16 September 2013

Ashamed

I took a tram into Croydon this morning. There's one shop there which I don't have in my local neighbourhood, so I like to browse around there occasionally. I like travelling on the tram. It appeals to my sense of loss of not living anymore in Germany where trams are the norm and gives me just a small sense of feeling I am living somewhere foreign, which is not entirely deluded. 

The tram is full of all kinds of nationalities, creeds and persuasions.  The streets reflect the same. Glancing out of the window there are Latvian shops, Polish supermarkets, Jamaican cafes.  There's even a tramstop called Lebanon Road, where you could easily be, if you happen to count the number of burkahs walking along the road. Croydon has the potential to be one big melting pot, although the people don't always "melt" ......the recent tensions in the London riots a couple of years ago showed this. I suspect people do tend to get on well with one another, if given the chance, but Croydon has turned into a rather drab poverty-stricken area, where even the very fabric of the buildings shrieks for improvement and some TLC.

Across the aisle from me on the tram sat a very young black mother. A girl in her early twenties with a small toddler of about 2 years, if that, next to her.  At first, the child sat glued to the window (just like me), looking at all the interesting things going by on a sunny Monday morning. Not so his mother. She sat, face down less than six inches away from her mobile phone, texting. The child babbled turning excitedly to point out things to her, but still she texted. On and on she texted, as the tram went from stop to stop, never lifting her head once to glance at her son. The boy began to fidget and lost his shoe, trying to crawl under the seat to get it, but he was not able to reach it. He tried to get his mother's attention, but she was too busy texting and dragged him roughly back onto his seat. He sat there dangling one foot in a sock, the other with a shoe, looking under the seat at his lost shoe and by now his mother was distracted by something else - she was scrolling down to find something on the internet. The little fellow then got off the seat again and onto his knees, still trying to retrieve his shoe. At this point the mother, who remember had her mobile phone in one hand, whacked him in the chest with her free hand and dragged him forcefully by the scruff of his clothes back to his seat.  As she did so, she caught his head against the hard base of the seat which caused him to break out into howls and screams. To stop him getting off the seat again, she used her large handbag to pin him down and carried on staring into her mobile phone again, completely ignoring him. The boy howled and howled. The noise was deafening.  People stared into their laps or at the ceiling. Anywhere but at the boy. The woman opposite me began to tutt in disgust and I muttered as loudly as I could that the mother had had her head in the mobile phone for the entire journey. No reaction from the mother or anyone else. The howling went on until eventually it subsided into a few sobs and then quiet. Still the mum went on texting.

I am ashamed to say that NOBODY (me included) did or said a single damn thing. Going through my head was all the things I wanted to say to that mother. The poor kid was starved of attention or stimulation. The mother looked no more than a kid herself. Kids having kids. But did I say anything? Sure as hell, no.  And I'm ashamed of myself. I've spent the entire morning worrying about that little kid. Worrying about what slap he's getting now and what he's going to grow up like. And when the girl and her son got off the tram, everyone was glad they could stop looking in their lap. Shame on us all.

6 comments:

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I don't think you should beat yourself up; we live in a society where we are too afraid to do or say anything in many circumstances and that fear remains constant. Mothers like her don't deserve children; they will never understand that having a child is a privelege.

CJ x

mrsnesbitt said...

Utter utter disgust at the mother. I think I would have done exactly the same as you - and regretted not saying anything too. But Kathryn is right don't beat yourself up. As an ex-primary school teacher I have seen it all and what I saw on many occasions utterly disgusted me. Train journeys are fine when they enhance the beginning of our day - drawback is when they wind us up and ensure we have a crap day. Have a cuppa xxxx

K Ville said...

Perhaps you could have retrieved the shoe for the child but you won't have been able to change the mother in one bus journey. But in a way you are right, it has become normal not to get involved. Many years back an older lady sat on the bus would have entertained a child to give the harassed mum a bit of me time. She may not have looked harrassed but she was having 'me time'! These days there is a fear the mum would be offended and the lady thinks it is none of her business. It takes a whole village to raise a child. The village has died, the need hasn't changed. I wonder if she understood properly what the situation was she had caused. I wonder if she has the skills to be able to parent well. No one is born knowing, it is learnt behaviour. If your days weren't so packed out I would suggest taking some of the care and concern you are feeling to somewhere like HomeStart but you already have the AA work. You can't save a whole planet alone. So maybe Mrs Nesbit is right, have a cup of tea and let the worry pass.

Hippo said...

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"

English Society has changed to an extent as to render it unreconisable to me. Last time I was in London, I offered to give my seat on the Tube up for a lady. She looked at me as if I were offering an indecent proposal.

I can imagine that a man can thump his wife and kids to death and his neighbours, hearing them screaming, would do nothing.

DD's Diary said...

Let's hope that she was actually on Mumsnet all the time, trying to get tips on parenting!! Not much hope of that probably, but I remember having bad days too as a mother of two small children. Sometimes you just need a bit of time off. I'm not condoning her behaviour at all but I do sympathise with all stressed-out mothers as I've definitely been there myself.

Nota Bene said...

I interfered in a situation like that once and was threatened pretty nastily...awful as it is I suspect you did the right thing (nothing). It makes me weep inside when I see parents with no interest in their children...they have no future...