Monday, 8 July 2013

I was there...

something happened a few days ago which I have been turning over in my head ever since, and have reached no conclusions. I was on a Strasbourg tram. A small girl, two to three years old, started a tantrum and was shrieking. I turned round to look. I could not see the child, whose head was below the top of the seat, but I could see the mother. The mother raised her hand, and there were hard, repeated slaps, which did not stop. Nor did the child's shrieking, which got louder. Several of us women met each other's eyes, and heads were shaken. Then the tram stopped between stops, and the driver, female, around forty years old, came out of the cab and went and spoke to the child. She told her there was no need to cry, and she should stop now. (I'm translating freely from memory). The mother said "She won't listen. She won't listen to anybody when she's like this". The driver then spoke at some length to the mother, saying that she had children herself, and she knew that slapping them when they had a tantrum did no good. She wouldn't have anyone being hit on her tram, she said. The child quietened down while this was being said. Then the tram driver went back to her cab, and the mother moved to another seat, leaving the child where she was, and took the child off the tram at the next stop.

My son used to have tantrums at that age, and I know how stressful they are. I never hit him. Not being smug; I just didn't think it would do any good. On occasion I put him outside the back door for a minute or two. Once I locked myself in the bathroom so as not to shake him.

A child was being beaten. I was there and I did and said nothing. It's not just English embarrassment, though that was a factor for me. No-one else on the tram was English. The mother and child were of African appearance. I don't know if that was a factor. The tram driver's uniform and position of responsibility, which the rest of us did not have, perhaps gave her the confidence, and indeed the obligation, to do something. But what if it had happened in the street?

It's complicated. We all think we would intervene. But...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Basically I agree with you, but I've never been against a short sharp smack.
As usual it's a matter of degree, and some kids these days don't even get a verbal reproach.
L9

Jane Griffiths said...

How odd this is. Comments are starting to come in, on Facebook as well as here, and so far they are assuming that I have taken a position. When in fact I have not, and that is the point of the post. I didn't do anything, and I am not sure I was right. I am not sure if I should be ashamed of myself or shrug it off. Or if I should think I did the right thing. Because doing nothing is a policy too.