Wednesday, 23 May 2012


 There was a time in Hastings, mainly when my children were small, when I could hardly bear to go into the supermarket or the town centre because so many people were so vile to their children.

Now, you mustn’t misunderstand.  As a mother I was entirely capable of losing it completely, and yelling at my children or walloping their bottoms if all else seemed to have failed.   

But the unkindness and indifference many people showed their kids was more than depressing – it was really upsetting. 

Then about ten or fifteen years back, things seemed to be improving.  Now, I don’t know why – recession maybe?  People under too much pressure? – it’s back.   A couple of times I have walked out of stores because I just couldn’t bear the unkindness of parents to their children.

Yesterday, walking through the centre of Hastings towards me, came a man holding aloft a small child – small enough to be wearing reins.  The child was held awkwardly sideways in his father’s arms, crying desperately while his father yelled in his ear at the top of his voice “Walk!  Walk!”

Nobody took any notice.  Nobody ever does.  We have a system in England: turn a blind eye, wait til it’s too late, blame a social worker.

I was furious.  Absolutely adrenalin-drenched furious.  But not sure what to do.

So I just turned and watched the man and the child as they passed me in the street.  Stood and watched them.  People know when you’re watching them.  After a few steps the man turned back to look, and saw me just standing, and watching.  My turn to be yelled at.  “WHAT?”

I didn’t say anything.  I just continued to stand there and watch him.  He set the child down and they crossed the road, he from time to time glancing back to see if I was still watching him.  I was.  He reached his wife, the child’s mother, who was waiting nervously by Marks and Spencer.  The man crouched down and put his arm round the child.  I went on watching them.  He stood up and looked back to see if I was still watching.  Yes, I was.  He gestured at me, a twirl of his hand, that I should turn away and go.  I didn’t.  I carried on watching him.

Our curate from church came by.  “Hello,” she said; “what are you doing?  You look like a statue standing there so still.”

“I’m watching that man,” I told her, “who was shouting and screaming at his child.”

The child was now enjoying clambering along the edge of the railings while his parents walked alongside on the pavement (sidewalk).  He was okay now.  So I went on my way.

There are not many things one can do in these situations.  But I felt it had made a small difference to know someone was watching.  Made the man re-evaluate, maybe.


365 366 Day 145 – Thursday May 24th  

Flowerpots are like coathangers in that they do accumulate.  
And a vintage ceramic chamberpot.  With cracks in it . . . uh-oh . . .


Pilgrim said...

Yes, I saw a father slap a young boy across the mouth in a speech therapist's office a few years ago. Because they were members of a minority group, I was more inhibited about how to react. The man was not angry; he reacted to something the boy did that he thought needed corrected, out of the blue. The boy started crying loudly.
I reported this to the speech therapist after, because I thought a staff person with a rapport with the family might be able to do something. She just vaguely brushed me off. I did not know what to do.
If the man had been angry,it would have been easier.

Anonymous said...

Thank thee for thy ministry to that family, dear Pen.

Thy Friend Paula

Ember said...

Pilgrim - in a speech therapist's office, eh? Speaks volunmes, doesn't it. Some people just aren't capable of joined-up thinking.

Paula - I am going to think about silence - speaking silence, what it might accomplish, in a variety of circumstances. xx

Ganeida said...

Pen: The supermarkets are bad but yesterday, on the boat, a mother was absolutely bellowing at her child to sit & be quiet. Don't know about the kid [I couldn't see him] but she had me terrified. So much hatred in her voice.

I know the boat ride is dull for littlies [& I am a far from perfect mother] but I always used to play finger games or read to mine on the boat & they were usually pretty well behaved. This mum just wanted to play on her phone. *sigh*

Ember said...


Sarah said...

I love what you did. Brave!

Ember said...

;0) x

Wimmera said...

young man in my town lost his life trying to save young woman from her boyfriend.
He was 22.
His grave is next to my godmother(93)
Boyfriend never went in jail.

Ember said...

That was a brave young man. x

Fourwheeler said...

I get similarly annoyed when I see people using their mobile phones whilst driving. I'm tempted to hoot loudly to interrupt their conversation! ... but that would annoy the traffic all around. Instead, all I can manage is a cold menacing stare, which nine times out of ten they won't see anyway.

Rapunzel said...

Ember I know you're beyond shy and your solution can't have been easy for you to do, so I'm extra proud you did it. A good non-violent act that brought the papa to awareness of what he is doing.
For many of us the eye-opener about parenting is that unless we consciously think things through we will simply do for and to our kids whatever our parents did for and to us.
Here in Indiana, where a good many of us are "in recovery" from generations of redneck ancestral culture we have a saying,
"When you Learn Better you Do Better."
Realizing that we are not invisible, not alone, not raising our kids in a vacuum is a useful and important step in learning better.
After my divorce I moved with my four children not to the city where my mum and brother both lived (which would have been logical) but to a tiny village where I knew we would have little privacy compared to the easy anonymity of city life.
You see, I have only one pair of eyes, and I wanted to be sure as they grew up my children would always have watchers.

