa” was you?

31 Comments Thus Far

  1. I can see why you did what you did! However, my daughter (2.5) often walks out the front door. I always hear her and most of the time it is because we are about to leave to go somewhere. She knows her boundaries. Never once has she gone further away than our car. I think what I might have done in your situation was just sit and watch from my car for a minute, wait to see what she would have done. I think if someone did what you did I may have been a little upset, because it would make me feel like someone was invading our privacy (whether you were or not) and make me feel like I wasn’t able to handle my job as a parent (whether you thought that or not). Our house is our safe spot. My kids are safe because I know where they are and they know where they are. Maybe if that ever occurs again just give it a minute watch from a distance. That way you feel like you are making sure they are safe but not treading on someone else “turf”. :)

  2. Nikki, I totally get that! I really tried to do that from my car, for about 2 minutes. That, I’m sure, looked creepy on it’s own as well! It’s a tough spot.

  3. Im with you! I found a baby, like 1 year old, wandering in a BUSY road once and had to call the police. I pulled over with my little boy and waited for the police or a grownup looking for him….30 mins later the police finally showed up, nobody knew he was even gone, the moms bf had been babysitting and was asleep on the couch about 6 blocks away. I say good for you for stopping, even if Grandpa was mad, because YOU NEVER KNOW.

  4. It takes a village to raise a child and thank goodness you accept the responsibility of being a part of the village. If a child can wander out where a stranger can see her she is in danger. Period! Unfortunately, not everyone is kind and concerned in this day and age. You absolutely did the right thing and I hope that Grandpa thinks long and hard about what could have happened.

  5. I would have done the exact same thing. Good for you!! The grandpa might have been mad but you could have saved her life. All little 2-3 year olds that I know have a problem with not listening and dashing off in a blink of an eye.

  6. Yes, good for you! I’m sorry, but you just never know. Better you looking “creepy” than an actual creepster coming by. Who knows if that man knew she was standing out there. When H was a year and a half and we were in apts by a busy street, Josh and I were bringing groceries in. H was walking with Josh, and he thought H followed him in the apt to stay with me so he went back out to the car. Long story short, H got all the way down to the busy street and THANK THE LORD some nice lady pulled her car over on the wrong side of the road to make sure he didn’t go in the street. Same thing, she stayed a little ways away and didn’t see a parent. We quickly panicked as we figured out we each thought the other one had H and Josh ran out to the street and thanked the lady. We both felt sick to our stomach for a long while. It happens…and we’re usually more careful because of it. Good for you, and THANK YOU for not being one of those people who just drive by, thinking its none of their business.

  7. I work at a apartment complex and one day I was walking the property and noticed a toddler in pjs coming down a set of 4 stairs of a sidewalk. I snatched her up and started banging on doors. Eventually, I found where she belonged. Her little brother (6-7 years old) opened the door and told me “Gimme my sister back!” and I was like “Go. Get. Your. Mother.” She came to the door.. after she GOT OUT OF BED. We had quite the conversation.

    So obviously, I feel that you were justified. It seems that everyone is scared to do the right thing because we hear horror stories of the person who pulls someone from a wreck getting sued. I feel that God takes over in those moments and sometimes we’re like “Omg what am I doing?!” But, we’re doing the right thing. Can you imagine if you would have kept driving and heard about her being abducted or struck by a car on the news?

  8. I would’ve done the same thing too. I don’t have kids that randomly walk outside (mainly because we live in a house with victorian glass doorknobs that even WE can’t open), but I know that there are kids that do. As a mother, your instincts kicked in. A respectful (grand)parent would have just thanked you and kept their real feelings to themselves. You would’ve felt worse if the little girl had gone missing, run into the street, etc. later on the news!

  9. I think you did the right thing….if it was my kid I would appreciate you caring.

  10. I would have done wha tyou did and not feel badly about it. And if roles were reversed, I would feel grateful. In fact, my son walked out of the house last weekend, and the neighbor came by to make sure we knew (my husband was around the side of the house pulling weeds). We were thanksful someone was watching out for our kids. Not to be stereotypical, but I would most likely be more suspicious of a strange man approaching my kid instead of a young mom out with her kids.

  11. Tough one! I think I would have done the same thing, after much inner-turmoil. When I see little ones, seemingly neglected, I immediately jump to that dark place and freak out because “What if…”

    Best part of your story, even if Gramps thinks bad things and is mad about a stranger invading into their personal business… the little girl is SAFE!

    Keep up the good work mama bear ;-)

  12. I would do exactly the same thing and have done similar things in the past. I was a nanny for years and I find that I cannot turn off my “nanny radar.” I really really try not to interfere whenever possible, but every once in a while I just cannot, in good conscience, walk away from a situation.

    I once asked a little girl (maybe two years old, MAYBE) to sit down in the front of a shopping cart in Target. Her mother had left the cart at the end of the aisle and she was hanging halfway over the front of the cart trying to see mom, who was halfway down the aisle. I just could not walk away from her 2.5 seconds from tumbling head-first to the floor, so I asked her to sit down. She looked at me like I was crazy, but she did it.

