I have been thinking about this situation for a while. I just didn’t know what to do and while it’s easy to sit back and judge (I know because I have been judging myself) Things are not as simple as they seem
If you see someone hit someone you step in. That is the quick right answer, but the reality is not so simple. There are consequences for our choices and interference.
The other day I was at a hotel in the States and a very large and intimidating woman was angry with her daughter. Actually, the woman was angry in general and it just happened to be directed at her child.
I was eating my breakfast (it was included in the hotel, you know those hotels close to the airport that can be somewhat less than ideal and the food is a waffle iron and cornflakes). Anyway, there was a line up at the waffle machine and this woman left her daughter in the line while she sat down at a table. When it was almost the girl’s turn the mother came up and said she was going to make the waffle.
The daughter said, “No mom I want to make the waffle. I can do it.”
The mother said, “No I am going to. You don’t know how.”
Daughter – “I have been watching and I think I can do it.”
I am not sure how old this young girl was, I am assuming around 10. She was almost as tall as me, but still looked very young and her mother was over 6 feet tall towering in comparison.
Her mother said “No I am going to do it and stop back talking.”
Daughter said, “But Mom.”
And the mother raised her hand as if to hit her daughter.
Everyone got very quiet.
I was torn, there were too many variables.
I could step up and say it wasn’t ok but then what?
The woman obviously putting on a show would continue to do so and she didn’t strike me as stable.
Eventually the girl would be alone with her mom, and then what? If this is what is happening in public what happens in private?
I could have called the cops, and then what? The girl goes to foster care? Not a great alternative. The girl doesn’t go to foster care and we are back to the problem of her being alone with her mom again at some point.
I could have drawn her anger and have her switch her focus to me, but I not sure if that would have been a solution either.
I could do nothing but I believe that silence is compliance, but I didn’t know what else to do in a country I don’t live in. I said to the woman as I left the dining room quietly “this isn’t ok.” Whether she heard me or not I don’t know. The daughter did though.
I later saw the girl across the courtyard and she gave me a little wave and a smile.
How do we know if we are helping or hurting?
It’s so easy to SAY what we will do in a situation, but would we ACTUALLY do it if we were face to face with it?
For me it matters the relationship of the people in conflict. I have watched many of the What Would You Do videos, and I think I would get involved if a stranger was attacking people. At least, I would like to think I would. If a customer was abusing a server I would, and have, stood up for the server. However, when the relationship is more personal: Husband and Wife, Father and Son or Mother and Daughter where there is a potential for backlash once I am gone. I don’t know what to do.
What would you have done?
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