A Rude Awakening

This past weekend, a bunch of us from Declan’s school gathered for a mid-summer playdate at the park. It was informal, just to let the kids see each other and hang out while the parents sat around and gabbed. But since we live in the city, and it *is* summertime, the park is always packed with people doing, well, summertime activities. Saturday was no exception and the tables and picnic area were filled with one raucous party. And dude, there has never been a nicer group of people! They shared their toys and their watermelon with all our little vagrants who came sniffing around the edges of their party. Eventually all our kids were playing together.

As the father of one of Declan’s good friends and I were sitting and chatting, and watching all these kids crawl all over the playground equipment, we were startled when a girl from the party slipped and fell near us, making a huge WHOMP sound as she went down on the platform. We watched for a few minutes, she wasn’t even moving, and no parents were coming. Finally, I got up and went over to check on her.

She was shaking, but starting to move and cry – clearly she had the wind completely knocked out of her. She was about 8 or 9 and I leaned over and started asking her if she was OK, could she move and where were parents were? Suddenly there was a big man to my right, clearly mad as hell, and clearly her dad. He looked at her with such menace and said very succinctly, “Get. Down. Now.” I quickly jumped to explain, “She fell really hard, I think she got the wind knocked out of her.” He silenced me with a glare.

I walked back to my bench and the dad I was chatting with asked me, “He’s not actually mad at her, is he?” And we soon found out he was.

We watched as he berated her at the edge of the playground. So loudly we could almost hear them from where we were. Then he yelled at her to MOVE and pushed her repeatedly up the path away from the playground and yelled at her some more.

For falling down.

On a playground.

Imagine what he does when no one is watching.

I sat there shaking for a long time. Not just because I have seen my share of that behavior from my own dad, but I was just stuck. There was nothing I could do for her.

Nothing I could do.

This article has 30 comments

  1. monstergirlee

    My heart aches for that little girl. What an ASSHOLE he is.

  2. daisybones

    Oh, that really is upsetting. I hate seeing that kind of thing. All you can do is just sort of project love at the little one and hope it’s OK.

  3. Sizzle

    That is so very scary. I hate witnessing that because, like you said, it’s probably much worse when there is no audience.

  4. Tree

    My heart hurts. I cannot imagine what life is like for that little girl. I hope someone is looking out for her somewhere.

  5. Shelly

    Nothing you could do? Really? You could have said something. You could have said don’t push your kid. You could hve tried to find out who she was and reported it. If you have been through that experience yourself I am sure there were times you wish someone had made the effort to help you.

  6. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    I guess that is true, Shelly, but also having been through it I also know how complicated that is as well.

    But that begs the question, and I don’t mean this facetiously, do I go over and confront the man myself? Go ask the rest the people he was with who he was? I honestly did think about following him and trying to get his license plates. It’s just so difficult.

  7. Noble Savage

    Ugh, how horrible to have to witness that. The guy sounds like he was either a real asshat or having an extremely bad day. Thing is, I’m sure we’ve all had moments in public when we have said things to our kids that we later deeply regretted and were embarrassed that others saw it. Let’s hope this dad falls into the latter category and not the first.

    I don’t think I would’ve intervened or said anything to the guy unless I saw him hit the little girl, then all bets would be off. But for yelling at her and pushing her a bit? That’s tricky, and for all you know saying something to him and embarrassing him could’ve made him even more angry and give her a proper beating when they got home. I’ve heard of that happening with abused kids — someone calls out the abuser and this angers the abuser even more so they eke out further punishment on the child for ’embarrassing’ them.

    The whole situation sucks.

  8. Shelly

    I guess I just think that if no one does anything when something like this happens then that poor child does not get help. Getting the license plate may have been a good idea. You could have reported what you saw and then someone at least would have looked into this little girl’s situation. I do understand how it could be hard for you to figure out how to handle the situation. It can be paralyzing to witness something like that. It is just my opinion that more people need to DO something when they see a bad situation.

  9. asecrettobluebamboo

    I have been paralyzed by a parent verbally/physically abusing a child in public as well; I think we all have. I didn’t know what to do either when I saw a mom back-hand her son at the grocery store. And I don’t think there are any easy answers, nor a right or wrong response. If each and every one of us always called child protection services/police for every incident we see, do we honestly think that they would respond in a timely manner? No. That is simply not how the system works.

