I haven’t had a lot to write recently, what with life in general, so I hope you’ll excuse my absence. Today I want to tell you about an experience we had yesterday. I still don’t quite know how I feel about it. Do I feel bad or guilty? Do I think I should feel bad or guilty, and feel a little guilty because in fact I don’t? It’s odd.
Melody had been quite good all morning, so before we did our shopping, I took her to McDonald’s for lunch. It was busy, but not over crowded. We found a booth in the corner, and right as we sat down, a little boy who had been sitting with a woman and her son came over and sat in our booth. Okay, odd, but I looked at the woman and said – loud enough for her to hear “oh, are you going to sit with us buddy?” I fully expected the woman to collect her child, but instead, the woman and her son walked away. What? This boy wasn’t her son after all.
He looked at our food and said “french fries.” The boy was probably 7 or 8 years old and didn’t speak well, so I wondered if he spoke Spanish. He took some fries and started eating. Odd. I looked around for parents who were frantically looking for thier kid…there weren’t any. I asked him his name and he babbled. I asked him where his mommy was. He babbled and said “french fries.” I asked him in Spanish “donde estas su mama? su abuela?“
He said nothing except “french fries,” and continued eating ours.
Melody was observing all this while she munched on her chicken nuggets. She is incredibly sweet, and asked me if she could give him one of her nuggets. I didn’t let her. Was it fear of what was happening – which was indeed a strange situation? Was it some sense that a parent would show up from where ever they were? I don’t know, but I told her to keep her nugget, but that she was very kind for wanting to offer it to him.
I continued to scan the restaurant for adults looking for a missing child, but none were apparent. I realized it was possible this boy was lost. Had a family accidentally left without him? Had he been abandoned at McDonald’s intentionally? So, I asked him to come with me to find the manager of the store…and he freaked.
He started screaming and ran away from me! At that moment I realized something was very “not right” about him and it wasn’t that he needed to learn English. It was a language barrier though.
A woman who had been seated facing away from us jumped up when she heard the scream and went after him. Another woman came from the counter where she’d been ordering meals. I’m ashamed to admit that I judged the second woman based on her appearance – overly thin, unkempt appearance, scabby arms and face. She was an addict.
The two women collected the screaming boy and shot glances over our way. The skinny woman sat down in the booth with him and held him while he screamed and screamed. He wanted french fries. The other woman came over to us and apologized profusely. She was his grandmother, they just got into town to visit, she thought the boy was out with his mother’s “friend” in the play area, he’s autistic. She offered to buy us some more fries, which I declined. I told her that I had just been concerned that he’d gotten lost and was alone. I apologized for upsetting him.
I felt so bad. I felt bad for the boy. I felt bad for the grandmother. I don’t know what the family situation is, and I must not judge them based on the brief interaction at a McDonald’s, but for heaven’s sake, if the “friend” wasn’t watching the kids, and the mother wasn’t watching the kids, and the grandparents didn’t know they were supposed to be watching the kids, who the heck is watching the kids?? This boy is autistic and needs a little extra attention in what could turn out to be stressful situations. His mother didn’t even speak to us. In fact she avoided us. I imagine she was embarrassed, so I can’t really blame her for that.
I hope that I’m seeing things wrong, and that their family is very happy, healthy, well fed and taken care of; the mother is just naturally skinny, the “friend” is a great father figure, and all the kids are getting all the education and attention they need. I hope that’s the case.
But I still felt bad somehow.