Step in or step away?

I was leaving the gym at 8:20 PM on Monday night, hurrying home to catch the kickoff of the Patriots game, when I noticed a mother and her two sons standing by the wall of soundless television screens that stretch from floor to ceiling. The boys were elementary school age, probably second and fourth grade, wearing footed pajamas and holding small pillows. Mom was ordering them into a pair of cushioned chairs, which she then swiveled around so that her sons were facing the televisions. The boys had the choice of watching basketball, hockey, the NFL pregame show or ESPN news while their mother walked away to begin her workout.

As a teacher of children their age, my initial thought was this: I’m glad I don’t have those boys in my class. While their classmates were probably already asleep, these two boys were left  unsupervised in the lobby area of a gym at 8:20 PM on a school night in front of a dozen television screen so their Mom could exercise.

In their pajamas.

It’s moments like this that I have a difficult time refraining from saying something. While it’s not my business how this mother chooses to parent her children, it is my business.

Kids are my business.

I work hard every day to ensure that my students will have the brightest futures possible. I counsel them daily on how the decisions they make today will impact their lives forever. I tell them that the world is filled with intelligent, talented people who went nowhere because they were unwilling to put in the effort. Kids are my business, and they should have been this woman’s business, too.

But on Monday night, it did not appear that they were. This is a problem. Eventually, these boys will become a problem, if they aren’t already. Someday they might become my problem.

It would’ve been wrong of me to stop this woman before she began her half-hearted leg lifts and warn her about her parental folly. Not only would it have been rude, but the scene could’ve gotten ugly fast.

Besides, kickoff was less than ten minutes away. I had to get home.

But part of me still thinks I was wrong to not say something that night. That every time we choose to say nothing in a situation like this, a child suffers. Parents have a right to choose how they raise their children, but there comes a time when lines are crossed and people, even strangers, need to step in.

But was a line crossed on Monday night? I’m not sure.