Every week, we go to see my SO's father who is a nursing home after a severe stroke a couple years ago. Before we go, we usually have lunch at a little BBQ place in a nice area. The food is always really good. Yesterday, we had a nice little child neglect/abuse show along with lunch.
I'll admit, I was a little peeved when my SO picked a table next to the children's table. I don't like kids all that much. Actually, it's not that I don't like kids so much as I don't like what bad parenting has created of so many I see in public: loud, erratic, little narcissists. However, the parents that usually frequent this particular restaurant are attentive to their children and seem to give a damn, so the kids are usually well behaved, and there have been several occasions where I smile back and forth with a toddler while I eat.
Even though I don't like being around poorly raised children much, I do care about what happens to them, because children have no control over any NFBSKed up situations they may become involved in. Adults often have made at least some decisions that lead them to be in less than great circumstances, but for kids, it's always just an accident of birth and the choices made by the adults that are supposed to be caring for them.
Anyway, this other party we were sharing the restaurant with were six adults: an older couple, and apparently two of their children with spouses, and four kids: a baby girl of maybe 6-9 months, a girl of 11 or 12, a boy of 10 or 11, and a smaller boy of maybe 3-5 years old in a high chair. The baby was being held by one of the women, but the rest of the children were segregated to a second table next to the adults. The older boy spent most of his time roaming the restaurant, and the older girl seemed to have been put in charge of the little boy.
The first that I noticed something more screwed up than the all six adults more or less ignoring the children was when the little boy did something one of the men apparently didn't like. The man interrupted his cell phone call to tell him "if you do that again, I'll make you eat one of those." My ears perked, because forcing food as a punishment is a little weird, and a good way of creating an adult with food issues. But, my dad always made all kinds of stupid threats when I was little (If you do that again, I'll break your arm!) that I knew he'd never even think to follow up on- he never even would spank me, so I thought, nah, this guy must just be talking out his ass (talking like an ass).
Things got weirder after that man went to sit somewhere else to continue his phone call. For several minutes, things were "normal", the adults were ignoring the children, the older boy was roaming around, periodically stopping by the table to eat a bite, the older girl was taking care of and trying to feed the little boy. At one of his stops to the table, the older boy saw the younger boy do whatever it was he had done earlier to anger the man. The girl said "Uncle Blank told us he had to eat one of those if he did it again," and tried to force one of "them" (which I now saw was a sliced pickle) into his mouth. She couldn't get him to stop shouting "no," and moving his head, so the older boy tried. Finally, she took him out of the high chair, put him on her lap and held his arms, while the older boy tried to shove the pickle in the little boy's mouth.
Finally one of the adults noticed there were children eating with them (must have been the screams and struggles coming from the next table). She asked casually, "what are you doing to him?" and the girl explained again about what Uncle Blank had said. That seemed to settle it, and the adults went back to chatting like nothing was going on.
The boy and girl finally gave up, and put him back in his high chair. The man completed his cell phone call, and returned to the table. The older children filled him in on how the little boy wouldn't take his punishment. The man said, "oh you won't eat one, how about some hot sauce?!" In my head, I thought "HOT SAUCE?! WTF?!!!" I was still in a bit of denial, and thought, no, he's not going to do that, especially not in public, right? I was beginning to be completely outraged. I abandoned my policy of pretending to ignore their little sideshow, and turned around in my seat with my mouth hanging open and outright stared at the man to see if he really was going to do that to the child. Yes, he took the little boy into his lap, took the bottle of tabasco from the table, put some on his finger, and shoved his finger in the boy's mouth. Entirely outraged, I glared at the woman sitting next to them, for just sitting there like nothing was still going on, and back to the man, who finally noticed me staring, and glared back at me. I certainly didn't want to give him the same impression that everyone else at his table was: hot sauce as a punishment is perfectly normal and mundane, and not at all abusive.
