Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Don't Mind Your Own Business

Act # 16: Don't fear the children

I'm an only child. I went 35 years of my life without ever having changed a diaper. I've always been insanely uncomfortable and awkward around kids because well, they stared just a bit too long, and talked just a bit too loud.  Quite frankly, I never knew what to say or do around people under the age of 15. When friends had babies, and I tried to hold them in my arms, they cried. Not the whimpering average baby cry but unequivocally 100% of the time, they screamed their heads off, kicking and fighting their ways back to their mothers. When my son Jack was born via c-section, (please keep in mind that I was heavily drugged), I did not cry with joy or utter profound words of love, I said to my husband, "Look honey, a zombie baby!"  The anesthesiologist glared at me.

I can't be for certain when my attitude towards children changed. Some say it was when I had my own, but I think it happened much more recently.  Still unsure of how and when it happened, somewhere along the way I felt responsible. For every child. In the entire world. Maybe it's the unimaginable stories of sexual abuse that I hear at work. Or the fact that I can no longer make myself watch the news without feeling utterly helpless in protecting young lives plagued by violence, neglect, and abuse.  It is beyond my comprehension and bewilders me deeply how any parent could ever hurt his or her child.  But it bewilders me even more that so many of us sit back and watch, when we have countless opportunities to intervene, to mentor, to help nurture our future, but we choose not to.  Because like me, you may be uncomfortable.  Because it's none of our business. 

A few years ago while making a pit stop at a fast food restaurant off the interstate, while I was entering the bathroom a young mother had her son in a death grip, by the arm.  He was probably around 5 or 6.  Her face was twisted with anger while she dragged him with one hand and repeatedly struck him with another.  He was squirmy and clearly being disobedient.  Then she said, "If you don't shut the fuck up, I will kick the shit out of you when we get home." I went and sat in my car for 10 minutes in silence.  I know I should have spoken up, but what could I have possibly said that would change the course of this child's life?  If anything, it might have made that mom even angrier and she might have taken it out on that helpless boy once she got home. 

Now imagine  yourself as that 5 year old boy.  Imagine your norm being daily verbal and physical abuse.  You are probably going to be cursed with a life of neglect, self-doubt, fear, insecurity and lack of stability.  You are probably going to be told every day that you are worthless, that it is OK for someone who is supposed to love you unconditionally to use profanity with you, beat you.   You are at Wendy's, had a little too much ice-cream, felt a bit restless, didn't listen to mom when you should have, and now you face her wrath........again.  But then in the midst of mom yelling at you, making you feel confused and scared and embarrassed, a stranger, someone you've never met in your life stops her.  Tells her it's not OK for her to talk to you like that.  Smiles at you and tells you that it's OK.  That you are OK.  What if everywhere you went and every time your mom belittled and degraded you, someone else stopped her and told you the same thing, and pretty soon more people in the world were lifting you up than the one person at home that was tearing you down.  Wouldn't your world view change?   What message would the world be sending you?  Might there be a chance that you would grow up not thinking that the abuse at home was normal, that you might grow up not repeating all that you've ever known with your own children some day, that you might actually start believing that maybe the problem all along wasn't you?

So when I say, "be a parent", I don't literally mean that I think everyone should have a child.  I have the utmost respect for my friends who do not choose to be parents and my heart is with those who long to but are faced with difficulties.  But until the village assumes more responsibility in the well-being of its future citizens, I'm afraid that we, as a society will continue to be plagued with violence in schools, killings in movie theaters, rapes on buses or in small football towns.  While I applaud the difficult conversations we are having about the roles of guns, video games, and psychologists in addressing violence, maybe it's time we take responsibility for our own roles......and responsibilities in creating a world that does not tolerate or make violence acceptable.  


  1. All of the blog posts thus far have been wonderful, and reading them has been inspiring, but this one really just made me tear up a bit. I've been working with kids for a living for the past few years since graduating from college, and some of those kids have been abused, neglected, and similarly made to feel worthless. Even worse than the pain of seeing the results daily was the guilt at seemingly not being able to help. Thank you for putting that into words, and for helping others (myself included) to finally summon the courage to speak out.

    1. Brittany - thank YOU for your service in working with young people. Your passion and kindness shine through even in this post. It is because of people like you who give me (and the rest of the world) hope. Keep on the good (peaceful) fight, my friend.

  2. First of all - zombie babies are the cutest babies.

    Second of all - I LOVE this. My heart goes out the the innocent that have no advocates and you really hit the nail on the head.

    1. And I was starting to think that I was the only one who thought zombie babies were cute! Thanks for your thoughtful comments!