"You were supposed to watch the baby!" Mother disciplines 3-year-old when he wanders into snow with baby brother

Mary Duncan

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.*

A long time ago, when I was probably just thirteen or fourteen years old, my mom left me and my friend Thea at home to babysit my little sister, Grace. It was winter at the time, and we decided it would be fun to get ourselves and Grace bundled up to go outside and play in the snow.

We had fun out there for a little while. Grace was about two years old at the time, and tiny even for that age.

I remember the moment that the neighbor’s dog darted out from the woods and attacked Grace, chomping its jaws around her thick snowsuit and bringing her to the ground and she screamed. I looked on in horror as Thea ran to Grace’s rescue, grabbing the dog by the collar and punching it in the head repeatedly until it let Grace go.

I learned a lot from that episode. One, that two-year-old kids can in no way defend themselves against any sort of predator be it human or animal. Two, it’s always a parent’s responsibility, for what happens to their child. I firmly believe thirteen was too young to have me babysitting my two-year-old sister. Maybe I just grew up in a different time, but that’s how I feel.

At any rate, if I think thirteen is too young to be a babysitter, you will probably all agree that three years old is definitely too young to take on the responsibility of another human being.

Years ago when I was in my early twenties I lived in a neighborhood on the dodgy end of town. They called it “The Avenues” as they were numbered First through Thirteenth, with a North and a South. On my block, there was a little family that lived in a house adjacent to the one where I was renting an apartment with some friends. I knew that there were two kids, very young boys, and that the father always seemed to be away, either working or doing something else.

Well, one other terrible winter day I happened to look out my front window and saw the little boys walking in the middle of the street through the blinding snow with barely any clothes on.

I rushed outside and scooped up the little one and grabbed the older one’s hand.

“What are you doing out here?” I asked him.

The little boy looked up at me and just shrugged, shivering.

“How old are you?” I asked him.

“Three,” he told me.

The baby I was holding couldn’t have been more than a year old, it had barely been walking without his brother’s hand to hold, and he was only wearing fleece pajamas.

I stormed up to their door and banged on it, waiting for their mother to answer, but she did not come to the door.

“Where’s your mom?” I asked the little boy.

“I think she’s still sleeping,” he said.

I was enraged. I tried the doorknob and found it unlocked, so I went inside and found their mother passed out on the couch with an open bottle of vodka beside her. I woke her up with a few rude shouts and told her I had just found her kids out in the snowy street.

Was her reaction to immediately take her children into her arms and express relief at their safety? Or perhaps to thank me profusely for saving them? No, this woman looked down at her three-year-old son and started yelling at him.

“You were supposed to watch the baby! I told you to watch the baby when I took a nap, and you knew you were not supposed to go outside, right? Right?!” She screamed at him until the little boy began to cry.

I knew there was only one thing for me to do and I had no remorse for doing it. I went back across the street to my apartment and immediately called the police, which transferred me to a department where I could report the neglect of these poor children.

I watched police officers pull up to the house hours after I made the call, and later watched the children be removed from their home. They were back eventually, and maybe their mom got the help she needed to better take care of them, but at least I never found them alone outdoors again.

What would you have done if you had found the boys?

Hi, I hope you enjoyed this story! I am a freelance writing single mom trying to create a better life for me and my daughter through words. If you enjoyed this, please consider leaving a small donation: https://ko-fi.com/maryduncan

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I write about the weird complexities of relationships to make a better life for me and my daughter through words. https://ko-fi.com/maryduncan

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