WWYD – toddler negligence

The other day I was running errands, and had to drive on residential streets to get to a couple of places. At one stop, I saw a 4 year old girl on the side of the road beckoning to someone on the other side of the street. I had to quickly slam on my brakes as there was a toddler, an 18 month old, wobbling her way across the street when there were cars driving on both sides. The toddler stopped in front of my car and smiled and waved, and promptly sat down. (As I read this over, I can hear you say that there is no way this really happened. It did. I wish I was making it up).

The sister beckoned to the little kid, who took his/her time getting up and moseying on over to the other side of the road, leaving it clear for me to drive. I was shaken. Where the heck was the mother? The father? You leave your toddler in the care of a six year old, who is unaware that the road is not a place for her younger sibling to be playing?? What is wrong with you?

Happens to be I know these people. Not well. Just enough to say hello to if I see them at the grocery store.

Do I say something? If I say something they are going to feel judged, as they should. They may just take it as if I am sticking my nose in where it isn’t wanted. My purpose in telling them would be so that they could keep a closer eye on all their children. G-d forbid one of them gets hurt due to their negligence. This isn’t the first incident that I have seen negligence on their part concerning their children. Or do I just pray that the children are kept safe by G-d? What would you do?

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  1. Rubuv says:

    You should, at the very least, tell them about nearly running over the baby because of their lack of parenting.

  2. Shira says:

    Say something. You have to.

    I would call the parents immediately.

  3. HSaboMilner says:

    Ruby and Shira – is there a point saying something if you know that your comments will fall on deaf ears?

    • I think there is a point; if anything should happen to those children, you will know that you tried to do something on their behalf. They may not appreciate it, but you will sleep better at night.

  4. anon says:

    Even if they fall on deaf ears, you MUST tell them. I am sure u will find a way to tactifully tell them. If/When they ignore you and think of you as an enemy rather than a friend – really who cares? for the safety of those children you have a responsiblity to talk to the parents (and DCFS for that matter, but lets not go there). If something ever happens to their children dont you want to know you did everything you could.
    Also, an extra tfilla never hurts, so you can ad them your tfillot as well.

  5. Z! says:

    I probably wouldn’t say anything- though, I am not saying that is the right thing to do. I might attempt to relate the issue to the parents in a matter of fact kind of way- like: I was passing by your house the other day and I had to stop abruptly as your youngest was attempting to cross the street by themself, while your 4 year old watched. I just thought I’d let you know that I had to stop short for your child while they toddled across. I was a bit surprised that no adult was watching the children as it’s a busy two way street.

    • sheldan says:

      I think I agree with Z exclamation point here. No “what were you doing letting a toddler wander in the street?”, just “I saw your toddler in the street and thought you should know.” I think that will get the message.

    • sheldan says:

      To clarify: I am in favor of saying SOMETHING. It really is the right thing to do, and as I read further it may be necessary to say something to someone OTHER than the parents (e.g., police, Child Protective Services, etc.).

  6. Rifki says:

    If they have access to the internet, then maybe they’ll chance upon your blog post?

  7. Mark says:

    No parents ANYWHERE IN SIGHT??????

    ??????? Nowhere?

    Call the cops and CPS and have them pick up the kid. They keep the kid for a few days and parents NEVER DO THAT AGAIN. Entire neighborhood hears about it and they also hesitate next time they plan on leaving little kids alone on the streets.

  8. Ruthie Hassan says:

    That is appalling. If you don’t think the mother will listen to you, I believe you have a duty to report it to someone who she will listen to, such as her Rav. What an unbelievable lack of parenting, totally shocking.

  9. Nora says:

    Tell anyone who will listen and take it seriously. Tell the parents but if it’s not the only time something like this has happened I’d call CPS and the police. If you can give specific examples the better off you are.

    This could’ve been a case of, “Mom rushed inside and wasn’t planning to be gone long.” But, I know for sure at those ages I wasn’t playing in the front yard by myself, either.

  10. Debbie says:

    Hadassah, I am really surprised by this post. What did you do after this happened? Did you just leave the kids by the road? I would have taken the kids straight back to their house and told their parents what had happened. I definitely would not have left the kids there. I am sure if you had told them immediately that one of their children had nearly got run over they would think twice about doing this again. As for now, definitely speak to the parents – you have an obligation to do so for the kids’ sakes.

  11. tesyaa says:

    For nine years I lived in a very modern Orthodox neighborhood, and this would NEVER happen there. I knew MO parents who wouldn’t even let their 12-year olds walk to shul alone.

    I’ve lived in a much more “frum” neighborhood for the past 7 years, and what you’re describing is commonplace.

    I rarely generalize, but this is one case in which I think there’s a clear division of behavior based on level of frumkeit. I think it’s due to large families and mothers feeling overwhelmed. That’s not an excuse.

    As for what to do: if I knew that my words would fall on deaf ears, I wouldn’t say anything. I’m not saying that’s correct. But I would distance myself from these people. I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with them.