I know there was a thread in here about using hot sauce as a final solution punishment for biters, but whatever the kid had done, he did sitting alone in a high chair. I can't really imagine anything that he could have done that would warrant this punishment, but whatever he did wasn't even perpetrated against another person.
Anyway, I had had enough at this point, and lost any appetite I had left. I stood up angrily, and said, not facing them, but loud enough for them to hear if they were paying attention, "well, thank you for that view into your messed up little world", and walked away. As my SO stopped to refill his drink on the way out, I heard one of the women say "what did she do?" to the man. It's too bad he whispered his response, because it would be funny to hear him try to explain that I dared take umbrage by glaring at him while he was abusing a child in his care.
I was extremely angry as we went to the car, and drove away. All I could think, if this is something all those adults think is totally blase when done in public, what on EARTH could that man be doing to that child in private? I asked my SO, did he think it was something we should report, so at least if this man does something worse in the future, there will be a record? He asked if I wanted to, and I was still angry enough, I decided we should. We drove back and waited for them to come out, and I took down their license plate, and he took a camera phone picture of the man. As they split up to various cars, only the little boy, one of the women, and the man went together. While we waited, I could see the little boy had been released from the high chair, and was roaming freely, almost escaping out the door with an employee at the end of her shift. Also, about 5 minutes prior to everyone else coming out, the older boy brought out the younger, and put him in a carseat, then closed the car door with the little boy alone in there. Fortunately, he did at least stand near the car.
The thing that really worried me, was that while all the adults were white, along with the two older children, the little boy appeared to be half hispanic (he had a similar coloring and features to my cousin's sons, who are half white half hispanic), and the baby girl was darker, possibly half black. So, at least some of the adults involved weren't directly related to these kids, and I'm worried they were fostering them. I know there are much worse abuses happening in the foster system, but the general ignoring of the children makes me worry this family was just fostering for the monthly check and chance to abuse someone who can't fight back.
Having had a day to think about it, I've decided not to make a report to child protective services. As screwed up as everything was, the boy didn't seem to have any bruises, or to be inordinately afraid of the man. I guess there are worse abuses that can happen, and hopefully that prick limits his abuse to relatively small things. I don't feel what I saw was bad enough to cause any child the turmoil of being ripped from a family that isn't as bad as what he might end up in.
It is making me think again that maybe I should foster a child. It's something that's been rattling around in my mind ever since we moved into our house last year. We have the money, the room, I have the time. I have a wonderful mother to pattern my child care after.
Maybe I'm just used to living in my sheltered little world, but I am not used to seeing any form of abuse in public. Ignoring, inattention, yes. Abuse, no. So, maybe I'm overreacting. But, I do hope the next time that man thinks to do something screwed up to that little boy, he remembers me glaring at him, and recognizes that not everyone will always just ignore him.
Let the flaming of how I can't comment on others' parenting unless I'm a parent myself begin
Posts: 550 | From: Springboro, OH | Registered: Feb 2006
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I think you were probably right not to confront the man directly. Certainly I understand the temptation to do that, but in my experience that would just encourage him to be even nastier, just as a way of giving you the metaphorical finger. I've been there, not with respect to child abuse (I don't have any kids...I used to be a kindergarten teacher, but I never treated any of the kids in my care that way!) but with strangers butting in on stuff that didn't concern them. In one memorable incident, a couple of friends and I were literally bullied off a Metro train in DC after some do-gooder overheard us talking about a friend who'd been offered a job in Rwanda and turned it down because, you know, Rwanda isn't a very nice place to live! She practically accused us of being worse than the Klan, and she knew nothing about us. Now, I care a lot about what's happening in Africa, but being hectored like that by a stranger certainly didn't put me in a conciliatory mood about that very serious issue. It only made me very wary about ever speaking up at all about such things in public.
Sadly, I could see the guy you saw having a similar reaction if you had confronted him - next time he might be even nastier with the kid. If you had seen any overt signs of out and out abuse, that's a different story, but since you didn't, I think you handled it as well as could be expected.
But then, I'm not a parent either. Guess I'll be flamed right along with you!
