Mrs. Merry, I think I said respect the child and not put the mother down to her. The child needs to face the real world with as much gentleness and understanding as we can muster. She sad and hurt, she needs to cry it out. Sometime soon someone will explain it to her. The jerky mom should have handled it and explained it to her, but didn't. The OP had her hands full with equally important issues and couldn't handle a crying 5 year old and tried to explain that to the child's mother.
Unfortunately, the child is going to have to learn to face a lot of these situations alone if her mother continues with this behavior. She'll either tough up or fail. We want to see her succeed and hope the "system" is ready for her if she fails. In my experience, most kids come out stronger, but it is still a mean way to live and learn.
I really wish we could all help the child, but we can't. How many children have I seen emotionally and educationally abandoned? I can't tell you. I hurt for all of them and am amazed at how resilient they can be. I don't want to take a chance on any of them, but we must realize that at that point on that day, the OP had many other children under her care that needed her attention, and the last child who should have been taken care of by her mother but wasn't became a nearly unbearable situation. I am still thinking the OP did the right thing, dealing as gently as she could and not calling the cops.
There is no way I can 'pretend to be the mother.' I can actually pretend to be the child better. The mom will never understand what is going on. Let's just deal with the child as gently as possible. I'm hurt, I'm crying, I don't understand and with the jerky mother I have, she can't explain it to me, so she just throws me back into the lion's den. My friend's mom is too busy to comfort me right now . . I guess that's life and I had better learn to deal with it. even if I'm only 5..