Friday, June 5, 2009

Discipine Dilemma

Daily Specs:

Attainable Goal: Keep the laundry going all day until it is done. This did not happen today.
Grievance: Forgot to take my daily Exedrin today. Tragedy.
Celebration: I got to shop at Victoria's Secret today. It was much needed and I was appropriately frugal.

The boys and I are at the Y. On our way out the front door at the end of my workout, we maneuver around what appears to be a father/mother/4 year old son family under the rain awning that covers the threshold. In retrospect, they may not have been this child's mother and father, for their age seemed to be older than that of someone with a 4 year old, but I am not going to guess or judge. This little boy, a sweet pudgy thing wearing a wetsuit/swim suit like he had just had a lesson in the pool, was stomping about listening to his shoes hitting the ground. He then sees something "shiny" over by the pedestal that holds up the roof, and runs at full speed for it. I do not know what this object was, but apparently his parents had a decent idea. As soon as this little boy got near to touching it, his mother screamed at the top of her lungs, "Stop it! Don't touch things on the ground! Who knows who has been slobbering on that thing!!!" Now, at first I thought the outcry was a little bit much, but I am reminded of times that Boy Love is particularly frustrating, and even the smallest of misdeeds gets an equally impatient reaction. The boy does not put the pretty whatever down immediately, and gets an even more exasperated screech from his obviously frazzled mother. He is visibly startled by the last scolding, and looks so frightened that he drops the object onto the ground.

As it falls to the ground, the dad figure starts barreling for his son with fire in his eyes. The kid begins to weakly apologize for not listening, but the dad already has his momentum built up. He bends down to the level of his child and starts screaming "Shut up! Shut up! I said, shut up!" in his face. This frightened little boy starts to quiver and whimper, then the dad does something I still cannot believe. He backhands his kid across the face. At this point, the boys and I were headed into the parking lot to find the car, and I had been glad to be getting away from this negativity, but I was not moving fast enough to avoid seeing...and hearing...this man smack his 4 year old's face. I was entirely sympathetic to the squeal that ensued. If I had been hit that hard, I would have yelled, too.

Understand that I am the biggest advocate of letting people parent the way they want to parent. One of my biggest pet peeves is when strangers come up to me and say, "You shouldn't have your child ride in the shopping buggy like that" or "Hey you shouldn't have your son carry that bag of groceries. It is dragging on the ground and he will break it". Strangers should not impose on the parenting of other strangers. Each time that happens to me, I feel like looking at them with false embarrassment and responding, "Oh, gosh, I am so sorry! I had no idea that you are this child's mother! I feel so silly for giving birth to him, feeding him, clothing him, teaching him, and loving him every day when he is actually yours to raise. Forgive my intrusion. I feel so foolish..." I have never actually done this, but the sentiment is there.

So when the little incident happened at the Y, I was really torn. I am of the firm belief that parents should not hit their children, but I do not represent every family in the world, and it is naive of me to think that every family functions best in the way that I think they should. In the fall of last year, I babysat for a family who had very difficult children, and they spoke frequently of how their father spanked them with a belt them when they were bad. If that is what works best for their family, then I can live with that, no matter how sad it makes me. But when I saw this poor, sweet little kid get hit not 50 feet from me...that was really hard to take. I was very happy to know that my son did not witness it.

So this evening, I walked away. I don't know if that was the right thing to do, but I don't want to go do anything crazy when this was obviously not my kid to raise. I wanted to run up to him, kneel down next to him and push his hair back from his face to see if he was alright. I wanted to give him a hug and tell him it would be okay. I wanted to tell his parents what I really thought of their actions and offer to take their son home with me so he can play with my kids while they cool down their attitudes. I remember a very specific instance when I was young and in the car with my mother. We were in a parking lot sitting in the car, and the lady sitting in the car next to us was screaming at her car full of children and saying horrible things to them. Mom looked at the lady then said to me, "Do you think it would be okay for me to offer to take those kids off that lady's hands? She is obviously too frustrated to be bothered with them right now, and we could all go to the park and have a picnic." I was reminded of this when I saw this family, and my heart broke for them.

So here is the dilemma. Did I do the right thing by walking away? Should I have done something? If so, what should I have done? What is the line that, when crossed, requires outside intervention?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. My dear Lauren your heart already answered your question. It told you the right thing too. There is no cause for yelling shut up in a kids face and absolutely no cause for backhanding a child. What you saw was abuse. That wasn't parenting that was attempt at breaking the child's will. In hind sight going back inside finding out the names and reporting the abuse might have been a way to nonconfrontationally address the problem

  3. that story makes me so sad. how could someone act that way towards a child. precilla and annabelle is one thing... a child is another. i think you should have reported it