A while back when Florence was about 18 months old I was in a local soft play with her. Lots of the Mums sat outside the play area chatting but Florence was too little, in my opinion, to be left to her own devices so I stayed in the play area with her. She got to the top of the slide and a little boy, a bit bigger than her, pushed her. Ok I thought, they’ll sort it out and Florence backed away then they both went on playing separately.
A bit later and the boy’s mother came in to the play area too. Florence went back to the top of the slide where the boy and his older brother still were playing. As she came through the tunnel the little boy pushed her again. She looked at me as if to say ‘What? Why?’ and I smiled at her in reassurance that I was there then took a glance to the boy’s mother who did and said absolutely nothing. Then the boy turned and bit her on the shoulder, she cried in pain and I told her to just come down away from him. I tried to get to her but she was up high and I was down low, the boy’s mother saw and heard all of this of course but still did absolutely nothing.
Then the boy kicked Florence down the slide. My instinct kicked in and I shouted ‘Oy! Don’t kick her!’.
Then and only then did the mother pipe up. She turned on me and shouted ‘DON’T talk to my son like that!’ ‘Well,’ I retaliated, you’re doing nothing while both your boys run riot and he’s pushed and bitten her before the kick which I didn’t say anything about waiting for you to do your job but if you won’t say anything then I will’.
She was stressed and sad looking, I could see she also had a small baby and I understood that it must be hard work but boy, when your child is being hurt then who wouldn’t say something?!
The woman and I embarked on an argument which after a mouthful of abuse given to me she decided to walk away from. I followed her out, so enraged was I and I gave her what for! I told her if she couldn’t control her brute then people would say something for her and she’d have to get used to it. She fled, in tears, with her army of friends who had been happily chatting and who only witnessed the last part of the exchange, in her wake.
From that moment, this same group of women have given me evils and snide remarks as I walk by. That’s ok, I don’t care about that, I looked after my own and I’d do it again.
The woman walking her dog who can’t even smile even though we cross paths twice daily, the one who repeatedly followed me on Twitter from different accounts sending me odd messages as if it would wind me up and even the mother herself who once sped up at a zebra crossing I was walking on. Yep, I can hack all of that! I’m no idiot, I know what happened, they didn’t see it all, if they want to be so up themselves let em!
That same summer I was in our local park where a nursery group had come to play. At first I thought how lovely it was that the nursery staff brought the children to the park but after a bit I noticed the staff weren’t paying any attention to them. The little park is enclosed and quite safe but some of the children were just babies, plonked on equipment and left as the women looking after them talked and ignored them. I didn’t like it but felt they were quite intimidating, as young women can be and I didn’t want to say anything face to face, I just didn’t feel I could. When three of the carers climbed on the baby swings themselves and stood up larking about on the swings however, I decided I would take a picture and show it to their bosses.
On the way home I stopped at the nursery and did just that. I was shaken, I was upset by what I’d seen but they didn’t seem to care at the nursery. Not one bit. I asked what they would do about it and they said ‘Oh, we’ll have a word’… So I left. Still shaken and still upset, with zero confidence in the person I’d complained to at the nursery.
I thought to myself, if my child was in that nursery I would want to know but what can I do? So I contacted a newspaper, showed them the picture and they published the story. What ensued was not nice. It caused parents of the children (some parents) to be very upset but what they were so angry about was that my picture, with blurred out faces of the children, was published at all and not the reason why.
Their only concern was that I might have been lurking in the playground to photograph their sprogs and send them to a newspaper – puuuurlease! Indeed, the paper wouldn’t have printed it if there was any doubt about the picture but they were angry about the wrong thing so again, what could I do? Best intentions had been misinterpreted but I’d done my job as a parent and citizen and reported it in the best way I could so I was happy with my decision.
One family, I heard through the grapevine, were very distressed because it was their daughter on the swing in the picture. Only it wasn’t. I knew exactly who they were and who their daughter was and in fact their daughter was left teetering along the climbing frame on her own. The baby in the picture was much younger but you see they couldn’t tell that, not even about their own child, because you simply couldn’t make out who was who, just what was going on in the situation.
