the good, the bad, and the ugly about the writing life

Other People’s Kids: Did I Do Right?

Being an adult (“adulting” as the young ones say) is a buzz kill. Case in point, I called the police on a couple of little kids last week. Okay, I know how that sounds, but let me explain.

Other People’s Kids

On a visit to the local Starbucks with my Mom, we happened to see two little boys maybe seven or eight years old playing in a big puddle of water in a parking lot. The boys were riding their bikes through the puddle over and over again. It was a hot day, so I got the idea.

However, the two little guys weren’t paying any attention to the cars that went by on either side of them. To get maximum WHOOSH in the puddle, they would bike as fast as they could from the car wash next door and end up in the middle of the puddle.


I thought about driving over and asking the boys to stop playing in what must have been pretty dirty water, but my experiences with other people’s kids are NOT good. At best, I figured that the kids would listen to me while I was there and go back and do exactly what they liked when I drove away. And, after all, I was just some lady with grey hair driving by. Why should they listen to me?

My Mom and I both wondered where the parental units were. The kids weren’t old enough to pay attention to cars, and I know what my Mom would have done if my brother and sister and I had come home sopping wet. Let’s just say that there would have been HELL to pay.

The Call

That’s when I called the local police on the non-emergency number. I explained the situation: the age of the kids, their actions, the lack of parents, and my concern about their safety. Then I told them my name and phone number.

My Mom and I waited there as the dispatcher asked us to “keep an eye” on the kids until the officer got there.

That’s when the kids jumped into the puddle sans bikes and just splashed. At one point, the biggest boy who rode an orange neon bike pulled a little black box from his pocket (we figured it was a cell phone) and put it up on a tree growing on the nearest median. Believe me, it was already wet as they had been laying flat on their backs in the puddle for a good five minutes.

So we watched them bike and splash and just jump and splash. They looked to be having a wonderful time in the water.

The Cop

When the police officer, a woman, drove up, I went over to explain myself. This was clearly not her first rodeo because she parked by the boys’ bikes while they were in the puddle. She smiled and assured us that she would handle it.

As I drove away, I felt good as if I had done my civic duty in protecting those kids.

Lady Buzzkill?

After I slept on it, I wondered if I wasn’t the very definition of a buzz kill. I had taken a perfectly simple and fun activity—splashing in a puddle—and made it criminal.

Let’s face it, the cop was probably going to drive the boys home, and no parent wants to open the door to see a cop. I had got them into trouble, and I’m not sure that I had to do it.

Did I have other options? Sure, I did. I’ve just had experiences with the local high school kids that led me to believe that I was going to be ignored at best or yelled at at worst if I tried to reason with the boys myself. Even my Mom, a grandmother of four, didn’t relish trying to scold a couple of kids that weren’t hers.

Little Red Wagon…at DUSK

I’ve had a number of run-ins with the local youth. For example, a Red Flyer wagon full of young girls tried to go down the hill in front of my house a few summers back. Drivers on the side street always zip by way in excess of the speed limit.

So when the girls appeared at dusk at the top of the hill with the clear intention to go down the hill in the middle of the street in a little wagon, I asked them to stop. These were at least middle-school girls as I know from teaching that age. They ought to have known enough about automobiles and our neighborhood not to attempt it.

I figured that the cars wouldn’t be able to see them as they were so low to the ground, and it was growing dark. They ignored me.

I walked into the middle of the road and mentioned again that it was dangerous to go down the hill in a little wagon. They called me names and went down anyway.

At the bottom of the hill, they blew right into the cross street. A car swerved around them, but nobody was hurt. Luckily, they didn’t try it again.

But I was pretty angry at being defied when all I wanted was to save their lives. They weren’t my children. I could have gone back inside my house and minded my own business.

In time, I came to the conclusion that I probably should have just minded my own business.

Did I Do Right?

So did I do the right thing by calling the police? They jury is still out as far as I’m concerned.

And how about with the girls in the Red Flyer? Did I do right by telling them to stop? Should I have called the police in that instance?

COMMENTS are appreciated.


Does it matter that I’m not a Mom? Would I have been more likely to be taken seriously if, for example, I were the mother of two as my sister is or the father of two as my brother is?

2 Responses to “Other People’s Kids: Did I Do Right?”

  1. lwallin

    I’m surprised your teaching voice didn’t come out. I discipline other kids when they need it, and wait to make sure they do as I say. Too many years a teacher?


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