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lost: one small child - helen-louise
lost: one small child
A question for the parents out there - what is the right thing to do in these circumstances?

Today I saw a very small child wandering apparently unsupervised in Kingston Market Place. He was not only below my hip-height, but less tall than the top of my leg; which considering that I'm near the bottom end of the adult height range is really not very big at all. 80cm, perhaps? Certainly under 2 years old. He was toddling along pushing a toy pushchair.

He was exhibiting a pattern of behaviour familiar to anyone who's ever watched a small child - taking a few steps away from the parent or carer, stopping, looking round to see if the adult has noticed/is following, then taking a few more steps away. I tried to locate his adult. I saw a man who could be father-age reading a book and a woman who could be mother-age texting on her mobile, both oblivious to the existence or location of a small child. I dismissed the couple who could be grandparents as they seemed far too engrossed in their own conversation, and the three boys who could be fathers, but would have to have started at school.

In the time it took me to do that, he stepped outside the boundary where posts prevent traffic from entering, and was getting closer to the road. With no idea who his carer was, I approached the child himself, and asked "Where is your mummy or daddy?". He said "Mummy". "Oh", I replied, "WHERE is your mummy?". He just said "Mummy" again, and blinked in a confused manner. So I looked at the woman with the mobile phone again, and noticed this time that she had a child-sized pushchair with her, which was empty.

"You must GO BACK to your Mummy" I told him, pointing towards the woman. "You are TOO CLOSE to the ROAD, which is DANGEROUS. There are CARS." I don't actually know what kind of words parents use to explain things to small children, but I thought he should know some of those ones. I realised, belatedly, that he was probably too young to have any concept of danger. By this time, the woman had finished her texting, and starting to look around. I pointed at him and mouthed/gestured "Is he yours?". She started walking over with the pushchair, saying by the time I was close enough to hear "I was keeping an eye on him". (Like hell you were, I thought - but I can understand that a person might be exhausted enough to lose track of their small child for a few minutes.)

I decided to thank my deity of choice that I am short, plump and female, and therefore look entirely unthreatening to small children; as well as being grateful that no car drivers decided to turn into the market place while the small child was lost. He was too small to have been visible over a car bonnet.


5 comments or Leave a comment
lovingboth From: lovingboth Date: 18th September 2007 21:54 (UTC) (Link)
Intervening was very very good. Rather than trying to say all of that, the 'where's mummy' with an attract her attention / 'take me to mummy' is simpler to understand.

Children that age trust almost anyone. Well, they've been known to trust me :) I realised I'd changed when I noticed someone of that age stroll out of a shop in Peckham with no adult around them, and I did the 'where's' and 'take me to' bit. They hadn't noticed he'd gone.
(Deleted comment)
memevector From: memevector Date: 19th September 2007 08:50 (UTC) (Link)
Well done you.

Pondering the question in general... If child is not in immediate danger, then I'd also consider accosting the (possible) parent and saying "Is that your child?" Then if it was, I would probably do a social manoeuvre of something like {grin + "Sorry, I was just worrying a bit..."} i.e. implying that I may have been being overprotective, and apologising for butting in. I'd do that even if they were COMPLETELY in the wrong, on the basis that (a) a stranger is very unlikely to be able to alter their childrearing habits, and (b) many parents get undermining criticism on a depressingly regular basis from their family &/or social circle, and relatively little support, and need a smile much more than they could possibly benefit from my opinions...
thekumquat From: thekumquat Date: 19th September 2007 10:13 (UTC) (Link)
Small children go from moving pretty slowly, which their parents get used to, overnight to being able to sprint away. Even the best sets of parents I think will lose their kids once or twice (I once found babyholly in my baby-dangerous study playing with some rusty nails - her three parents couldn't believe she could climb stairs, certainly without them noticing)

I agree with memevector - even crap parents will probably benefit more from a smile and friendliness than anything else.

treacle_well From: treacle_well Date: 19th September 2007 12:16 (UTC) (Link)
You did the right thing.
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