I’m not a parent. I’m not an aunt. I’m not a godmother. I know that right now I wouldn’t have a clue of how to be a parent – I can barely look after myself! However, we all have a grasp of the very basics of what you should and what you definitely shouldn’t do as a parent – we all have some kind of moral compass.
However, I was in a situation the other day when it reached a point where I started asking myself if it is ever ok to comment on someone’s parenting for the well-being of the children?
You may think I am being judgemental – and if you do think this, please just pass over this post. It’s a bit out my norm blog-wise, but I can’t stop thinking about it.
I was sat on a train the other day from London to Bristol. Across the aisle from me was a table with a woman and her 4 children. The children must have all been under the age of 7 or 8. They were being a little noisy, but nothing that I wouldn’t expect from a group of children that age, and it wasn’t a “quiet carriage” or anything like that, so absolutely no problem.
I’ll say right now, I wasn’t watching them with a view to judge, however as they were in my eye-line I couldn’t help noticing when things were happening that I thought were a bit off. The first red flag went up when the mother declared “Alright, lunchtime. Sit down and shut up.”
She then brought out a sandwich and a large family size bag of Doritos. She opened the Doritos and put them in the middle of the table for the kids, plugged in her headphones, looked out the window and started eating the sandwich herself. Yes, she was feeding her young children Doritos for lunch. Just Doritos. While she ate a sandwich.
The next thing that wound me up was that half way through eating their “lunch” she declared that the youngest needed a nappy changing. I understand that this could be a tricky situation if you have to keep an eye on the other 3 children, however changing the youngest child’s nappy on the same table that the other children are eating from (by this point she had tipped the bag up on the table so they could finish it) seems simply unhygienic.
After they had finished eating, and she had handed then 3 chocolate digestives each (talk about a balanced diet!) they were sat and playing happily. The only problem was that their mother was sat on her iPhone, not even looking at the kids, headphones in. She didn’t notice when her youngest got up and walked straight into the next carriage. I wanted to stop her, but thought that it was probably not my place. I was keeping an eye on her and she was just being friendly and chatting to the grown ups in the next carriage, who were giving her the attention she was obviously craving from her mother.
By now, other people in the carriage were rolling eyes, commenting to each other & some had even left the carriage to sit elsewhere. When her mother finally realised she wasn’t there, she stood up and yelled at the top of her voice “Twyla, where the fuck are you? You’d better come back here right now or else!” It wasn’t a concerned call, it was almost threatening.
I informed her that her daughter was in the next carriage and was absolutely fine, to which she gave me the filthiest look I think I have ever received, as though I had no right to tell her where her daughter was. Should I have stopped her child from going into the next carriage because she wasn’t going to notice? Maybe, but I was watching her and keeping an eye on her, she was safe, and I didn’t want to cross any lines. Frankly, this woman was quite scary.
When she had practically dragged her youngest back to the table and sat the children all back down again, she plugged back in her headphones and went back to her iPhone, only to unplug ever few minutes to tell her children – who were getting louder to attract their mother’s attention, which they weren’t getting – to “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” After she had said this more than a few times the final other person left the carriage, leaving just me and this family.
I felt, rightly or wrongly, that I couldn’t leave. I shouldn’t leave, for the wellbeing of her children. So I could keep an eye on them and make sure they were ok for at least the small part of their day I could witness. The final thing that almost made me cry was when her little boy, who much have been 5 or 6, tapped her on the hand that was placed on the table until she unplugged and gave him an aggressive questioning look.
He simply asked “Why do you love Twyla more than the rest of us?” (I know children ask about favourites for attention, but he seemed genuinely upset.)
She replied “Because she is the youngest and the cutest. And you go to school.” He looked completely crushed and sadly said “You never spend time with us” almost under his breath as his mother plugged in her headphones and looked away from him. I wanted to give him a hug.
We were drawing to the end of the train journey by now, just me in the carriage with them, and I started wondering – is it ever ok to say something about someone else’s parenting? I desperately wanted to leave with a comment that would make her think about her attitude, but preferably without gaining physical injury from this woman who I have no doubt could have easily knocked me out cold.
I was even trying to work out appropriate phrasing in my head, and it was making me even angrier at the whole situation. I felt horrible for her children. They were obviously these happy, lovely, sociable children and all they wanted was love and attention from their mother, who sat there and ignored them most of the time and when she was paying them attention it was to swear or shout or make them feel unwanted.
The train pulled into Bristol, she grabbed her children and pushed them, quite forcefully down the aisle towards the exit, yelling at them “don’t go fucking off in the station now” without a backward glance. I said nothing.
Even now, three days later, I feel terrible. I know I probably was right to keep my mouth shut, but the idea that those children are being treated like that every day, and I was in a position where I was witnessing it and didn’t say anything makes me feel sick.
Should I have said something? or was I right to keep my mouth shut? I still don’t know.
Please no-one take any offence by this post – I know I am not a parent, and I know that I wouldn’t know where to start being a parent right now and am in no position to tell anyone how to parent.
This is merely a post to see what other people would have done in a situation that made me feel uncomfortable than to make a statement about good and bad parenting. 🙂