I saw a lady with two young children at the library last week. It was obvious that they were in her way. This tableau happens a lot. She was in the computer area and she kept trying to tell them she was taking a test. The children were probably five and three. They kept trying to sit with her and ask her questions. She kept being very frustrated with him and telling him to stop bothering her.
I had a lot of questions and no answers. Where was the father? Or were there two fathers? Why weren’t the children in daycare, or with a relative? If this test was so important then why didn’t she make time to take it when they weren’t with her? Were they always with her? If she was taking a test to get a better job, where would she put the children while she was at work?
She had not brought anything for them to do on their own. She had not thought of what they could do to entertain themselves while she took her test. At that age, children have to have some direction. Meanwhile, the phone rings and she answers it. She has time to talk on the phone but not time to talk to her children. She finally gives the phone over to her son and tells him to talk quietly, reminding him that they are at the library. The library has a policy that you shouldn’t use the phone at all, not just quietly. Ideally, it would have been turned off.
It wasn’t the children’s fault that they were born or that they were there. That was the mother’s doing. She was treating them as if they were an interruption to her day and her life. Everything she was saying to them was in an impatient and unkind tone. The only time she talked to them was to tell them to stop bothering her and to shut up. Sadly, I see this a lot.
The mom kept getting more and more frustrated with her children and her children kept demanding more and more attention from her. Any attention is better than no attention, even if it is negative attention.
I felt that it was not my place to tell her how to parent her children. I felt that if I had done so she would have felt very embarrassed and threatened. Meanwhile she was getting further and further behind on her test and further behind on interacting with her children in a kind way.
I fear for the children of these mothers. They grow up angry and frustrated, just like their mothers. They grow up expecting to be yelled at for asking for help with their basic needs. They grow up thinking that they are worthless and meaningless. They grow up empty, having never really grown up at all. Meanwhile, they have children and they treat them the same way, and the cycle continues.