Would you approach a parent you thought had mistreated their child?

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The chocolate basket my daughter brought home from camp.

Apparently I look like the type to murder my daughter, stuff her in a trash can and settle down with coffee in a plush chair at the mall.

I say this, because I had the oddest experience last week when I was dropping off my children for chocolate camp.  The camp is at a chocolatier in a mall. We’d done it once before (3 hours where they make chocolate in the corner of the store; the children are not allowed to leave the store and are given access to the staff restroom).

We arrived about 10 minutes early and sat in one of those plush mall seating areas: it had two sofas,  four arm chairs and a coffee table. My son didn’t want to sit with us GIRLS, so he sat in the arm chair furthest  from us. My daughter sat on the sofa and she and I chatted. A woman walked by and smiled at my daughter. I didn’t think a whole lot of it. When we saw the chocolate shop open up for the class, I took both kids, filled out their emergency contact form, and headed upstairs to the food court. After grabbing a coffee at Chick-Fil-A (free refills, baby!), I sat down in a comfy chair so I could chill.

I admit, I probably looked pretty happy. I had three hours of time I could get some writing done and not have to deal with the inevitable squabbles children have when cooped up at home. And I had coffee, too.

Along comes this same woman and she goes, “Where is your daughter? I saw her with you earlier. What happened to her?”

Now, I was torn on this. I found it a bit offensive on one level. It’s really none of her business and kind of rude to assume something untoward has happened or that I’m behaving irresponsibly based solely on the fact that I was sitting with a child at one point and not 15 minutes later. She also drew this conclusion without observing me for very long. She’d failed to see my son or even know to inquire about his well-being. On the other hand, she clearly was concerned that something  had happened to a young child. In that sense, it’s good when strangers are on the lookout for children.  In the end, I was friendly and said I dropped my daughter at a camp there at the mall. But, I found the encounter odd, to say the least. And my husband was irritated, too, because he wondered about whether she was a stalker child abductor. When I told him what happened, he goes, “Go check on the children. Make sure they’re OK.” (Clearly, we’re in a non-trust environment, here.)

So, out of curiosity, what would you folks do if you saw a little girl (about 5 or 6 years old) with a parent and then saw that same parent without said child 15 minutes later. Assume the situation needed investigating and say something, or assume the child was simply with another guardian? Take the poll below, if you’d like.

About RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist who now writes fiction. She's reported for the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, as well as the smaller publications Education Technology News and Campus Crime. She has two published novels, Life First and Second Life and blogs for Indies Unlimited and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. For exclusive content and first looks at her new work, sign up for the newsletter at http://rjcrayton.com/subscribe.
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7 Responses to Would you approach a parent you thought had mistreated their child?

  1. A. L. Kaplan says:

    Great article. She does sound a bit creepy. BTW, I found you through Indies Unlimited.

  2. Amber says:

    No. That’s just creepy. On no level is that okay at all.

    I have said something to parents who were being horrible to their children, even called the cops and gave a license plate number when I saw a mom whack her kid repeatedly in the face. But because the kid is no longer with the parent? No. That’s bull****. Not ok. And very creepy.

  3. RJ Crayton says:

    Ella, it’s a different situation to be in. I thought about not answering, but assumed her heart was in the right place, that she wad genuinely concerned. But it’s no fun to be thought ill of.

    And no offense taken. I got what you meant.

  4. ellamedler says:

    How odd! You are so much more polite than me! Hmm…

    • ellamedler says:

      That came out wrong! I didn’t men it would be odd that you’re polite. The oddity related to the encounter. LOL. I would have said something along the lines of your first reaction, words clipped and to the point! :p

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