Monday, September 21, 2009

it's complicated...

So I'm really torn here, as I have a ton of positive, happy stuff I want to share with you guys this week, but had a totally icky experience this weekend that I kinda need to get off my chest. So bare with me as I kick this out of my system and get your guys' brilliant feedback, and then tomorrow I'll catch y'all up on how awesome my life really is. Ready? Break!!

I'm out to lunch on a perfectly sunny day, hanging with a good friend of mine, J., his beautiful wife, and their newborn daughter (not even four months old!) of pure gorgeousness; and one of my best friends, Summer, her husband, and THEIR almost year old baby who is just the cutest thing on the planet. So much cute is at this table, the ketchup bottle is gonna explode.

And in walks two huge guys with a baby, not so unusual, as maybe it's Dad's turn to take the baby for the day, or hell, maybe they're domestic partners and adopted, who knows, but it's two men and another baby.

We're ordering food as the two guys and baby park themselves in a booth about ten feet away from ours, and no sooner had we finished our orders and were playing Make the Baby Dance on the Restaurant Table (you know you've done it) with the older baby when some sort of commotion happens at the guys' booth, and as I am facing the booth I get to see what happens:

The guy's baby at some point must have made a fuss, but must have done so quietly, or maybe I didn't notice or hear because I'm at a table with two already fussy babies, but one of the men (who is clearly the father) puts his head down on the table to the baby's eye level (the baby is in a high chair) and screams at the top of his lungs, "I'M TRYING TO ORDER YOU A FUCKING HAMBURGER!!"

And our table goes dead silent. There is no one else around on this side of the restaurant, so we just have each other to confirm, did that really just happen? Surely this must be a joke, nobody says that to a kid who's not even two years old yet, do two year olds even know what HAMBURGER means, and before we can even assume that the man is just playing around in some awful stupid joke, he roughly yanks the now wailing baby from the high chair, holds him high in the air, gives him a few shakes(?!!) and then plops him just as roughly into the baby stroller, then walks a few feet away muttering to himself about how all he wants to do is order lunch, can't he just order lunch in peace and quiet?

And J. looks at me, and I look at him, and we're both boxed into the booth by our respective family and friends, and J. says, "My entire body just went numb," and I say "I can't believe he just did that," and J's beautiful wife says to J., "You are NOT going to fight," and I turn to J. and I say, "If you are going to fight, I'm fighting with you," and Summer's husband says quietly, "It's not our kid," and I contemplate how to best get out of the goddamn booth so I can bludgeon this man to death and J. says to me, "That's right, I forgot you have a first degree black belt," and I say, without a touch of irony and in total utter seriousness, "If you can hold him down I can punch him in the throat" but I'm telling you, the entire time I'm seeing red and wanting to crack my cell phone against the bridge of this guy's nose I'm still arguing with myself mentally, like surely this can't be real why would anyone who is that angry have a child maybe he has mental issues if I attack the dad is his huge friend gonna come up behind me and flatten me do I really have a chance I swore to myself I'd never get in a fight if I could help it don't I have an obligation to stop this son of a bitch from hurting his kid is it really going to do any good he might just hit the kid again later if I get my car keys into his eyes then he won't be able to see-

-when the guy packs up everything, marches out of the restaurant with his baby and baby stroller, and his friend, obviously embarrassed, skulks out a minute later, and they're gone. They ordered no food, the waitress had no names, I chose not to follow them into the dark and isolated parking garage where the restaurant patrons park, and I did Absolutely.Nothing.To.Stop.Him.

I did absolutely nothing to stop him.

And I'm wondering, where do you draw the line? We've all heard stories of a woman who swatted her kid on the butt in a supermarket and then got a visit from Child Protective Services later that day, or stories where there was obvious, blatant abuse in public and nobody did or said a damn thing. Are we really in the business of telling other people how to raise or discipline their kids?

Then there's this whole notion of It's Not Our Business, it's Not Our Kid.

But don't we also have the right to step in and stop someone? Surely we must...and then what? What would have happened if the men had stayed, and we'd called the cops? Does the baby get taken away and put into foster care, into some worse situation? Or do we just throw up our hands and say, "I called the cops, that's the end of my responsibility."?

And then I remember the time while I was in college when a neighborhood kid jumped into my mom's minivan as we were leaving for the store and pleaded with us to help him, because he was getting bad grades and his father was going to hurt him with the scissors again.

Scared and unsure, my mom and I called the cops and refused to let the furious father and hysterical mother into our home as we sat that kid down on the sofa, got him some water, and waited for an officer to show up.

And I remember, after the cop thought he had the kid alone, I hid behind the couch and listened to the following exchange and this is actually word for word what was said, because I will never forget it, as long as I live:

Cop: Why do you think your dad hits you and hurts you with scissors?

Kid: Cuz I get bad grades.

