Mothering in Public

I had read the online chatter about this video, but it wasn’t until last night that I saw footage of the mother dragging her child around by a leash through a cell phone store.  You’ll have to Google the video if you’re curious – I don’t want to post either the video or a link here; I found it that disturbing.

People online and in the media are justifiably outraged by the video.  Many are debating whether or not this mother should be charged with felony abuse against her child.  I’m going to leave that discussion to those more inclined to have it. 

What I want to ask is a question.

Why are we, as the general public, more inclined to condemn than to assist?  The person video-taping the incident grabbed their camera before grabbing the woman’s arm to intervene.

My children are older now, and public excursions are much more manageable.  But at one time I had four kids 7yrs and younger – trips to the grocery store were especially heinous.  I remember one trip in particular when I had allowed my oldest to walk alongside me, asking her to put her hand on the cart and “stick like glue.”  She had her own ideas, and kept running off.  I pulled her to me and scolded her for her behavior.  There was only one other woman in the aisle, and as I put my daughter’s hand back on the cart, the woman said, “Gee, is it against the rules to have any fun anymore?”  I was shocked, but I managed to hiss at her, “She’s not in trouble for trying to have fun, she’s in trouble for disobeying me.”

This woman was ready to condemn me, but clearly unwilling to offer a supportive smile or a reassuring glance.  It would have been just as easy for her either way.

I had many experiences like that when my kids were younger.  With such a large family, we get a lot of curious looks and nods in our direction.  But I’ve rarely been approached by any of the same onlookers with any kind of help, or given any gesture of encouragement.

The mom who dragged her prone child around the floor of a cell phone store clearly exercised a massive lack of judgement.  I do not at all suggest that what she did was right.  I’m just saying that I’ve seen this all before – the interest in the spectacle without interest in the people involved. 

I don’t think the question now should JUST be “why did this woman do this?” or “how should we punish her now?”  I think people need to ask themselves, “what would I have done if I were there?” and as a general public, can we ever be moved to greater empathy than judgement of those we watch mothering in public?