-------------------- Another lifetime I'd have fallen in love with you Swept away by my feelings, ashamed and confused But just now it's enough to be walking with you Let the mystery play as it will! -Lui Collins Posts: 2669 | From: Jouy en Josas, France | Registered: May 2005
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I'd agree that you handled it well. There weren't really that many options open to you that would have worked. There's a chance they'll think about their behaviour, or they may just continue to be the same morons as before, but you can't tell from such a short time. I'd say go for the fostering btw as kids are worth the effort if you're going to take care with parenting. When I met my now-wife she had a baby so I went straight into the theoretical and practical part of parenting (not just the physical that far too many people pass). I'll let you know how it went when I get the results in about 14 years.
-------------------- Do the weetabix ask such questions? I think not! Posts: 76 | From: Lytham, Britain | Registered: Feb 2006
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quote:Originally posted by mags: Let the flaming of how I can't comment on others' parenting unless I'm a parent myself begin
There is a huge difference between commenting on what you witnessed and the kinds of comments that usually get the parents on this board more than a little fed up. Well in this parent's opinion anyhow .
-------------------- If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it's just possible you haven't grasped the situation. - Jean Kerr Posts: 18428 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: Nov 2001
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Fostering a child is a wonderful thing... if you're prepared to deal with the headache that it can cause.
The first thing is that foster children are, regrettably, really screwed up. A lot of them have been through things that most adults can't handle, much less children. Sexual and physical abuse is common, and sometimes the system will even require a child, agaisnt their will, to visit a parent who is still abusing them. This happened to a couple of kids that Boyfriend in the Rain's family fostered.
Also, there are a lot of rules you have to follow that can seem incredibly inhumane.
But it's a good thing to do, if you can handle it. Just be aware that it can be harder than raising a biological child because the child may be coming in with some really serious baggage, and there can be headaches from the foster care system itself. CPS here in this part of California are not people I would want to voluntarily deal with under any circumstances at all.
Posts: 533 | From: Davis, CA | Registered: Apr 2006
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I suspect that the people at the next table, including Uncle Blank, have no clue why you were upset. I suspect that they would be shocked to learn that you considered forcing a little bit of Tabasco in a child's mouth would be abusive.
On another board, a woman posted that her child was soiling his underwear. Well, more than "soiling". In her frustration, she was making him wear the dirty underwear on his head! When I pointed out that she might want to reconsider her humiliation techniques because some might consider forcing a child to wear loaded underwear on his head as abusive and report her to CYS who would consider it abusive. The mother responded that she never thought of that.
Sometimes it isn't a question of "What was s/he thinking?" but "Did s/he think about what he was doing?" And often the answer is simply "No."
-------------------- Assume that all my posts will be edited at least once. Dyslexic -- can't spell, can't type, can't proofread. Posts: 8317 | From: Reading, PA | Registered: Mar 2004
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I understand your frustration. On the one hand, you don’t want that sort of abuse to continue, on the other hand, anything you do is likely to INCREASE the likelihood of abuse. In addition, the blank guy might start taking it out on YOU, making things even worse.
The best thing I can suggest is to get the information you did and report it to whatever authorities you know of. If their actions are common, then they will be reported more than once and they might actually get a visit.
It was painful to read your post (as a parent of 3).
-------------------- And now for something completely different... Posts: 4164 | From: Alabama | Registered: Oct 2005
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Sadly, there are parents who recommend hot sauce on the tongue as punishment for "sins of the tongue" -- lying, backtalk, etc. Seems cruel to me, but they do it. Blair from The Facts of Life recommends it in her book.
I actually like some of her other ideas. Like this one:
quote:Forgetting to feed a pet? Try putting her lunch money or lunch bag in a box next to the pet's cage. That way, your youngster won't get to eat unless his pet eats first.
-------------------- How homophobic do you have to be to have penguin gaydar? - Lewis Black Posts: 8322 | From: Columbus, OH | Registered: Aug 2005
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