A cautionary tale for parents, divorced or otherwise.
Yesterday, I was at the park with my daughter, Grace, her half-sister Noelle, and their mother. It was a gorgeous day, and the playground was relatively close to the kids’ school and two other schools, but when we arrived, there were no other children there. We stuck close and let the kids play in the sand.
I scanned the area. Nothing particular was out of whack; it was, quite simply, a very simple park, with playground, a port-a-potty (yuck!) and a large, fairly well restored plantation-looking house that I could only assume was some sort of neighborhood gathering place or clubhouse back in the day.
At about the time that I started explaining to Grace that the loud pecking that we heard on the house was simply a very loud woodpecker, I noticed one thing out of place.
One middle aged man in a lawn chair. Sitting about a block away from us at the other edge of the park looking at nothing in particular.
My parental instincts made a loud buzzing sound. It was very similar to the sound the inside of my head used to make when a good-looking woman was within some distance of my personal space, but I hadn’t seen her yet. I used to call it a Spider Sense, after the character.
While watching and playing with the kids, out of the corner of my eye I kept looking at this pudgy, middle aged man.
After a while of only having one other kid come to the playground, my ex and I watched as two children, then three, of about third grade or so came from the public school nearby and start playing… with the parents nowhere in sight.
We made plans to leave. However, I wasn’t planning on going anywhere with these kids on the playground, and some grown man across the park, who was still looking… wherever.
Finally, the man folded up his chair, after sitting in the park for what had to have been an hour and a half, packed it into his van (which I know sounds cliched, but it’s true, it was a van) and drive away… after circling the park for a block.
It wasn’t until the van was out of sight until we finally picked up the kids and left.
You might be a single parent. You might be a couple of parents that both work. I don’t know what scenarios you might have. However, the lesson here I think is a good one: pick up your young children from school. You never know who might be watching, and if that individual – who might have been no more than a person watching cars drive by in the park, mind you – had harmed your children because they were vulnerable and you were simply too busy to pick them up from school on a regular weekday… well, where would you be then?
Just a story with a happy ending.