    It is pointless to berate a member of our blogging community for sharing what she saw and her own feelings, considering that there are no easy answers in this situation.

  10. Christina

    That makes me queasy just reading it. But it’s probably for the best that you didn’t confront him. If he’s willing to be openly aggressive to his daughter in public, he might very well have shoved you or worse for getting involved.

    I guess you could watch for this little girl again at the park and see if it happens again. If you see a pattern, a call to child services could be warranted. Is she a child in Declan’s school? If so, maybe letting the school know could be useful – some teachers are skilled at detecting signs of abuse.

  11. Leeanthro

    I was at the public pool yesterday and a 4-6 year old was pulled from the water because he couldn’t stay above it. It was over 15 minutes before an adult finally came for him. He could have drowned! They had to announce over the PA his name and still no one came. I was so sickened that this little boy was unsupervised.

  12. Becky

    OMG that’s terrible. 🙁 Wow. Sometimes it’s so scary to me to think of what awful parents there are out there.

    Let’s just be happy, we are the good ones. 🙂

  13. Ashmystir

    Mean people suck. people mean to kids that get hurt suck even more.
    I hope she’s ok when he gets her home.


  14. Shelly

    I certainly never meant to berate anyone asecrettobluebamboo. Aimee, I really hope you didn’t take it that way. And I did say how it could be paralyzing. Maybe there was not enough information to do anything in this situation. I saw a so called Mom in WalMart backhand her child because he hit another of her children. I confronted her and she was really obnoxious. Didn’t want to hear what I had to say but I said it anyway. In front of my mom and my two daughters. They were proud of me and the little boy looked amazed that anyone said anything to his mother. I hope what I did gave that mother second thoughts before she raised her hand in anger again. I hope it gave my daughters a sense of how it feels to stand up for someone who can’t. Everyone handles things in their own way. There was no berating intended in any of my comments. Sorry if it came across that way.

  15. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    No worries ladies, I knew where everyone was coming from. I do appreciate both the support and the differing opinions. It’s a hard topic all the way round.

  16. MB

    I get what you’re saying, Shelly, but I too have been in that situation. I was frozen as I watched a man punch his son in the chest at a lacrosse game. I stood up and glared and let him know I was watching. I later called the rec center where I witnessed it, but I didn’t really DO anything because I was paralyzed…by what, I’ll never know. Call it disbelief, call it shock, whatever.

  17. Amy

    I’m so sorry to hear that. It’s awful watching something bad unfold in front of you when you can’t do anything to stop it.

  18. carrie

    And those are the moments when I come very close to opening up a can of ***** *** on those parents. But then what?

    I hate that.

  19. The Cole Mine

    It is so awful to feel helpless in situations like this. I’m sorry this happened – to you and the little girl.

  20. Phil

    My heart breaks for this child. Having worked in the schools, I’ve seen kids who come from abusive homes, and for my part, having never witnessed it firsthand, the only thing I could do was make the school setting the best it could possibly be for the kids. Because of how complicated some of this can get, perhaps contacting a social worker would be a good and safe place to start?

  21. Megan

    that just breaks my heart.

  22. amy t sharp




  24. Circus Kelli

    I’ll second what monstergirlee said.


  25. Karen

    Aimee, you did the right thing. You showed her that although her dad is a di*khead, that SOMEONE cares.

    Unfortunately, getting social services involved in something like that would be of no use, and could possibly bring more harm to the girl. However mentally abusive it is, it’s not illegal to yell at your kids – in public or otherwise.

  26. Corinne

    I got chills reading this. How terrifying. The poor baby girl.

  27. Velma

    This breaks my heart.

  28. jennifer, playgroups are no place for children

    “Imagine what he does when no one is watching.”


  29. AB

    This can’t be right. Is it possible that you missed some precursor leading up to this? Perhaps it was time to go, and the girl ran off to play some more rather than listening and that was what he was angry about? Still, a little sympathy first, and then an admonition about not listening would have been warranted.

    Heartless – but I know I have been in situations where I haven’t felt very sympathetic because Jaxon has gotten hurt doing something I expressly asked him not to do.

    Anyway, I sure hope there was more to that story and that the guy isn’t like that all the time!

  30. AB

    oop – my last comment –

    I meant HE was heartless in how he handled it if the scenario I played out was a possibility. And if it wasn’t, and the only reason he was treating her like that was for falling down? Then yeah, a*****e, d***head, not nearly strong enough words to describe him.

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