Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - Verbal Abuse

On my mind today is the tragedy of verbal and emotional abuse. 

Last night as we left our son's baseball game we ran into the antithesis of charming impersonated.  Imagine it.  We were leaving a late game, the six of us, proudly celebrating the oldest son's accomplishments.  It was dark as the game ended around 8:15pm.  We were all smiles, doing the t-ball parent thing (it helped that they won their game).  One big happy American family celebrating our love for each other.

As we get to our car a man shouts from near his car "Hey, you can't park there".  My husband replied "So sorry man, we'll move now".  The man went on "Sorry?  Sorry isn't gonna cut it..."  Then flew the vulgarity, the vain popping, etc.

My husband was on the farther side of the car.  I was closest by, holding one of our baby girls.  The boys had already ran closer to their side of the car to get in, which was even closer to this man.  He begins walking toward our car, continuing to scream at us with vulgarities.  I shoo the kids into their seats then turn and walk toward the man who is simultaneously walking toward our car.  I didn't want him getting any closer.

As I get closer to him, I calmly say "You don't have to talk that way around the kids".  He gets within inches of my face and yells "F*** Y***" as loud as he could...more veins popping from his neck and even in the dark I could see how red his face was.  Angry wasn't even enough to describe it.  I think he was a half second away from either punching me in the face or spitting on me.  (Better me than my kids, but it's a good thing for his sake he controlled himself to that husband didn't announce himself but he would have been easily able to handle the situation - enough said)

After that I said we had 4 kids - he would have to wait a few more minutes while we get in the car.  I bet you can guess that didn't make him any happier.

All this apparently over a parking spot.  He claimed we were blocking him in and he'd waited 30 minutes for us - all he had to do was go to the snack bar and they would have announced it if it was a problem, which it wasn't for every other car that was parked there, but I digress.

My heart broke with that situation and I've been bothered by it ever since.  Clearly, my family didn't deserve that treatment and it pains me that my kids have to grow up in a world where no matter how much my husband and I protect them they will see things like this from time to time.  And that bothered me.  It bothered me that my husband had to make the choice to "bow" to his anger in order to protect his family rather than stand up for appropriate behavior.

Worse of all - this man had 2 people in the car waiting for him as this all went down.  One was his child, the baseball player, and the other was either the mom or another kid - it was dark I couldn't see.  All I can think about now is what those poor people were going through.  Sure, maybe they are used to it now and their head of house has taught them to behave that way too - I hope not.  Regardless, this was clearly his normal M.O. - he had absolutely no reservations in his behavior toward a young family with 4 kids under 5.  Didn't censor himself at all.  So what has his family seen?  What has this boy seen?  My heart breaks for him.

Verbal abuse and other types of emotional abuse are so exrremely common and it's such a hard thing to solve.  It's one of those things the average Joe is just not sure how to deal with.  If you're in line at the grocery store and the adult in front of you punches their kid in the face you immediately react - stop the violence and call the police it's unnaceptable.  But when the person in front of you yells at their child something to the tune of "Your such an ingrateful brat!  Sometimes I want to punch you"...what do you do?  Do you intervene?  Do you call CPS?  It's a little bit more gray for the average Joe.  I'm typically one to intervene by offering to help the parent - then I keep a close eye on the situation and I've been known to report incidents of concern even when the behavior is on the borderline for most folks - I'd rather be safe than sorry, after all if they act like that in public what happens in private.  But generally as a society we're not sure what to do with verbal abuse and broader emotional abuse usually until its too late. 

I don't claim to have any answers.  Prayer I suppose is the best option. 

It grieves my heart.

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