Yesterday was my son’s first T-ball practice. I don’t know who was more psyched, Javier or I. Jav is a great kid but an only child and very competitive, hence a team sport sounded like a great idea. I figured he could learn new skills and get some exercise while learning how to be part of a team and win and lose with grace (I hope). Adding to the fun last night was Lola Paloma, our new Doxie-Pin pup, who loved the idea of hanging out at the park on a breezy evening watching her new boy catch his first ground ball.
As the boys hit the field, Lola and I settled into the bleachers with the rest of the parents and a smattering of younger siblings. One of the tots was an adorable curly-haired three-year-old (let’s just call her Suzie) whose eyes lit up the minute she saw Lola. I was happy to introduce them. I told her to let Lola smell her hand, then pet her softly, never tugging or letting their faces get too close. This is the standard speech I give Jav and all little kids when around animals because it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Little did I know that while I was teaching Suzie the ins and outs of pet safety, I was inadvertently signing up to be her accidental babysitter.
As it turned out, Suzie’s mom was on the phone for most of the practice. When she finally hung up after almost an hour, I was relieved. I was dying to take my eyes off Suzie and Lola and fix them on the field, so I could cheer on Jav as he threw his first pitch. You can imagine my shock when Suzie’s mom stayed put on the other side of the bleachers, turned to some of the other parents, and struck up a conversation. It didn’t occur to her to collect her little girl, let alone relieve me of the duty of caring for Little Miss Suzie.
When I noticed the coach was starting to wrap up practice, I turned to the Suzie and asked her to hit the road—nicely. I sweetly suggested that perhaps we give Lola a break. I told her the pup seemed tired. I assured Suzie that Lola would be coming to lots of practices and games, and the two of them would have ample opportunities to romp together.
Whether this exact scenario has played out in your life yet, chances are it will. I was at our neighborhood pool this summer and a woman was so engrossed in her romance novel, she barely looked up twice all day to check on her swimming child, let alone jump in the pool and join the fun with him.
This whole notion of taking a quick time-out from our kids is understandable to some degree. I’m a single working mom, so I totally get the feeling of relief that can sweep over you when you’re spontaneously given a respite from the responsibilities of parenting. Realizing your kid has found a way to entertain herself can feel like a gift from the heavens. But I draw a line when it comes to strangers, let alone a dog. Nine-pound pups like mine are playful and adorable, but pull their tail too hard and they will defend themselves. Is it too much to ask that you hang up the phone, walk over and take back the reins as the responsible adult?
I don’t know what happened in that woman’s life yesterday. For all I know, she received some bad news and was venting to her friend on the phone. Maybe she was on hold with her insurance company, or her divorce lawyer. I was willing to give Suzie’s mom the benefit of the doubt—until she hung up and still opted not to look after her daughter.
For now, I’m going to assume that Suzie’s mom did not realize how I helped her out yesterday (or that she owes me babysitting money—ha!). I will assume that if she were to know all this, she would feel terrible. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be friends by the end of the season, and she’ll volunteer to be Lola’s pet-sitter when we go on vacation. But I’m not hedging any bets…would you? What do you think of parents who ask strangers to pinch-hit for them?