    In your neighborhood, even speaking to people who might have influence over them might not do any good. Their Rav, for example, might not even see anything wrong with this behavior!

    • Mark says:

      tesyaa – I knew MO parents who wouldn’t even let their 12-year olds walk to shul alone.

      Our 11 year old daughter doesn’t cross streets by herself yet. When she visits friends, an adult walks her there and back.

    • sheldan says:

      Tesyaa, how in blazes would it be commonplace ANYWHERE? You’re absolutely right that having the large families is not an excuse.

  12. lady lock and load says:

    This once happened to me. Baby crossed the street and then crossed again. I took the baby to a nearby house and knocked and rang the bell. Mom took several long minutes to answer the door. I told her what happened and she smacked the baby. I was thinking that she should have smacked herself!
    Did it help her watch her kid? I doubt it. But at least I opened my mouth so I won’t feel bad if anything happened.
    I will also stop the car and tell people to wear reflecters cause I almost ran them over. Wearing all black on a dark street is so unsafe. May Hashem protect all of klal yisroel!

  13. REally says:

    Are you seriously asking people what to do? I think you know what to do in this case.

  14. I would say something. In fact, I would’ve stopped right then & called the authorities. But if that’s not what happened, SAY SOMETHING. I think, as a human being & particularly as a Jew, you have a responsibility to act in a way that does as much as you can to ensure those kids’ safety.

  15. Noa says:

    Hadassah,
    I work as a nurse in an Israeli hospital and I am sad to say I have to agree with what the poster Tesyaa wrote. When I discharge patients from the hospital I always check if they have a proper car seat. I (lie and) tell them the law prohibits me from discharging them without one. The only patients who ever argue with me are charedi/very frum ones. In israeli society, a disproportionate number of “accidents” happen to charedi and/or religious muslim families. I (jokingly) say its because they have so many kids, if they lose one or two no one notices.

    You have a duty to say something to these children’s parents. Their future safety depends on you, the kehilla, to keep them safe from their parents negligence. And if you think that won’t help, then yes, involving the child protection services in required. Sorry.

    • sheldan says:

      Noa, that is UNBELIEVABLE that, even as a joke, “if they lose one or two no one notices.” I do believe that you have seen it in Israel and all I can do is shake my head.

  16. kisarita says:

    I doThe general principles are: 1. Intervene 2. Assess the situation 3. Hang in there. Having intervened, you must hang in there. Hit and run intervention doesn’t do anything except make us feel self righteous.
    Like it or not, these are your new best friends.

    I am reminded of a friend of mine who cared enough to do something for someone else. There was a home in the building which had screaming and fighting, to the point that sometimes neighbors would call the police.
    One day when my neighbor got sick of the noise she knocked on the door and parked herself in the living room. She sat, every day. It turned out that this was a family drowning under various pressures and she was able to help them with some of them. But first, she took her butt. And sat.
    The key to lasting change always starts with the butt.

    • Mark says:

      Well, we could take care of their kids for them but then … our toddlers will be wandering in the streets :-(

      The key to the entire issue is:
      1) If you can’t take proper care of kids … DON’T HAVE ANY.
      2) Only have as many kids as you can care for properly … PERIOD.

  17. jean says:

    I’m with Mark on this one re Child Services. This isn’t about manners; it’s the lives of children. As for praying that the children are kept safe by G-d, I’d say that it was G-d put you in that place at that time for a very good reason.

    On another topic entirely I LOVE that new photo!

  18. Hadass Eviatar says:

    I would call Jewish Child and Family Services, or whatever the equivalent is in your area. I have in fact done that, unfortunately.

  19. I’m a square, I guess. I immediately thought of this in halachic categories. No doubt, this is pikuah nefesh. There is a real danger to life here. We do not finesse or discuss pikuah nefesh. We act. Even if there is ‘only’ a reasonable chance that there is a danger to life. One may not hesitate, nor be subtle, nor leave the task to someone who may not sufficiently appreciate the severity of the issue. Sure, find a way to get the message across, if you can; but don’t forget that tomorrow these kids will be back out on the edge (of the middle!) of the road. There is no time to delay on such a matter.

  20. Rebecca says:

    Noa – I hope G-d forgives you for your stupid remark. It was painful to read and I hope you are never in that situation, to say kaddash for a child of yours. A hugh hole is left, never being able to fill the void. Now, Hadassah, I think you have a moral obligation to march yourself over to the family and tell them just what happened. In my state, one can call CPS anonomously. I would tell the parents that if I myself or hear of this happening again, I will go to the legal authorities.Maybe some frum people think they are above the laws of United States of America but it is just not so. After having said my mind, I would ask the parents if together you could assist them in finding help. There are many agencies, etc. and maybe they will be open to the suggestion. If not, I would watch this family and do what is morally, ethically, and humanly correct to save the life of a child.

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