Neglected Children on the Playground

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish Journal The boys, about 7 years of age, were racing up the slide and skateboarding down. The lone girl enthusiastically ran up and down with the rest of them. My grandson, whose hand I held tightly, was fascinated by the commotion, fascinated by what it could mean to be “big.” He pulled on my arm and I let him lead. I’m not the overprotective type. I encouraged him to climb the ladder at the other side of the play structure, and he approached the slide. His thumb was in his mouth, a sure sign of intense concentration combined with feelings of insecurity.   He longed to go down the slide, I could see, but, of course, being not even three years old, he planted his little feet a few paces away from the wild kids. “C’mon,” I coaxed him, “you can take a turn.” I patted the slide. All to no avail. My soft words neither moved him closer nor moved the little rowdies away.   Suddenly, a flip-flop whizzed past us and a frightened—and barefoot—child lunged for it. The other children laughed as the flip-flop went the other way. My eye scanned the circumference of the playground. There were absolutely no adults anywhere. This was too much for me. Rowdiness, I can tolerate; they are children after all, and without supervision to boot. But no shoes? The grandmother in me took a back seat and the mother in me stepped forth. “Where are your shoes?” I demanded of the little rowdy.   Looking into my eyes, he replied, pointing to a...
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