Cop: Does your dad hurt your sister as well?

Kid: No, cuz she gets good grades.

Cop: So do you think if maybe you studied harder he wouldn't hit you?

Kid: I guess so.

Cop: Good. Because I have real bad guys to catch and this stuff? This stuff is just wasting my time.

He actually said all of that. So we had no choice to give this child back to his family, and a few months later, the family moved out of the neighborhood.

Gone. Just like that.

So let's turn the microphone on you guys: Ever had an experience like this? What did you do? And I won't ask you whether or not you think I did the right thing, because I already know I didn't.

And my nightmares have started up again.


Jenn said...

omg this makes me want to cry. so many people out there want babies, and can't have them and they would never DREAM of shaking or yelling like that at a precious child. my heart breaks.

and the kid who jumped into your van?? the cops had better things to do than protecting a child who was being attacked with scissors by his insane father? i would have called the news on that police offer and exposed him for the horrible person he is.

wow...this is heavy stuff, and so sad. :(

Gwen said...

Oh honey I wish I had some words of wisdom to tell you but I just don't. I've been on the both ends of this situation. I actually had a woman tell me she was going to call the police if I didn't let go of Ellie. I was kneeling in the middle of Target holding her arms so she would look at me and explaining to her why she shouldn't open candy that we haven't purchased. I'm lucky my Dad was there because I probably would have hurt that lady.

But then I've seen it too (maybe too often). And a lot of times I just say a prayer for the child and family because I worry that I might not have seen things right. It's so hard to know what the best thing to do is. I am glad that you didn't actually say something to the dad but I wonder if this parking garage has cameras that you might be able to find out a license plate number from. Then you would have some information to give to the police.

I'm praying for you now too. Just know that you did what you should have done. XOXO

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

Everything you just related in that post completely blew me away. Having a kid is hard work, it's made me more than half crazy, and those who think that beating or shaking (!!!!) a kid is the way to go, Jesus Christ.
And, unfortunately, cops HATE getting involved in any sort of domestic dispute. How could that cop not see that the dad in this case WAS the bad guy he should be nabbing?

Shanna Suburbia said...

It just breaks my heart to read these things - no wonder it was eating at you whether or not to post about it. I'm sorry you've had to witness those things and I wish I could offer you advice but I know it won't help much right now anyway. It's so hard not to "meddle" when you see something like that happen but I also want to say that it's not meddling if you are saving someone (the child) from very real danger. I would have been so horrified at that cop who told the kid he was wasting his time. Way to break the kid's sense of justice. Time to report this guy to his superiors.

The other day, I witnessed a car accident on the freeway where a pick up truck turn horizontal and blocked up the second and third lane. I saw this just as I was exiting so I pulled out my cell phone to call 911. Afterwards, I kept wondering what had happened and wish I had stayed nearby to see things get cleared up. I felt like even though I did a good thing, I could have done more.

I guess it's hard to break out of that train of thought - that you have done more -- but sometimes you really can't and that extra effort sometimes won't make a difference.

*hug* cheer up soon

Gwen said...

I just had to post a response to your comment...I totally never thought about it that way but now I definitely feel like a Disney Princess!!! All of the woodland creatures are seeking me out. :) XOXO

life according to celia... said...

holy shit, this is serious. it is very difficult to know exactly what to do. i was hired to cater a baby naming ceremony about three years ago. it was held at the new parent's home in their backyard. it was one of those houses in the hills, where the backyard was on the second floor and the kitchen was on the first floor. i don't know if that really makes sense. there was a loft over the kitchen that led into the backyard. i was the only person in the house because the party was outside and the servers were out there as well. the woman who lived in the house came in and asked if i had an extra towel because her nephew had spilled a glass of water on a guest. i handed her the towel and she went outside. not even a minute later, i hear this enraged woman (seriously, she sounded possesed) in the loft yelling and screaming, and beating a crying child. since they were right above me, i couldn't see it, but i could actually hear her hitting and shoving (not spanking) him. i froze. like i said, i could not see, but i knew there was no way this child was older than 6. she had lost it... was calling him an idiot and an embarrassment. the kid was pleading for her to stop. it feels like such a blur and i'm not sure how long it went on, but it was quite a while. i ran to the kitchen door to go tell one of the severs. and sure enough i was so nervous and, just like in a movie, i ran into the trash can and knocked it over. she heard and stopped her insanity. i ran into the bathroom because i didn't want her to look over the ledge of the loft and know that it was ME who had heard her . i heard her take him out the front door and i ran back to the kitchen, hoping i could figure out who it was. it was the hostess' sister and although she had stopped hitting the, what looked to be a 4 year old, boy, she was still having a screaming fit. we wrapped up the party and i COULD NOT get out of there fast enough. on the way back to the kitchen, i told the servers what had happened. i did not sleep that night. the next morning, i called the police and they told me since it was the sister's residence and not the actual woman's home, there was absolutely nothing they could do about it. so there you go, as you are familiar, sometimes there really is nothing you can do and it sucks and it feels like shit. that day haunts me to this day and every time i think of it, my stomach twists and turns into big fat nasty knots.
i'm sorry you had to experience this, and i'm especially sorry for all the children who are cursed with such disgusting parents.