    The other side of this behavior is that parents get VERY defensive when they think you are questioning their parenting, no matter what your actual intentions were. In my opinion, it’s worth pissing mom (or grandpa) off to be sure the child is safe. I would take a deep breath and assure yourself you did what you should have done.

  13. You absolutely did the right thing — do not feel awkward for a moment! Some children do have a habit of wandering off, and, honestly, that little girl was lucky that it was you driving by and not some predatory creep. I don’t think the grandfather realized how fast someone could have nabbed the child from the porch while he wasn’t looking. When my son was 18 months old, he managed to pop off the screen door from our porch and wandered across the street to our neighbor’s garage (lots of other kids playing there). I was panic-stricken until I found him! You can imagine how grateful I would have been if someone like you had directed him back into the house before he toddled across the street.

  14. grandpas are from a different generation.things seemed safer back then…there were less people packed together and therefore less child abductions??? dunno. but times have changed! things that were safe back then aren’t as safe anymore!

    and some people are just prickley. i’m sorry he was not kind.

  15. I would’ve done the same, and I can tell you- if it was my house, I’d be thankful. I keep my doors locked, but my son (around Jack’s age) is able to unlock most of them… and just loves to run outside and has no concept of ‘don’t run in the street/stay in the yard’. I’m not always around the kids when we’re in the house- If he got outside and I didn’t know it, I would pray someone would see him and come say something.

  16. Ugggh, my dad and I have had it out a few times about how he can be careless with my children. I grew up on a farm where we could kind of roam free and he’s just not used to how we parent “these days”. He constantly freaks me out with how relaxed he is about the kids. I could SO picture this happening while my child is under his care and it freaks me out. Good for you for doing what you did.

  17. I say good on you for making sure that little girl was OK. That is TOO young to be left outside alone, on a street where cars are whizzing by! Or worse, creeper vans with candy and puppies!

    I hope that later, Grandpa realized what you were doing and was thankful that there are caring people in the world looking out for his little one’s best interest.

  18. One day at work I found a 3 year old wandering around outside our classroom gate by the busy road. Turns out by the time I found him he had walked/ran about a half a mile exploring within the 10 minutes it took his mom to shower. I definitely think you made the right choice. I place a child’s well-being over trying not to offend an adult any day.

  19. Good on you. Just today while I was going to the bathroom my 2 year old opened the front door (WEARING ONLY PANTIES AND ITS FREAKING SNOWING OUTSIDE AND WEARING ONLY PANTIES) and started yelling out the front door after my mom had started driving away. I started yelling at her and finished ASAP and gave her a GOOD talking to about how we NEVER EVER open the door without mommy’s permission but you just never know with a kid that age. :/ My kids sometimes do go outside a sec while waiting for me, and actually I’ve seen a lady stopping and assessing the situation and then continuing on when I appeared in the doorway, and I immediately recognized what she was doing and was quite glad. :) If my itty bitties really had been wandering on their own I’m glad someone would have been on alert.

  20. (^^^^^I feel no remorse yelling at my 2 year old to close the door when she’s opened the front door and is wearing only panties when there’s a lot of after-school traffic from the middle school down the street. In case anyone is horrified that I yelled at her.)

  21. I personally think you did a great thing. I’m not a parent but I know I’ve seen kids wandering the streets alone before and wondered where there parents are, I’ve always kept an eye on them until they appear but you never know who could swing by a nab them in the few minutes it takes to realise they are missing. I know when I was about 5-6 I was at the store with my mum and we were looking at the nail polish and being 5 I was way too interested and didn’t see or hear mum call me away. I was just lucky that some nice lady saw me crying and took me to the counter to call my mum to the desk. I was lucky back then but if it were today I’m not so sure I would have been

  22. Good for you! I don’t even want to imagine what could’ve happened if you weren’t there. Even if children know their boundaries at their own home, if it was that easy for you – a caring mother – to talk to the child, just imagine what some creepster could have done to lure the child away. Ugh, I’m just shuddering at the thought!

  23. Ok so my thoughts. I don’t think in this day and age no child that age should be out alone. Because like you said it may not have been you. It could’ve been a pervert. It could happen so quickly. A random person comes by snatches and runs. Accidents happen kids get out. I would be greatful for a person like you to come along to let me know if it were my son. It could have been a sicko. I think someone who knowingly lets there toddler/young child outside alone out of line of sight is wrong. Even if they know their boundaries. My reasoning they may know that but some sick pervert doesn’t care about boundaries. They see any oppurtunites even for a split second and your child could be taken forever. Horrible things could happen and your child could be murdered. And then what will you say? She knew her boundaries. Not to leave the yard. It shouldn’t be that way but it is. We shouldnt have to live in a world of fear that something like that will or could happen but it does. Everyday children are taken and hurt raped and murdered. It’s hard to be a parent. Children will wander off or get into things and to know there are people like you in this world that will take the time to stop and watch and even the extra effort to go and be sure the baby was safe makes me feel a bit safer. The world needs more people like you in it! It does indeed take a village! You did the right thing :)

  24. Good for you! Never let your fear of offending someone get in the way of doing whatever you can to make sure someone is safe. What if you had been going super fast and she ran out in front of the car? What if, instead of you, a predator was driving down the road and spotted her? My 2 year old little boy is completely cray cray, which is why we got alarms on all our doors. But if he did wander out, I’d be so grateful someone cared enough to stop and make sure he was okay.