Ember said...

Fourwheeler - people talking into mobile phones while driving - oh yes, still surprisingly many.

Rapunzel - good choice! City life has lots of opportunity but anonymity is not good for children. x

Anonymous said...

I think that was a very powerful thing to do - just stand and watch. Actions speak louder than words etc.
I've just found your blog after reading your book - it's certainly got me thinking. :-)

Anonymous said...

A couple of questions - how did you know the woman was the man's wife?

How did you know she was nervous?

Without the flowery language "he reached the woman waiting for him"

Bean said...

Sometimes we don't know what is going on, it is upsetting to see anyone being treated badly. Parents of children can be overwhelmed, may be going through a very difficult time, may be sick and in pain, could have a migraine, may be exhausted due to lack of sleep, and because of this simply are not behaving in the way they should. This does not excuse the behavior, but I wonder if a smile to the parent, a word of understanding or encouragement could lift them out of their bad/irritable mood?
And there are people who simply can't be bothered to parent, perhaps engage with their child smile at them, do something to show the parent that there is another way.
We all behave badly sometimes, and it should be brought to our attention, but hopefully in a lovingly way that helps us see the error of our ways and allows us to self correct and move on with forgiveness.


Ember said...

Hi friends - thanks for your thoughtful comments :0)

Heather said...

This is not a comment on your blog, but on 'The Way of Blessing'. It is a brilliant book, one of the best I've ever read! It challenged and puzzled me, as well as delighted me. It taught me the meaning of 'mindfulness' after many years of puzzling-the thought that every living thing has a 'point of view' was most enlightening.I was challenged to see what I believe rather than believing what I see and to believe that everything that happens in the spirit eventually manifests itself in the physical world. Two things really puzzled me. I have been a Christian for many years and yet, perhaps heretically, I find it difficult to accept that everything in life comes from the will of God (especially the death of young people) and also, how one can perceive the will of God before praying for something.
I could go on, but will finish by saying many, many thanks for the book and for all your writing!

Ember said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed the blessing book, Heather :0)
About the two things that puzzled you:
1) The will of God. Perhaps we might ask a different question. Instead of asking "Is this situation the will of God? Yes/No?" we might ask "What/Where is the will of God in this situation?"
So that in the example you give, the death of a child - maybe of starvation, maybe from abuse, maybe in a war zone or of a painful illness - we could look to see what the will of God is. Perhaps it is to make the child comfortable, to stay with him/her so s/he is not afraid. Or perhaps the will of God is the humbling experience of learning from the extraordinary radiance some short lives have. The will and the ways of God can be discovered in every situation. Finding the road of blessing is about tracking the signs of wisdom and compassion, kindness and grace, and following them.
2) Determining the will of God before we pray. Our prayer is powerful and strong, and should be correctly focus or we can interfere with the dynamic of the energy stream and get in the way of someone else's soul journey. Determining God's will is partly common sense and partly listening. God speaks to us. We can hear Him if we listen. And sometimes we get it wrong, and that's OK. If we got everything right all the time, we wouldn't be human we would be God - and of course, only God is God.
Our listening to God is facilitated by simplicity, silence, prayer and practice. It tends to be muddled by a cluttered schedule, consumerism, chasing after money and seeking approval.
Thank you so much for the kind and encouraging things you say about the book.

Anonymous said...

My first comment after visiting for a while, I wanted to answer your comments on the will of god. I can only assume you've not lost a child of your own.
I was a christian until my son died at two years old, someone at that time (a vicar) told me god wanted him for himself, to be a cherub.
If there is a god how could he cause such suffering to my son and family by wanting him for himself? Family who had tried their hardest to be honest and hardworking people, who also helped and supported anyone who needed help.
So gods will was for us to keep our child comfortable during his suffering? What of the suffering of parents whose arms actually physically hurt with the ache of wanting to hold our child when we no longer had him?
You think god might have taken him so that we could learn about the radiance of our son's life? Do you think we weren't aware of the preciousness of our son?
You must have had a very sheltered life with no pain from loss if this is what you believe and tell others.

Ember said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Jackie. I can see how deeply this terrible loss affected you.

Anonymous said...

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

Ember said...

God bless you, friend.

Sarah said...

Can I add to the comment I made earlier? I said you were brave. I'd like to say that again because I think it is brave to try and find hope and meaning in the face of unspeakable pain. But it is also necessary, and you have always conducted yourself with kindness and compassion.

Ember said...

Thank you! That is so kind! x