When we took my girl to the local carnival a couple of weekends ago, I was instantly propelled into social worker mode. I really try not to do this, but it just seems to come naturally. It’s like I have this little radar that seeks out the concerning things going on with little kids. I don’t know.
We were waiting in line for the little Teacups, when I noticed a young mom with two little girls. I’m guessing they were maybe 1 and 3? They were both little, skinny, and the 1 year old was missing a shoe. She appeared happy enough in the stroller though.
The 3 year old? Not so happy. She was pulling on her mother’s leg, whining, crying, and jumping up and down. The mother? Crying.
Radar-ON. Worry-almost full force.
The mom picked the 3 year old up, but was not really paying attention to her. You could tell she was waiting on someone, with tears streaming down her cheeks. Her shirt was dirty, I could see her bra, and her pants were hanging down.
I kept watching as my girl and I got on the teacups. When we got off, I didn’t see her, and thought maybe my radar had been off.
About 20 minutes later, my girl and I were on the Ferris wheel with a friend and her son. I looked down, and saw that my mother and sister had arrived. And my mother was holding that 3 year old girl. And talking to the woman, who was still crying.
Radar-Back ON. Worry-full force.
When I got off the Ferris wheel, my mother had just set the girl in the back of the double stroller with her little sister. She finished her conversation, and walked up to me. She told me that the mother had picked the 3 year old up by one arm, and that she saw the mom crying, and it really bugged her, so she just walked up to her and asked her if she was okay. Apparently, the mom had come with her friend, who also has a 3 year old, and her friend kept ditching her with the stroller and their purses, so she couldn’t take her daughters on any rides. Also, she had spent $10 in tickets. She was clearly upset. My mom offered to watch the younger girl and the stuff so the lady could take her 3 year old on some rides (do you see where I get this social worker radar thing?). The lady declined, sort of, and seemed a bit ‘off’. Overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, stressed? Not sure. All of us, as parents, get that way. And if you are young, with little or no support, with little or no money, I guess it could cause you to cry in public. I don’t know. But I understand the feeling of desperation, and it bugged me.
I saw them several times while we were there. My heart ached for her. I wasn’t trying to be nosey or rude; I just couldn’t stop worrying about her, about the things desperate people can do in desperate situations, to their children.
At one point, she was in line for a ride. I was waiting for my girl to get off that ride. All of a sudden, the 3 year old was at my feet, holding her arms up to me. I glanced at her mother, who was looking off somewhere else. I picked her up. She was light as a feather, and just so petite. I asked her what her name was, and she told me. I chatted with her for a few minutes, and she responded well, smiling, laughing, and engaging in the conversation. My social worker hat was on tight-I was basically assessing her, without meaning to. The thing that bothered me, besides the fact that she walked up to a total stranger, and volunteered her name, and the fact that her mother wasn’t even paying attention, was this: This little girl was clinging to me, and cried when I put her down.
I won’t say that the rest of the evening was ruined for me, because it wasn’t. I had fun with everyone there. But my mother and husband had to pretty much drag me to the other side of the grounds, because I was so compelled to go over to that mother and ask her what I could do to help.
My husband is not that type of person. He doesn’t ‘get involved’ very often. Not to say that he isn’t one of the most generous men I have ever met. But he doesn’t always understand this need, desire, necessity I have to ‘get involved’ and ‘help’.
That night, while my house slept, I sat in a chair in the dark, and spent the better part of 2 hours praying for that mother and her little girls. I felt bad that I had not asked her if she needed help. Maybe she just needed a break. Another mom to talk to. A friend. A nap. And honestly, it would not have taken any effort for me to provide any of those things to her. If any of those things would have eased her frustration, pain, stress, whatever, and stopped her from ‘going too far’ with her kids, it would be worth it. If a rest would have made her feel better, like she could attend to her children’s needs with more love and affection, it would be worth it. I have seen too much neglect, unnecessary roughness, physical abuse, and emotional abuse, to think that I was reading too much into the situation.
Things like this compel me to take a deep breath when my girl is driving me to insanity. To hurry up and get my master’s degree so I can go back to helping. To pray that there is someone else out there, besides me, who will get involved and do something, with a compassionate heart and a kind word.