Saturday, November 17, 2007

How bad just normal can be

On the bus today there were three mums with their children, all "nice middle class white well spoken". You get the picture - neat haircuts every one of them, and smart clothes.

Mums in the middle of the bus, chatting; two children at the front, the rest at the back.

Mum number 1 only engaged with her children when one told tales on another "Mum, Ben is standing up" "BEN!!!" (in warning tones, turns round and finds child is sitting down - tale bearer laughs a lot, and who can blame her. Mum is a fool).

Mum number 2 kept turning round and telling child (at other end of the bus) not to take things out of her bag because "they'll get left behind if we have to get off the bus in a hurry." Child said "I'm not taking them out, I've just opened the bag to look at them". Mum said "If they fall out, you aren't allowed to cry". Only other interaction of this mum and children was her telling them repeatedly not to use more than one crayon at a time, and then to put it away before getting the next one out. All at 90 decibels across acres of bus.

Mum number 3 was being horrible to her daughter. Daughter cried, mum didn't go to her. Daughter eventually went to mum. Daughter then headed back towards the back of the bus, bus started moving, mum caught daughter to sit her down - fair enough since the bus was lurching. The next exchange was weird. The mum kind of grimaced at daughter, daughter grimaced back, and then the mum gave her a right going over for looking at her in a disrespectful way. The child burst into floods of tears. It struck me as an interaction where the child is desperate for love and affection, but has no idea what it is she is supposed to be in order to earn it. And the parent is inconsistent and just plain unkind.

Mum number 4 (me) got off the bus many stops before she had intended, and waited for the next bus, musing on the glories of the teenage years these women have ahead of them, and on the likelihood of them being invited to play an active role as grandparents in due course.


Brian's wife said...

That's a sad, sad story, and painfully well-observed. My heart goes out to the poor daughter of that third mum, especially. On a bus journey recently I was on the top deck with my daughter (4) and a mum was harrying *her* little boy, no older than 5, up the stairs, saying "If you don't hurry up those stairs, I'm going to break your neck." Children that young take those kind of threats literally. It breaks my heart to see the next generation being damaged so. I wanted to say something. But what can you say?

Anonymous said...

brian's wife, maybe just sharing your genuine surprise:

"What a horrible thing to say to a small child!"

The likely reply would be an eye roll and a quick explanation from the mum:

"I wasn't serious"

This could help a bit if the child was listening.