When I was working on the "Bear" column that appeared here a few weeks ago, I wrote it in longhand one afternoon at the Main Library downtown. This is a luxury I usually don't have.
More often than not, I'm at my computer banging on the keyboard. This time I wanted to feel my hand write the words in an effort to try to get the story right.
On plain white paper, I was writing at one of the tables on the first floor where the videos are. A young man who I'm guessing was 19 or 20 walked over to another table to my right. With him was a youngster maybe 6 or 7 years old.
He was a cute little thing -- brown skin, curly black hair and big brown eyes. He was wearing a winter coat he never took off.
I heard his father say something to him, but I wasn't paying much attention. I was busy writing. When I did look up again, the little boy was by himself at the table smiling at me.
"What ya doin'?" he asked.
"Just doing some writing," I replied, smiling back. "What you up to?"
"My dad's gonna get some movies for him and me to watch."
"What's he getting?"
"Don't know," the little boy said, moving around in his seat. "He's gonna get a bunch of 'em. I'm with him all day."
I smiled at him again, then went back to my writing.
Maybe 10 minutes passed. I looked up again, and the little boy was still at the table sitting in that chair. He was starting to get restless. He looked at me again, but this time he wasn't smiling.
"I'm sure your dad will be back soon," I told him. "I know it isn't any fun to be waiting around."
The little boy smiled at me and then put his head down on the table in front of him.
I continued writing. After 20 minutes or so, I decided to pack up my bag and go get some lunch. When I looked over to that table again to my right, the boy was still there -- head still down on the table. Alone.
I see this type of thing much too often, and it frustrates me. I think the problem is kids having kids.
Now this child was friendly and polite, so maybe the young father and mother are doing something right, but he was left at that table by himself for much too long.
Why the father didn't take his little boy to go pick out movies with him, I don't know. Why he kept him waiting at that table for more than half an hour, I don't know either. What I do know is there are a lot of sick people out there, and this friendly little boy wearing his winter coat was an easy target.
I stayed at that table at the Main Library and continued writing while keeping my eye on him. I wasn't about to leave until the father returned.
My mind now wasn't on what I was writing but on another poor parenting display I'd witnessed a couple weeks earlier.
This was also at the Main Library, but this time it was outside on Walnut Street. I was standing there waiting for a bus.
A young couple, really kids, was walking down the sidewalk and fighting about something. A child of 3 or 4 followed.
The child fell down and starting crying. The young parents kept walking and kept fighting.
Finally they turned back to see their child lying on the sidewalk. Instead of running back and picking him or her up, they both started yelling.
"Get up, get up! You're not hurt," the mother screamed.
"On your feet!" the father said.
The father walked back, grabbed the child by the hand and pulled him or her up, continuing to yell. I watched as the father dragged his child down the sidewalk to catch up with the still screaming mother.
Again, I see this stuff too often -- young adults not ready to have children. I have no real answers to offer here.
I wish kids wouldn't have kids. I wish young adults would educate themselves first on what it's like to have a child before actually having one. I wish there was better sex education in our schools. I wish young people would wear protection. I wish they'd think.
I said nothing to that young couple yelling at their fallen child on the sidewalk, but clearly I was witnessing child abuse. The father who left his son at the library by himself far too long was bordering on child neglect. One is just as bad as the other.
The father getting the movies finally returned to the library table to retrieve his young son. I started to pack up my bag, but I wasn't going to let his neglect pass without saying something. I smiled as I approached him.
"You got a cute little boy there," I said. "I stayed here to keep an eye on him until you got back. See, I'm a parent, too."
The young man looked right through me and said nothing. He took his little boy's hand and walked away quickly with the boy looking back at me, staring.
Maybe I planted a seed in that young father's head. Maybe I got him to thinking. I want to hope so.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: firstname.lastname@example.org.