The mother of this baby on the swing (or climbing frame actually but she won’t have that) spoke to me once at a play group then when she realised who I was, (me, this maverick roving undercover reporter out for exposing babies on swings for not being looked after properly) she ceased entertaining me. Sat opposite me at the Doctors once even and eyeballed me the whole time while I smiled at her and made eye contact trying to say ‘look, I was just a concerned parent’… It all went on deaf ears (or eyes) I suppose!
Some other parents, more thoughtful ones, did since stop me in the street to thank me and seemed amazed that parents they knew had been so affronted by it. They said what I had thought they would, that they were glad to know and that hopefully things would change in the nursery as a result The general consensus from them was that these other upset parents were just feeling guilty for leaving their child in such bad care. I don’t know whether that’s true but I’d got past caring really. I did a good thing as far as I’m concerned and would do it again. I felt I had a duty to ensure these bad carers were accounted for and what anyone did with the information once they had it was up to them.
Anyway, a day or so after newspaper gate a woman in a local playgroup, someone I’d never seen before took great exception to Florence touching a dangly toy on her buggy. She was on her way out and shouted at Florence to ‘just get away’. I was gob smacked. Why would anyone shout at a child for just being a child and touching a toy? I asked her ‘Is there a problem here?’ She couldn’t look me in the eye but again said very firmly in a very unpleasant tone of voice ‘Get her away, I want to go!’
Now, I’m not a teary person, I’m quite a toughie in situations like that really. I might cry at silly TV shows (When Helen Daniels died in Neighbours I was a mess) but in situations like that, ones which don’t involve my children and I’d be, well, meh, and move on. But this woman had been so unkind to Florence that it made me burst into tears. She left and I was comforted by friends.
From then on I saw this woman loads unfortunately and every time I did she scowled at me. I tried smiling at her like an idiot trying to kill her with kindness but it didn’t work. I tried looking the other way but I would hear through the grapevine the things she said about me and I just thought, you know what? You’ve picked on the wrong person this time! So from then on I stood my ground. I stared right back at her and deliberately made her feel as uncomfortable as she clearly was trying to make me.
It turns out we have friends in common and I learned a bit about this woman. I learned she has suffered unimaginable heartache and it made me think again, I thought, ok, you’ve been through something truly awful, perhaps that’s why you are behaving so badly. It was time to just leave it and I did, I made a conscious effort to not cross paths with her and put up with feeling uncomfortable when she was around. It none of it made me feel good, just bemused really but I wasn’t going to delve deeper? I assumed, because of the timing, that she was one of the affronted nursery parents or a friend of and put it down to that and nothing more.
Anyway, this woman came up to me randomly today and said rather gruffly ‘We need to make a truce’. It was more of a demand than a kind olive branch and as I struggled with a response she said it again ‘We need to make a truce because our children will be in the same school’. So… ‘Ok.’ I said. ‘Ok, but can I ask, what on earth did I do to make you so angry with me in the first place?’
She responded by telling me it was NOTHING to do with my having gone to the paper about the nursery (I didn’t bring it up, she did), that she doesn’t have a child there and a mutual friend had said I thought it was about that’. ‘Fine.’ I replied, ‘but what was it then?’ She went on to tell me I was obviously very nervous and upset by what I’d done with the nursery to assume it was that in the first place so I explained, that to be honest, it was all I could think of as a slight reason.. She went on to say it wasn’t anything about that but told me I HAD indeed done the wrong thing publishing people’s pictures?
So nothing to do with that but she had to have a say anyway… Oooookaaaay!
I asked her if she knew why I had gone to the paper and explained the story. She wasn’t about to back down on the subject but went on to admit she never even read the article or knew what it was about… Until now…
So, what WAS it then? This thing which enraged her about me so much, if it wasn’t the paper… This thing which made her shout at Florence? (although she says she didn’t and that I just perceived it that way, WHATEVER!) Well, apparently it was because she’d heard me shout at her friend in soft play.
BINGO! So THAT was the reason she took such a dislike to me…
I had to ask:
- Did she see or hear what went on in the actual play area? No, she said, she did not.
