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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Thought To Myself This Is how Child Abuse Happens

In the store today, there was a little girl about 2 years old I would say, screaming, screeching, all through the store the entire time, complaining, squealing angrily at her mother's every request. She caught my attention, because at first her sounds of protest sounded like one of my children. Her mother was pushing a stroller with a baby boy inside who was making his own sounds. She was looking at merchandise as her 2 year old was, well, being a 2 year old.

After several minutes of this, the mother decided to check out. The little girl was holding a toy that she wanted. When the mother tried to release the merchandise from this little girl's clenched fist to give it to the clerk to pay for it, the child began yelling it's MINE!!!! This was not a simple, sweet sound. She was angrily protesting. From the sounds of the tone of her voice, it sounded as though she truly believed that this toy was hers and that her mom and the cashier were trying to steal it from her. Then, her screaming started her baby brother screaming. The mom was left standing there attempting to pay for her items while both of her children were in complete rage and upset. As I stood there all I could think is:

This is how child abuse happens!

It can begin so innocently. A mom had little sleep. She's tired. She's got another child who is crying and a 2-year old throwing a fit. She feels as if everyone is looking at her, judging her actions or reactions to her child's behavior. The heat of the moment is the test. Even the most loving, kind and patient parent is capable of snapping and becoming angry. What they do with this anger or impatience could determine whether or not a child is disciplined in loving guidance (if necessary) or abused.

As I stood there observing the chaotic scene, I watched this tired, stressed out, embarrassed mother keep it together fairly well but seemed to be on the brink of deciding if she would be a kind and patient mom or arrested for publicly unleashing her exhaustion, embarrassment and anger towards abusing her child. As the girl began now to launch into a 2-year old stomp and body thrust while clenching the toy, the mother exclaimed:

Hey! You know what - Swat! We're putting the toy back!

It was a very gentle swat on the child's back side which was padded with clothing. It obviously did not phase the child, however, other than to escalate her screams and shouts of protest. And, there were sounds of not only a 2-year screaming in protest but her little brother screaming and crying as well. She had set him off with her fit of upset.

Somehow, the mother managed to calmly pay for the merchandise and walk her child out of the store. She did this while juggling a bag of merchandise, pushing a stroller and attempting to navigate a child who was flailing herself about and pulling her hand away with the mom's every attempt to guide her safely to the car.

As I stood there watching this event, I felt as though I was watching myself a couple years ago. What is it about a checkout lane or other places where you are trapped and cannot escape? This is the very moment your child will fall into a fit like no other. As I stood there, I tried not to stare and add to her embarrassment, and I began to pray. I prayed for patience and love to flood this women so she would keep a perspective that these moments are simply moments and won't last forever.

But, I laughed out loud when the clerk told her to HAVE A NICE DAY! I'm sure the thought that crossed her mind fell very short from believing that would ever happen unless he was about to pull Mary Poppins out from behind the cash register.

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