Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Auntie Seraphic & the Angry Young Mum

Dear Young Mother Sitting Near the Back of the Bus,

The reason why I called down the length of the nearly empty bus to ask if the tiny blond child-- alone, asleep and almost invisible--at the very front of the bus was your son was not to judge you but to ascertain before I got off the bus that he had not been abandoned.

I didn't judge you until I saw you scowling at me through the window. Now I think you're chippy and stupid.

Fortunately for your son and other children, I am kind of woman who always looks for a child's mother when that child is alone or in distress. Your angry look will not change that.

Oh, and by the way, in the UK a child is reported missing every three minutes. You think about that the next time you take the older child with you to the back of the bus, leaving the toddler by the door, and then getting on your mobile phone. It would have been the work of an instant for someone to scoop up your sleeping son, get off the bus and run. The driver didn't even know your son was there; he had no idea what I was talking about, and I am not sure he could see him.

It's a tough world for mothers, but it will be even worse when women like me don't bother to make sure your children aren't in trouble.

Grace and peace,
Middle-aged Yank-sounding Ginger Woman in the Blue Coat

Update: I've received some "We get nagged all the time by strangers" comments from parents to my tale, so I will dial back on the your-kid-could-be-kidnapped thoughts. Only about 52 children in the UK are murdered each year, and only 532 children in the UK were kidnapped in police year 2011/2012. This still adds up to 584 horrible tragedies, but the odds were in the sleeping blond moppet's favour. But, as I said, my first thought was that he had been abandoned or forgotten there, since he was asleep and his mother was not in immediate view. And I didn't say, "Tsk, tsk, tsk." I said "Is this your son...? Is this your son...? Oh, okay. Great."


Christine P. said...

Children are reported missing frequently, but the vast majority of them are found or return very soon after reporting. In 2003, 68 children in the UK were abducted by a stranger -- with over 11,000,000 children in the UK, the odds of any particular child being abducted are something like 0.0006%. That is incredibly low.

To compare: in 2011, 2,412 children in the UK died in car accidents -- making any particular child about 37% more likely to die in a car crash than to be abducted. A child in the UK is 24% more likely to get cancer than to be abducted.

I think it's awesome that you're keeping an eye out for other peoples' kids! That's an important part of keeping the places we live safe.

The trouble is that we live in cultures which are dominated by the 24-hour news cycle, and where we tend to see a lot of "worst-first" thinking: we see a situation that seems potentially alarming and suddenly all systems are on red alert. Crime is falling across the board in the UK, just as it is in the US and Canada. We just find it hard to see! (See this page for some perspective on crime statistics, and here for an interesting infographic on crimes committed vs. crimes deemed newsworthy (and thus more 'real' to us).

Seraphic said...

Well, that's good news--except of the 68 children and their families, of course.

But this does beg the question then: bother sticking my neck out, thus angering my neighbour, or trust to statistics?

Seraphic said...

I shall do a poll.

Christine P. said...

Yes... no argument from me on the 68 and their families. Those cases are tragic and all kinds of awful. Thankfully, however, they are not common.

Domestic Diva said...

You did absolutely the right thing! I don't care what the statistics are, there are still 68 children who have been kidnapped. And here in the States, we've had a few cases where the kidnapped children have been freed, sometimes after being held hostage for over a decade and bearing their kidnapper's child(ren). Their recounting of their experience is horrendous.

We ARE our brother's keeper. And when we see something that looks amiss, especially involving the weak and vulnerable, we are obligated to do something about it. You would have been over the top if you had said nothing on the bus but had called the police to report it. Instead, you took the proper first step of making sure someone was looking after the child before taking more serious measures.

Heather in Toronto said...

Of course the appropriate action would be to check with the likeliest looking nearby adult to see if he/she is the child's caregiver.

Then if you can't find said caregiver, you proceed to whatever other steps are necessary to make sure that child ends up in the hands of the appropriate authorities who can sort it out.

God bless you for looking out for the safety of other people's children, even if they scowl at you for it.

HappyToBeHere said...

I concur with Heather. If a child is alone it's ALWAYS best to make sure they belong to someone in the vicinity!

sciencegirl said...

I'm glad you annoyed that mum. She sounds dreadful, and the more people who call her on her neglectful ways, the better!


This is me on 1/2 glass of red wine.

Cordi said...

I think you absolutely did the right thing. There are people who take responsibility (for themselves and for others) and people who don't, and I think it's almost always better to belong to the former camp.

Seraphic said...

B.A. has informed me that I have totally misused the expression "begs the question." So what I meant was, "this leads one to ask."

Really, I just wanted to make sure the poor child hadn't been abandoned. I've just never seen a caregiver sitting so far away from such a small child on public transport. And the young woman was sitting right behind her other child, out of immediate view, chatting on her mobile, and not ceasing to chat the first time I called out, "excuse me, is this your son?"

Urszula said...

I absolutely think you did the right thing!

It made me so sad in Poland that fairly frequently you would see visibly drunk parents out with little kids in public. I never really knew what to do about it - call the police? call social services on these people I didn't know? It broke my heart to think of those tiny defenseless beings growing up in such an unfriendly environment :(

Seraphic said...

Urszula, I understand how you feel because I've seen children with reeling drunk mothers in Edinburgh. In that case, though, the mothers were violent as well as drunken, so the police came and stuffed the mothers in a van, and a father arrived to pick up the children. One of the worst things I have ever seen in Edinburgh, really.

Jackie said...

Seraphic, you did the right thing! I'm so sorry the child's mother was not more appreciative. :(

Something I wonder, is it possible the mom could be depressed? Not just having a bad day, but suffering from untreated clinical depression? Some of the things I've heard from moms I know is how the effect of depression can make you neglectful in ways you wouldn't have dreamed possible.

In any event, kudos for looking out for that sweet child and prayers for that family. :-)

Sheila said...

You did the right thing. She was probably just having a bad day. I imagine the big kid was poking the toddler and trying to wake him up, so she moved to the back .... and now she's afraid you think she's a neglectful mother. Of course you didn't, but she felt judged all the same.

One time I was out at the library with my baby and toddler. While I was distracted with the baby, the toddler started banging on a table and making a racket. The librarian came in to scold me, but instead I scolded HER for putting a table like that in the children's area! I still feel bad about that. Poor librarian, she was just doing her job! I just felt stressed and embarrassed because my kid had called attention to me like that.

I wouldn't be so worried about kidnapping -- it is SO rare -- but what about the mother forgetting her child on the bus? It does happen, especially to large families, and that's something you'd want to report and resolve ASAP. So good on you for double-checking that his mother was still on the bus.