On a recent afternoon visit with my kids we stopped off at a local park so they could play and spend some time outdoors having a good time with their Old Man.
I know there won’t be too many more years they’ll want to make those visits so I try to savor them while they last. Of course, I don’t climb up inside the playscape as well as I used to when I chased my toddler daughter — who’s now 12 — around all those years ago, but I still give it the effort. They, of course, know I’m getting old and can’t chase them like i once did so they like to play tag, making me be “it” so they can easily get away from me.
So on this recent visit we saw the park was in use by a large group of people — in this case apparently a church group. I hesitated for a moment about taking my children there, figuring there may be too many kids running around. My experience has always been my kids get knocked down a lot when there are a lot of kids in the park. But I decided to give it a try.
Just inside the playscape I heard a very loud, pounding, flesh on flesh noise which I have heard before — but never in the safe confines of the local park. It sounded just like Rocky Balboa punching a side of beef from the movies and it happened over and over. It was the sound of someone getting punched hard.
A moment later, before I could take the kids and leave, we heard the screams of a child and I saw finally what was happening. A large boy, maybe 11 or 12, had a smaller boy down on the ground (maybe 7 or 8 years old) in the park and he was beating him as two men would in a fistfight.
It was one of those moments when I wanted to just take my own kids and whisk them away. You hate seeing your
kids exposed to bad things and I recalled a time last year when we saw a car flip on I-69 and my daughter spent the next few days worried sick over the driver, wanting to know whether or not he or she had lived. This, like seeing that crash, was one of those moments you just want to shield your kids from.
But I could see the boy needed help. There were no other parents in the immediate area and a whole group of little kids were watching in complete and total shock.
Before I could say anything the larger boy saw me and walked away as if he’d done nothing wrong. I went to help the little boy up and as I got him up sitting on a bench it
was obvious his eyelid was split.
I looked to my own kids and saw the fear in their eyes. They’d never witnessed something like this before. I felt just as bad for them as I did the injured boy. A passerby asked what was going on and when I told him he took the boy over to the church picnic group to find his family.
After the boy was handed off to his family and the parents of the other boy were located, they got a hold of their bully in the making and we witnessed some old fashioned corporal punishment being dealt out.
At that point it was time to leave. To heck with the park, we’d just come back another day. Our visit to the park cut short, we left and found something else to do.
But I felt bad because it was a cruel reminder for all of us that sometimes even a place as safe as the neighborhood park can turn on us in a split second.
I want my kids to feel safe when they go out anywhere — especially in their own community — but they always have to be aware not everyone they come across is safe.