I flew home from New York yesterday. I was at a conference for bloggers since Wednesday and I was beat. Flights, talking, and trekking my way around NYC drained all of the energy from me. My husband picked me up and decided to unwind with a late dinner and drinks at PF Chang’s. It was so good to be back in Arkansas and I had no plans of social interaction other than a low-key dinner with my husband. As we were eating and enjoying conversation a little blonde girl wiggled free from her momma and began to run down the aisle of the restaurant. I recognized the mother’s face. I’ve had that face many times. It was the, “this is what is about to happen face,” where you realize your toddler is about to spend the next hour of dinner being non-compliant. It was the face of a woman tired of saying, “please don’t touch that”, “please don’t scream”, “use your walking feet,” “your little brother is not a TABLE!”
Most if, not all, parents have been there. We get overworked and stressed out and then our kid does something in public and we feel angry, embarrassed, or both. As the little girl made her escape I watched as the mother fumbled after her. The mother bit down on her lip and her face turned red. She gained on the little girl and in one quick reach grabbed the toddler by her long blonde hair and yanked her off her feet!
I held my fork in mid-bite in totally shock and disbelief. Did this really happen? The little girl screeched and grabbed at the back of her hair, still clutched in her mother’s hand, as she was dragged backward toward the bathroom. Her grandmother grabbed the screaming and wailing child and lead her to the bathroom while the mother finished speaking with the wait staff. I looked around. Other people saw what I saw but they only sat at their booths shaking their heads. I sat my fork down and looked at my plate.
There is a fine line, in our culture, with children and parenting. “Mommy wars” make it nearly impossible for women to constructively critique each other, give advice, or even lovingly rebuke each other without a land mine being tripped. Culture formulates how people parent and it can become confusing on where we should intervene when we see things happen in public. I turned to Garrett: “ That woman just dragged her daughter off of her feet!” Garrett was in disbelief and asked what I was going to do, as he had not seen the whole exchange. I thought about how tired I was. I thought about how I was not interested in having a potential altercation in the middle of PF Chang’s, I thought about blending in with the crowd and just shaking my head at the women’s actions. As I sat thinking the little girl, with tears still running down her face, walked by with her grandmother. She has several bruises on her face. I don’t know where her bruises came from, but I felt really uncomfortable considering what I just saw happen to her. I looked at her, with her blonde hair and tiny body. I considered what I want someone to say if they knew my children were treated the way this girl was treated. I considered what I would do if I saw her in the newspaper tomorrow, God forbid, because she was injured by abuse.
I stood up and walked to the table. I bent down. My body was racked with anxiety. My voice was shaking and this is what I said: “Hi. My name is Jasmine. I am a mom of three and I wanted to say that I saw what happened with you and your daughter, ma’am. I know what it feels like to feel embarrassed and frustrated by a toddler’s behavior- but I have to say for me, for you, and for your child that it is never okay to hurt a child. Grabbing a child by her hair and dragging her is not an appropriate way to handle a rambunctious kiddo. I am not judging you- or trying to disrespect you, but I want you to know from one tired mom to another... if you are overworked, tired, or losing your temper. Just ask for help. There are people to help you.” She buried her hands in face and cried and swore it was the first time she’d ever hit the child. Her husband stared off into space as I spoke. He glanced an angry glare at her and shook his head when she said it was her first time to yank the child’s hair. The little girl showed me a pirate picture on her grandmother’s phone and I told her how kind and beautiful she was. The grandmother mouthed “thank you for saying that.” I began to cry as I walked away. If you see a child abused, no matter how tired, distracted, afraid, or uncomfortable you might be. Say something. Say something...even if your voice shakes.