- Did she hear the way her friend berated me for sticking up for my child? No, she didn’t hear that either.
- Did she see her friend ignore her son’s brutishness? Nope, she didn’t see because she was in the seating area with her other friends…
She did divulge that this woman’s children are nightmares in general and she’d not let her own children play with them… But, she told me, her friend had just had a baby and was struggling with three…
Sorry dear, but that wasn’t my problem was it? I don’t like to point out the obvious but if she couldn’t cope then why take her badly behaved children somewhere so public. We’ve all been the parent of the child being naughty and I didn’t mind until she repeatedly did and said nothing about it and in the end all I did was stick up for my own! I explained to her that I had done, exactly what she was doing for her friend but that perhaps she needs to look at everything and hear the whole story before being mean and nasty herself. She didn’t know the whole story by her own admission…
I left it today with a truce of sorts I suppose, she repeatedly TOLD me she wasn’t apologising and I assured this woman, so that she knows, that I have no qualms in anything I have ever published either nationally in publications through my own penned words or someone else’s and not in anything I write on my blog. Publishing words, in any way, is bound to rile people up somewhere along the line but I’m fine with that – if anything it boosts my stats and I get more work as a result!
I never, however, write untruths and nor do I embellish but I’m happy to have the truth reported even if it burns someone’s ego.
Of course I left her in no doubt that I have no qualms with what I did at soft play that day either.
She was very angry this woman and for what? Who knows?
I’m not sure why she came to demand a truce if she wasn’t prepared to answer my very reasonable question of why it happened in the first place, although we did get on to some sort of level ground once she calmed down a bit. She told me she was in a bad mood that day when Florence touched the toy on her buggy and she wanted to go home. That I can understand and she has her reasons for being the way she is, I know that and I can let anything slide if it needs to be slid.
I suppose what I’m saying is that I reckon it’s always worth wondering what’s gone on just before a situation and not immediately thinking the worst of people. That goes for me too. I can always handle things better than I do, we all can. But we react to what’s around us and sometimes, perhaps we should all just THINK a bit more about what everyone else is doing and why.
I think this woman probably struggles socially, she certainly seemed like she couldn’t cope with a conversation she wanted to start but not finish. I think she had good intentions by demanding this truce and probably, almost certainly, didn’t mean it to come out in the dictator like way it did.
Being me I couldn’t just say ok, even though I think now that I probably should have done. Looking back on this afternoon and it probably took a lot for her to speak to me. Her gruff manner was a result of nerves but the way I am and I need to dissect, to work out the source.
I told her as much as if in explanation for why I couldn’t just go ‘Ok, yeah, you’ve been rude and horrible for two years but now you’ve told me to truce I will’ She actually said she is the same and can’t let anything lie so perhaps she does understand?
I am happy to have a truce, even though she doesn’t think she did anything wrong by speaking to my daughter the way she did, jumping to conclusions and being so rude to me on many occasions. I am happy to have a truce because why would I want to argue? I just wanted to tell her my side of the story which apparently has nothing to do with the damned stupid nursery!
So like I said, she repeatedly said to me today that she is NOT APOLOGISING to me. Ok. Fair enough. But listen, if you ever come across this then I AM APOLOGISING to you.
I am apologising for not just taking both your hands and saying, in a kind way, ‘Look, it doesn’t matter, it really doesn’t. In the grand scheme of things this is just a big misunderstanding. I AM sorry that you don’t like me before you even know me because I’m a good person (and I’m WICKED fun to be friends with)! I just have good ethics and a strong will to be the best person that I possibly can be. I meant no harm to you or your friend and I have nothing against any of you I just didn’t want my daughter to be bashed about by a bigger boy.
I was angry in the situation because your friend didn’t do anything about it. My inner Mother tigress came out to roar! I understand though that she was going through something and there is always a back story for everything. We react in the moment but to reflect for a second might be a good thing then to relax those shoulders from the argument and just say, does it really matter?
Well, that’s what I want to do. So I might not be able to let you demand a truce without a conversation but I probably should have done and yep, let’s truce! This is waaaay silly!
What I have learned today, or rather have had confirmed, is that there’s nowt as queer as folk!