Helping a Child Shouldn't Put You in Hot Water With Her Mom

santa arrives by tugboatYou know that whole "no good deed goes unpunished thing?" Yeah, I learned that lesson the hard way this past weekend.

Every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my family and I head down to Mystic, CT to see Santa arrive at the town park by tugboat. It's so much fun and plenty of families turn out every year to greet good old St. Nick -- but the whole thing always makes me a little nervous because there are only pilings on the dock separating the crowd from the Mystic River -- not any sort of guardrail or barrier.

And as we were walking down the dock to find a good spot to stand and wait for Santa, a little girl (maybe three or four years old) ran right in front of me, and she was headed straight for the edge.


I instinctively put my arm out in front of her to stop her from running into the river -- and that's when I heard a snarky, somewhat annoyed voice say, "Oh, she's FINE!"

Yep, it was her mom -- and she seemed all kinds of pissed off that I stepped in and prevented her kid from falling into the icy river and potentially drowning. (I know, I have some nerve.)

Maybe I overreacted and the little girl was planning on stopping. Or maybe she's a miniature Olympic swimmer in training who would've been just fine had she fallen into the drink. Or maybe the mom had her eyes on her the whole time and was just about to go after her before I interfered.

Whatever the case, I felt as though I did the right thing -- but this mother obviously felt that I overstepped my bounds being that I'm a random stranger to her child and all.

So this brings me to a question that I'm not sure has a correct answer -- When is it ok to step in and help someone else's child if you are under the impression that they're in some sort of danger? Where are we supposed to draw the line between being cautious and going with our gut when we think something is wrong and standing by and letting an unfortunate accident happen?

It's a tough situation no matter how you look at it, but I know one thing for sure. If the same thing happens next year and I see another kid headed for the river, I'm stepping in just in case. To me, ticking off a parent is better than knowing I could've prevented an accident but chose to do nothing about it.

Help me out here -- did I do the right thing? When is it ok to intervene in a situation like this?


Image via Mary Fischer

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