Mike Spohr was trying to console his crying niece. Unfortunately some people only see what they want to see.
I sat on this post for a couple of weeks because I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to say about the experience. I knew that I was annoyed by what had happened—angered even—but it’s not a totally black or white situation.
A few weeks ago my parents took me and my daughter Annie, along with my nephew Spencer and niece Michaela, to see Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. Normally, my sister and her husband would have come too, but they were out of town, so my parents and I were in charge of looking after Spencer and Michaela.
After the movie we schlepped over to a restaurant at the mall for dinner. Things started off well enough, but right before our food came Michaela threw a fit. I’m not sure why she lost it exactly… it might have been because she missed her parents, had too much candy at the movie, or because, you know, she’s a 3-year-old, but the fact is she had a big league meltdown. Since we didn’t want her to disturb anyone at the restaurant, my dad scooped her up and took her outside.
A couple of minutes later I went outside to see if everything was okay and saw that Michaela was still yelling and screaming. I went over and tried to calm her down, and that’s when it happened—a woman walked up to us and said, “Is she supposed to be with you?”
Shocked, I looked over at the lady who scrutinized us suspiciously. “I asked you if she’s supposed to be with you,” she said.
“Yes, she’s supposed to be with us,” I spat out, then turned away. I could see out of the corner of my eye that she watched us a while longer before finally continuing on her way. Michaela soon calmed down and we went back inside to finish our meal, but I couldn’t get the lady out of my mind.
Here’s the thing… on one hand, I get why the lady did what she did. If you see a child possibly in jeopardy it’s important to make sure he or she is okay. I’d like for people to look out for Annie the same way.
With that said, though, we weren’t heading toward a waiting van with Michaela. We were standing in clear sight of hundreds of other people. We also looked a whole lot like what we were—her grandfather and uncle. Actually, Michaela could easily pass for my daughter.
What upset me the most was the realization that the lady never would have asked that question of a woman and her mother. If it were my wife and mom out there with Michaela instead of my dad and me, she would have walked right past.
Clearly, there’s a double standard here, and normally that’s something we don’t accept in society. It’s sad that in a situation like that people are so quick to think “kidnapper” instead of “father,” and that probably says something about how our society views men and fatherhood. In the end, though, the woman was only looking out for Michaela, and I appreciate that. Still, in the future, it’d be nice if she stood back and observed a bit longer. If she did, she might realize there’s a whole lot more loving fathers, grandfathers, and uncles out there than creeps.