The first incident occurred as I was driving down the road a couple of weeks ago. The car in front of me had a child in the back seat who was maybe three years old. Not only was this child not buckled in a car seat, but she had the window all the way down and was HANGING out of the window to look around. In a split second, she could have fallen out of the car and been severely hurt- most likely killed. After hanging out of the window for a while, she did go back into the car and was romping around the back seat. There was no way the mother would have not known this was going on. I have a friend who has two little girls that are like little "Houdini's" and will get themselves out of their car seats and move around the van. But, the difference is, as soon as my friend realizes what is going on, she stops the car and re-buckles them- and she has made efforts to find other ways to keep them in their chairs. This did not seem to be the case with this other mother. I seriously considered calling 911 from my cell. Not only was this driver breaking the law by not having the child restrained, but I believe this is also child abuse when done intentionally because they are setting the child up for a serious situation. Maybe some would argue it isn't blatant child abuse, but at the very least it is child endangerment or neglect. Before I could decide, they turned a different direction then I was going. I chose to continue on my way and said a silent prayer for this child.
The second case happened at a near by "spray park". (A place for kids to run through and play in water.) A woman grabbed a boy-maybe around age 10 as a guess, by his arm and started yelling at him and hitting him on the chest and back with her hand AND fist. Over and over again. I couldn't tell what is offense had been. She was screaming at him about something and then would hit him again. What is even weirder is one of the things she yelled at him was "Do you want me to call your mother?!" So, she wasn't even his mother! Who was she? Childcare provider? I couldn't imagine someone getting paid to watch children would do that at all, much less in public! An aunt maybe or a much older sister? Possibly. I could never imagine doing this to my child- at home or in public- most certainly never to someone else's child! Again, I stood there staring at them, but indecisive about what to do. Do I call the police? I know I tend to be nicer to my kids in public, as I think most women are. So, if she was that abusive in front of people, what is she like at home?! Scary! I thought- do I intervene and ask her to stop, or would that make it worse somehow- make her turn on me or hurt him worse at home? Before I could decide, they quickly got in her car and left.
Both of these incidents got me thinking about what the proper way to handle these should be. I feel awful for not having done anything. I strongly disagree with not buckling a child AND letting them hang out the window, but is it my place to intervene for someone else's stupid decision? I know I would feel awful if I ever found out anything happened to that little girl.
And, the woman who was hitting the child, I wish I would have at least asked her to stop and threatened to call the police. I really do. That I really regret. Maybe she would have turned on me, but better to turn on me then keep hitting him. I don't even know him but feel I let him down. There were several other adults there too who either didn't see it or also chose not to act.
I don't want to judge them too harshly either. I don't know any of the story behind it- all I know is what I observed. I am certainly far from perfect and will NEVER win a mother of the year award. I have things I need to work on too. I just feel both of these incidents were very wrong and it is never okay to treat a child in that way. Ever. There is no offense a child could commit that would deserve that.
I would be interested in any thoughts from my readers on what you would have done or anything else you would like to share!