drollgirl said...

this is so horrible. and it isn't your fault. there are just some shitty parents out there, and i don't know how we go about finding them and fixing them, or finding new homes for kids. it just makes my heart break. i really don't know if there is/was a proper way to handle the situation. intervening most assuredly would have led to yelling and possibly violence. calling the cops might have done the same. calling child protective services might also have done the same. and placing the kid in a new home is no guarantee to fix the problem here. it just is so unfortunate and i wish i had a better answer here.

krista said...

i don't know what the right answer is. part of me wants to say: it's our responsibility as human beings to get involved when we feel a child is being mistreated. but i'm not sure this is always the right way to deal with the situation.
i just don't know.
i understand the frustration of having a two year old, believe me. and i totally understand the desire to want to react in anger. the difference is acknowledging these feelings and taking a moment to let them pass. i worry about people who act this way in public because it seems to me they have no idea that they are behaving improperly.

Kristin Quinn said...

Our world sucks. Its not set up to protect children. I feel it is our responsibility to do something when we see something, but what do we do? Any attention to the problem could make it worse for the child. It makes me so angry.

Lira said...

The police have only RECENTLY started getting training on child/spousal abuse matters. Before, there was really nothing they could do except 1) get there after it was waaaay over and 2) say, don't hit her so hard next time.
Now they're being trained in this stuff because enough women's shelters have been all, hey, PD, WTF?

in regards to young children the police can't interview, call Children's Protective Services. They'll at least send someone out and make a report and follow up on these things. That's their entire job.

tenure.track.mommy said...

You know you and me - we are magnets for freaks. I have a big mouth (recall our multiple public transit experiences) and yes, I've said things to people who do stupid things. In this case, I probably would have gone off the hook. The problem is that this probably wouldn't have solved the issue. Plus, it doesn't cross the line of child abuse in CPS' eyes, unfortunately. I'm sure other things going on in that guy's home are abusive, though...but well hidden.

red ticking said...

wow.this leaves me almost shaking... both stories.
i have a different story but it still really upset me.
tonight in the grocery store a woman and her totally obnoxious child (approx 8) was running around and yelling things all over the store. she had nothing wrong with her other than the fact that she was completely spoiled rotten and out of control. mother was completely blind to it. when they got to the check out the child yelled at the checker to "give her a sticker"...i walked away... i did not nothing..what could i do. she is not mine. it made me sad... what are some parents thinking?

anyway, on a lighter note, glad i found you...and will return often... have a great week despite this bad episode... we have to know that God is watching over these precious babes...
x pam

Kris said...

Wow. What horrible stories. It's a tough call because in my opinion.... that whole "it's not your business" doesn't fly with me because when this happens in public it is my business. Not that I would confront the father, but I'd do everything in my power to get his name, or a license plate or something and report him. Especially when he shook the baby. WOW! But I can't believe the dad's friend didn't say anything.

Anonymous said...

These are painful stories to read, but unfortunately it happens all of the time.

Joker_SATX said...

Well now, this is a conversation that is right up my alley. See, I am very much like the character I portray. I believe in things like blackmail and extortion. I usually have cameras and microphones running when people don't think they are looking. Then when I have had enough I confront the abuser.

....needless to say that I usually get my way.

I have learned never to say and act contrary to my belief systems in public because you never know when the cameras are rolling. Assume they are rolling all the time...even when you are sleeping.

Big Brother is always watching!

Eeeno's World said...

My jaw literally dropped when I read the hidden-behind-the-couch cop conversation.

And what's even worse is that if that child was telling the truth, and his father was truly abusive, he probably got beaten like he'd never been beaten before for daring to expose it.

Wow. And yes, when I find myself in tough positions like this, where I'm not sure what to do/can't do anything about it, I pray for God to do what I can't.

Wine and Words said...

I can't even read all these abuse comments. I got issues....deep issues about that. Wish someone had stepped into my childhood and stuck their nose out...but they didn't. But these situation cannot be black and white or prettily packaged with recipe for success. You do the best you can in the moment with the tools in your bag. Don't be so hard on yourself love. I'll pray for the baby. You put a hit out on the dad.

Nahl said...

Die cop, die!

Michele said...

Wow, how horrible. It's such a hard thing to be put in that situation. I remember years ago my friend's sister was working as a cashier - I guess she was in her late teens or so. A woman smacked her kid really hard on her face in front of her. She didn't say anything but stood there in shock. Later that day the woman - who is obviously crazy came back and beat her up! Insane.

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