Something happened on the weekend just past that made my blood boil. I try to keep this blog positive but this recent incident, though brief, had me seeing red mist.
I am not a perfect parent, far from it. I try to be, but I know I am not. I seldom judge other parents either – how can I from my less than perfect perch? But I am protective of my son. Not to the point of where I intervene when he needs to learn lessons of social interaction, but protective nonetheless.

My boy wanted to play on the playground at our local mall. To be honest I find it a bit naff but he likes it. If we go up to level 3, my boy knows that’s where the playground is – time to play. He loves it, and I love sitting there watching him. I love spending time to watch him play, because I know that during the week the demands of my job may mean that I’ll get possibly less than an hour a day with him. So with his shoes now off he threw himself at the playground with a grin on his face. There were lots of other kids mostly his age, except two – my guess was they were aged 8 and 5 years old. I later figured out they were brothers.

The one mistake my boy made was to choose to play on one of the constructs that they thought “they” owned.

At first they started to verbally harass him, but my son simply ignored them. Then they tried to “get in his face” and banging on the constructs where my boy played, but my son didn’t even acknowledge the action. But I saw red mist when the elder of the two (who was some 3-4 years older than my son) decided that my boy wasn’t getting the message and proceeded to spit at my son. Not just once, but he hocked spit at my son several times. It took me a few seconds to realise what was going on, and my son rushed hurriedly away from his bullies. That’s when I stood up and said in a volume and tone of voice that made the whole playground and parents take notice, “‘son’, go to that boy and tell him to say sorry!” The little cr@p b@g of an 8 year old was now looking me in the eye, realising that he had crossed the line a while ago. My boy did just as I asked with the 8 year old responding meekly, but I still couldn’t identify who was the parent of the miscreant. My son resumed his play, not hurt. The miscreant was bricking himself, with the full knowledge that I was the one he was messing with now.

But it was to my shock that a couple minutes later the miscreant and his brother ran to their mother sitting two seats away from me. She didn’t want to “own” her children when they were bullying my son, nor when I made my presence known. In fact, she was more interested in burying her face into her iPhone. Observing her, after I identified her as the mother of the miscreants, I noticed that she spent the whole time with her face buried into her bl00dy phone. She was completely clocked out, not a parent, while her children were bullying others at a public playground. We left a few minutes later after my wife returned from a brief foray in a shop adjacent to the playground. My wife asked me “what’s wrong?” noticing the red mist in my eyes. As I walked past the clocked out mother I responded loudly to my wife, “our son was spat on by that older child, and I had to stand up for him.”

I think that this time the absent mother kept her head buried to avoid my wife, who wanted to confront the part-time parent. But at this point I realised it was futile and we left.

Upon reflection, my red mist was really at the part-time parent. Children are going to cross lines of discipline and social misbehavior – after all how do they learn what is acceptable and not. But a parent who clocks out and doesn’t parent, particularly in public, is unacceptable. We all want to clock off sometimes, but do it at home. Some children are not fortunate to have two parents, or have one parent away from home for extended periods of time (ask the child of any parent who serves in the military), or their parents are just flat stick working two jobs trying to provide for their children. But when you are there physically but not, what is that? You are doing your child a complete disservice, and showing them it is acceptable to be absent. More often than not you have made the decision to start a family, but you must be stupid if you don’t realise the responsibility this entails. Parenting is not part-time, and yes it is exhausting – that is just not an excuse.

I am not a perfect parent, but I will pass judgement when you can’t be ar$ed doing your job as a parent. Just don’t be surprised when you lift your face out of your mindless electronic morass and see a parent taking care of their own child who is being bullied by yours.