When I sat down to write this column, I'd planned to talk about the whole Miss California/Perez Hilton debacle.
I was going to work Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump into the third paragraph. It was going to be a spectacle of bad manners and opportunistic grandstanding. On their part, not mine.
Then I read this morning's news. A 2-year-old boy at a carnival in North London was struck and killed by a small-scale roller coaster when he climb onto the tracks. No one had seen him wander away from the inflatable bouncy castle.
It's too tragic to even start to imagine. I'm also surprised that it doesn't happen more often. Guardian angels must be working overtime with toddlers these days.
For 23 years, I've owned a resale clothing store that carries apparel for both adults and children. A lot of moms and kids have passed through our doors. Much of what I've learned about parenting, both pro and con, I've learned from these mothers and grandmothers.
There was Hazel, the grandmother of four, who would come equipped with paper and colored pencils. She would sit each child down to draw while she shopped in peace. The kids would happily doodle away until it was time to go.
Nowadays, whenever I run into Hazel at the post office, she's usually just returned from yet another college graduation. I can't help but think her proactive approach to child care had something to do with these boys' later successes.
Contrast that with the two moms who came to shop with a vanload of toddlers. I never got an exact count of how many children they had with them. There were that many and they were moving too fast.
The moms were having a good old time trying on hootchie T shirts and low-slung jeans. It was a cavalcade of tramp stamps and muffin tops. Meanwhile, their respective broods wrecked the shop. The moms were irritated when I suggested that the child who had ripped the tags from 30 garments should stay with his mother. Finally they checked out and left. It was the hardest $25 I've ever earned.
As the van was pulling out of it's parking space, I heard a small voice in the play area say, "Mama?" I had to chase the van up to the highway to let them know they'd left a child behind. They seemed a lot less concerned than I would have imagined. They were certainly less concerned than I was.
One of the scariest incidences in my life was the time I momentarily lost Rachel. She was about 3 years old. We were visiting Disney World with some friends whose little boy, Mickey, was the same age as Rach.
It was the classic, "I thought you had the kids. ... no, I thought you had the kids" moment.
In an instant, I imagined my child's face on billboards and milk cartons. I saw myself on local TV, making tearful pleas for her return. I stepped into that dark place shared by parents like John and Reve Walsh and the Drs. McCann. Hell would have been an improvement.
Then the crowd parted and we saw Rachel and Mickey across the way, holding hands and looking like Hansel and Gretel.
The adults may have dropped the ball but the kids remembered to do as they'd been taught: If you get lost, stay right where you are and we will find you.
Today, I see far too many inattentive parents and way too many kids with absolutely no concept of boundaries. Don't believe me? Just go to a large discount store on a weekend and count the number of children under the age of 8 who are wandering around with no supervising adult in sight. They're usually playing with merchandise that the parents will probably refuse to purchase. That's another pet peeve of mine but I'm only allowed 750 words, so don't get me started.
Inattentive parents and children with no boundaries. That's a dangerous, possibly deadly, combination. Once a tragedy happens, it's too late to say, "I only looked away for a minute." As parents, we don't have the luxury of an inattentive minute. Just ask that mom in North London.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears regularly and on gainesvilletimes.com.