I went to the park today with Dexter, my best friend and her boy … not exactly groundbreaking news, granted, but being an ‘only child’ for a lot of the time (plus his brother is ten years older), we just don’t tend to go often anymore.
Anyway, we went today when there was a break in the weather. Suffice to say, we’re all fair weather park goers, but Dexter had recently bought a scooter so it was a good excuse to get out of the house for an hour or two to test it out. (We only managed 30 minutes until the rain came.)
The boys went off to play … Dexter managing to nearly get stuck in what can only be described as a wooden box on a big spring, and Jo and I chatted on a nearby bench.
After a while, our attention was drawn to a screaming girl, clad head to toe in pink, that was on the path outside of the playground with, what looked to be her Nan. The lady seemed to be in her late 60’s and the girl was approximately seven years old.
Now I’ve been a mother for 19 years and have come across my fair share of tantrums … some of them even coming from my boys. A lot of the time tantrums make no sense whatsoever. They could kick off because you served the wrong shaped pasta or because they don’t like the colour red today and you deigned to put them in a red T shirt. Kids make no sense most of the time if I’m honest.
This girl seemed to be having one of those days and didn’t want to put her shoe on. I say shoe as in singular … she wanted to have just one shoe on. Parents will read this and nod knowingly, I’m sure.
We sat and watched the ensuing tantrum and felt the lady’s pain all too well. However, the tantrum continued … and continued. We both agreed, as it is easy to do when you’re a spectator, that we probably would have walked off and left the child crying on the floor – there was a bench nearby and she would have been safe enough. The park was quiet and she would have come to no harm. Instead, the lady seemed to think it would be better to get hold of a leg and an arm of the child and gently swing her around a bit, in a somewhat jokey fashion.
Now if my kids are anything to go by, trying to joke them out of a tantrum never works, but I don’t blame the woman for trying. You try pretty much anything you can think of just to coax them out of it.
However, the longer the tantrum went on, the more and more we wondered whether we should intervene. Not from a child safety point of view … you could see that the Nan wasn’t hurting the girl, on the contrary from what we could see of the girl’s flailing arms and legs, but from a support aspect.
We wanted to offer our assistance but just how do you go about doing that? And just what could we have done? We just felt bad for doing nothing because the woman was clearly struggling.
We ran through scenarios of offering some help and the lady shouting at us or, even worse, us just making the tantrum last even longer and so, we decided to do nothing.
We felt really helpless and there seemed to be no signs of the tantrum abating until, of course, the young girl’s mother appeared and the girl’s tears eased up.
To give her credit, the older lady kept her cool and was fairly calm throughout – I’m not sure I’d have been so collected.
We really wanted to help but we are so indoctrinated now not to help for fear of reprisals, albeit from a seemingly placid older lady, that we end up not doing anything at all.
Isn’t that sad? That we’re too scared to offer help to someone that might need it?
I’m sure this whole tantrum was all over within five minutes although, no doubt, it felt a lot longer for the woman involved. And maybe she, as the Nan, felt that she had to be careful how to react because, although it was her granddaughter, that’s very different to dealing with your own child.
It ended ‘well.’ No-one was hurt, although Nan may have a few bruises tomorrow, and I’m sure they’re all friends again now.
But I’d like to ask you … would you have intervened? Bear in mind we’re not talking a situation where there’s any sign of what we may call abuse, but merely a situation where offering help might (or might not) have been the right thing to do … but how it would have been taken, you just never know, do you?
Would love to hear what you think.
PS – Sure enough, I had to rescue Dexter out of that equipment because he got stuck!