We had just got to the counter for our goods to go through and be paid for. We had a fair few small items so it was taking time to get through checkout. As I waited, with Taisia in her front sling at my chest, I watched two children walk into the store with their father. The children were happy and smiling, chatting to each other. Both headed to the turnstile wheel at the same time, and pushed it in the wrong direction. The spring back was hard as they let go and the turnstile hit the little girl (say aged 5) straight in the mouth. Her brother (around 7) looked absolutely horrified by what had happened, but before he could say anything his father started to yell.
My heart immediately started beating so fast, I knew this wasn't going to be good.
The father yelled. He shouted. He berated that poor boy. He kept grabbing the lad by the arm and shoving him around. "Look what you have done! LOOK. LOOK what you have done to your sister. YOU are naughty. YOU are so naughty. Now say you are sorry."
The boy whimpered. He sobbed. He looked pleadingly up at his father as he muttered "It was an accident daddy, I didn't mean to do it. I'm not a naughty boy daddy, I'm not, it was an accident."
"You are horrid and nasty, you are a naughty boy, now say you are sorry to your sister."
Boy can hardly speak at this point, the tears are flowing down his face, he looks confused and bewildered, not sure what just happened. He whispers he is sorry as he struggles to calm down and breathe.
"Say sorry properly, that's not properly, apologise now for what you did you naughty boy."
Boy says sorry with tears, looking at his sister with despair.
"Now, shut up. No rides or ice-cream for you today. If you don't shut up now you will get your a*se battered. Just wait until we get home and see what you get for being so naughty and spoiling our day."
"I'm not a naughty boy daddy, I'm not."
That sentence and howls of sadness echoed around the store as he was dragged away by his father. Oh the noise made my heart bleed and my arms hug my babies tight.
What did I do whilst this was playing out?
I'm ashamed to say, nothing.
I just watched.
I did try to say it was an accident, I raised my voice and said it was an accident, the boy hadn't meant to hurt his sister - that was clear for all to see. Not loud enough it seemed as it was ignored.
I hated being witness to such unjust behaviour on such a helpless child.
I hate myself for not doing more.
The incident affected me so badly, that when I went to offer my card to the cashier to pay for my goods, my hand was violently shaking. I apologised to him and said how witnessing such an incident had made me feel so angry and helpless - he was just blank, seemingly not understanding how it made me feel as a mother - yet he too had looked shocked as it was played out right in front of us.
It took me a long time to settle down. My stomach was in knots, I was shaky. Furious that it had happened. Furious I had allowed it to happen without intervening. What kind of person does that? A person who doesn't stand up for the rights and wrongs, even when she passionately believes in something being unjust.
I have had two nights of interrupted sleep. As I close my eyes I can still see that little boy's face. I see the fear in his eyes, the sadness, the bewilderment and hear the echoes of "I'm not a naughty boy daddy, I'm not naughty."
No dear sweet boy, you are not. I am so sorry I didn't help you. I am so sorry that as you looked around at all of the adults watching you and your father, pleading for help with your eyes, many of us being emotionally affected by what we saw, that not one of us stepped in to do *something* I am sorry that I made up excuses in my head for not coming to your assistance - The queue was too long behind me and I couldn't get past the line of people. That I couldn't hold up the line any more as people would get angry. That you had gone out of sight by the time I was through checkout and I couldn't re-enter the store and chase you around as that would be weird. That I had a baby close to my chest and she needed to be protected.
I let you down.
Of course, what could have been done in reality I do not know, but I wish I had done *something*. I will regret that for a long time to come.
**Before anyone jumps on me to accuse me of being judgemental and spout on about how the parent acted out of embarrassment, shock and humiliation, please don't bother. You had to be there to hear the pain in that child's sobbing voice and see the fear in his eyes as his so called daddy crouched over him, face twisted with anger, eyes burning with hatred. I can only begin to shudder at what probably goes on behind the closed doors of home. I saw the immediate reaction of the child when the incident happened, his face told a whole sorrowful story. I don't believe his "daddy" gave even a single thought to others being around him. He just flew into a red misted rage despite it being an unquestionable accident. The girl was ok, her mouth not bleeding, her tears stopped within a minute. If you can think of any sort of excuse for that behaviour from an adult towards a child in that situation, I don't even wanna hear it.**
*Heart is Breaking*