My boys could tell by my overall demeanor and tone of voice that there was no time for questioning me. We had finally arrived at their favorite park. We had only been at the park for 10 minutes. But we needed to leave. Right now. There was only one other mother there who had six children with her. They all appeared young, under eight years old. Her youngest child, probably around eight months old, cried and cried. Nonstop. Loud, agitated crying. The mother tried to console her baby as her other kids ran around and played at the park.
Suddenly, I heard a man yell repeatedly from the open second story window of a house next to the park. “CALL 9-1-1!” I quickly walked toward the woman to ask if her child was hurt or if she needed help. Then, I called up to the man, “Do you need us to call 911?” I started to get a little nervous. He yelled back, “No! You need to call 9-1-1 and get that baby to stop crying!” There was something scary and unsettling in his tone of voice.
We were two mothers there, alone. He seemed overly agitated and hateful. Impatient. And angry. And although he was in a house yelling from the second story, I felt a sense of urgency to get out of the park. The woman had a soft foreign accent and she kindly yelled up to the man “We are leaving. I don’t need to call 9-1-1.” He yelled back again. “I’m trying to sleep! That baby’s been crying. You need to make that baby stop crying.”
I called my boys over. I wanted them close to me. I said, “It’s time to go. Right now.” I went into instinctual mother protective mode. The woman gathered her stuff, called to her kids and began walking the baby to the car. I went over and calmly tried to coax the woman’s toddler off of the merry-go-round. He seemed hesitant. My boys understood what I was trying to do. They began encouraging him with their helpful “follow me” and “come on”‘s. I decided to just pick up the boy and carry him to his car. I asked my sons to help by quickly grabbing coats and shoes unknowingly left behind by the kids from this family. As the mother loaded her crying baby into the carseat, I walked up and handed her the toddler boy. I recognized her look. It’s been on my face many times before. She genuinely thanked me. My boys handed her the coats and shoes. We walked to our car, loaded up and left the park.
As we drove off, my boys asked a lot of questions about the man yelling from the window and the mother and her baby. I still felt adrenaline racing through my body. I explained that babies cry sometimes and that the man yelling didn’t need an ambulance, and he didn’t want to help the mother. He wanted to be unkind. And I didn’t want us to be there. I thanked and praised my boys for how well they listened and how they helped, too. I’m certain that they will talk about what happened again. And again.
As we drove home, I couldn’t help but think of all the mama refugees that are fleeing from danger. Real life-threatening danger. Leaving their home. The familiar, their belongings, and their past to escape with their children. For some unfamiliar, new and hopefully safer place. It’s a danger and fear that I have never truly known or experienced as a mother.
But today helped me imagine it. I could imagine how naturally families help each other out. How mothers help mothers. And how kids look out for other kids. Today, I could quickly flee from a threatening situation at a park with my children. Into the safety of my car. And we could drive to our safe home. We can choose to never go to that park again, if we want to.
I realize how often I take for granted the freedoms I have as a mother, the ability to raise my children and play with them in safe environments. I can’t stop thinking about that mom and her kids. And the man that turned a playground into a hostile, unpredictable environment. While I am grateful for a strong and powerful and universal motherly instinct and the ability and resources to act on mine, I also hurt for and want to help the mothers around our city and the world fleeing their homes, their countries, and their families to find a less threatening, safer environment for their children. A childhood that every child deserves, no matter what circumstances he or she was born into.
Want to help out other moms, either locally and around the world, who are attempting to flee from threatening and dangerous living situations?
In the greater Kansas City, the Rose Brooks Center transforms over 15, 000 lives through emergency shelter, support services, and prevention education.
Internationally, Carry the Future is an organization that fits refugee parents with baby carriers (new and gently used) among other necessities like socks, food, etc.