  25. I do this with dogs, and my family thinks I’m crazy! :-D I just hate when people neglect any person or animal that they’re responsible for. Good for you.

  26. I think you did the right thing. YOU know you weren’t being creepy or having ulterior motives and while others might think otherwise, at some stage there has to be the point where we are not passive neighbors, not “in your face” neighbors either, but at least neighbors in the sense that we care enough to do something when there in danger (perceived or not).
    Put it this way: how would YOU feel if the same thing happened to you? I am sure there is a bit of us that would feel defensive, slightly alarmed,even suspicious, but hopefully also appreciative.
    I remember when my son was just under 2, probably about 20 months old (many years ago!) and unbeknown to us, he got hold of the keys , opened the remote controlled gate and wandered off down the road!! How grateful we were that at that same time, an elderly couple happened to be driving past and rang our bell and asked if we were missing a child!! I die at the “what if” to this day! But imagine, if they thought “not our problem, mama is probably watching him” and just driven off!
    It’s takes a concerned and genuine person to step in. We were so embarrassed (only because it seemed like we were the worst parents in the world!) But really, kids DO wander off. We all know, being moms, we have to have eyes at the back of our heads!!
    If you don’t speak up or act and then something DOES happen? I would rather live with the mean grandpa stares then watch a news report about the same little girl “missing”. THAT would be something to feel horrible about.

  27. I would do it too, girl.

  28. Just so you know you are not alone in your “craziness” over protecting unknown children, let me share a story with you that I lived through recently. Just a couple weeks ago we were on our way to a friend’s house. Said friend lives in a pretty normal neighborhood but hey, crazies are everywhere. So I’m behind a car and we both turn the same corner but almost immediately the car stops, in the middle of the road. I’m thinking they’re going to pull in to a driveway but now they stop. Then an arm comes out the driver winder flailing as if to tell me to pass and there is screaming – “COME ON!! LET’S GO!!” So I hesitantly pull up next to the car and look to see what crazy person I’m passing and as I do, a very haggish looking older woman is driving and there is a scared looking child in the front seat (an irritant all on its own but that’s another post) and the woman is screaming “LEAVE ME ALONE! GET AWAY! I NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE!! STOP FOLLOWING ME!!!” Then she pulls a uturn – IN FRONT OF ME. So bizarre. So what do I do? I follow her! BAH! It’s hilarious now but at the time I was concerned for the kid! What if she was being kidnapped? What if her grandma was having some kind of episode? This woman was FLYING, no residence speed limit was observed but I caught up with them at a store nearby. The woman was STILL screaming and started in on me again as soon as I pulled up “LEAVE ME ALONE!” I said “Ma’am is everything ok? Those children look scared!” And then her screams turned into obscenities and she stormed into the store with children in tow. I chose not to wag my kids in to the store after her and like I said, the story is comical now, but there are still a lot of what-ifs floating around in my head. Eesh. Two things – 1) Ya can’t save them all but I don’t think we should stop trying; and 2) People are CRAY-CRAY!!!

  29. I don’t blame you at all! I used to be a pre-K teacher and lemme tell ya, the kids will wander off if you’re not vigilant. Not because they want to cause trouble or whatever, just that they’re looking for mommy or something. I would, however, have walked the little girl back to her door and knocked on the door to see if anyone was home. Grandpa can be defensive if he likes, but in my experience crap parents (like the ones who talk on their phone at Target and let their kids wreck things) are the ones who get most defensive when someone does the parenting for them.

  30. I think that you did an AMAZING thing. PERIOD. My husband and I have been in law enforcement for over 20 years, and YOU REALLY DON’T FREAKING KNOW anymore. If that would’ve been my kid (and my son has done almost exactly that), I would’ve thanked God that it was you and not some freak that saw him outside, and then I would’ve thanked you – profusely – for not only telling him to go inside but for making me aware that he was outside to begin with.

    There are too many bad people out there to ask the good ones NOT to stand up and watch out for each other. I don’t care if you trust your kids to go out in the front yard, or you KNOW that they know their boundaries or whatever. Kids are kids, and while they may know the rules and know that there might be consequences for breaking them…what if the ball goes in the road, or a beautiful butterfly roams by, or a puppy needs help, or that nice man has candy…they don’t have the forsight to go beyond the moment, and that’s why it is our job to always have an eye or an ear on our kids…and even each others’ kids…even if we’re STRANGERS. :)

    Very proud of you.

  31. I likely would have done the same thing that you did, because like you, I wouldn’t have been able to drive away with a clear conscience not knowing whether or not the little kid was lost. Shit, I can’t even do that when I come across a dog wandering around looking lost, never mind a child.