My heart broke Sunday for a girl I don't know at a park in Linwood, N.J.
I was at the park with the girls while we were visiting Natasha's Aunt Beatrice for the Fourth of July weekend. I had been pushing the girls on a spinning tire swing, after running around the playground roaring and being monsterish so they could scream with delight and run away from me.
I was taking a break, watching them play pirates on a playset they had coverted into a pirate ship, when a woman and her daughter got out of their sport-utility vehicle. The girl ran to the tire swing, and promptly was rebuffed by her mother. "Go play somewhere else. I'm not going to push you."
I'd like to think that the woman had some hand injury that kept her from pushing the swing, but her hands worked just fine. I saw her text-messaging on her cell phone the whole time they were at the park. I wanted to shake her, to scream, "She's not going to want your attention forever, go play with her now while she still wants you!" but I didn't.
Instead, I went over to my girls, the good pirates who make breakfast for other people and don't plunder other vessels, and became a bad pirate to chase them around. They laughed, they screamed with delight, and they ran away and around the playground for a good twenty minutes or more. I was a bad pirate in many ways, avasting and shiver-me-timbersing with the worst of them in accent and in behavior, but I had a great time, and my kids did too.
I just hope the woman I saw realizes what she's missing before it's too late. Her cell phone is something she'll probably replace in another year or so, especially now that the iPhone has arrived with even more useless bells and whistles, but time with a child is something no one can upgrade or replace. Once it's gone, it's lost forever.