07 November 2008


The woman at the pharmacy was beyond a hot mess. She was more like a nuclear-meltdown mess.

If you had offered to bet me that she was there to pick up a forged prescription for OxyContin, I would not have taken your bet because I really, really hate to lose.

She was thin, tanned, tattooed, twitchy. Her hair was falling down around her face from a messy pile on her head, a style that might have been put up a few days ago and slept on ever since.

Or not slept. She had scary eyes that were simultaneously glassy, sleepy-lidded and yet still too bright and active.

She was wearing black bikini panties, which I can state for certain because her loose pants were so low that they fell somewhat below her crotch. She was standing in the busy pharmacy with underwear on full display, seemingly not bothered by that detail.

And there was a baby. Yes, of course, a baby. The man who was with her held the darling little brown-haired, blue-eyed boy as the woman danced to some internal music and tapped her hands on the counter.

She squatted down and clapped her hands as one might clap for a dog.

"Zander! Come here, Zander!"

The man put the baby down on the pharmacy floor. The little guy looked to be maybe seven or eight months old. He began to crawl around as the woman continued to clap and call.

When the baby didn't come to her, the woman said, irritated "What are you, a DUMB baby?"

My heart froze. Shattered. Fell into chunks around my feet. My ears began to pound and my vision went a little blurry.

A dumb baby. With that one horrible word, the danger that this child was in opened like a crevasse in my mind, black, yawning.

I knew before she said that that the woman was probably not Parent of the Year. But to call a tiny little guy, a crawler, DUMB with such disdain meant to me that she had no idea what the baby was capable of, what his needs were.

I didn't say anything. I didn't do anything. What could I do? I think even the gentlest of suggestions would have been rebuffed, and I was really too shocked to do anything but try and keep a horrified expression off my face.

I hope I am projecting too much, that I am terribly wrong, but I am afraid I'm not. I will keep those people in my prayers, because that is all I know to do.


Karen Sugarpants said...

oh suebob...i will do the same. my heart broke reading this. how awful

thailandchani said...

She sounds like a bloody nut! Just from your description of her, there are probably a multitude of reasons why she shouldn't be allowed to raise that child.


g said...

Oh, my.

once when I was on a bus, a couple came on, and they certainly had a similar look (no baby, though, thank goodness). they seemed to be involved in an ongoing relationship crisis, or some kind of financial crisis, and the woman was almost out of control with agitation. It made me so uncomfortable, and you could see other bus riders move away to other seats.

Gordo said...

Oh, that's terrible. It breaks my heart on the few occasions that I meet up with people who so plainly should not be parenting.

Suzanne said...

That helplessness is the worst. I might have snapped and called her a dumb mother, but of course that would have made the situation worse. And probably I would have just stood there, frozen in horror. No matter what, it is tragic in every sense.

Jerri An said...

sounds like you were right on, how sad is that...my psychiatrists puppy is named Zander and when I was reading the story I was going to laugh with you and share that his name was the same,

Then, after reading the rest, I got sick to my stomach.....it hurts me bad too

Vesper de Vil said...

Wow, that's very scary.

Count Mockula said...

Oh, that's terrible, Suebob.

Minnesota Matron said...

Oh, that is so painful. A few days ago, I watched a mother just haul into and berate her son for the toy he wanted. And I knew this demeaning interaction was the norm for that family. Poor little children, new generations in these cycles that just don't stop.

incognitomom said...

My heart goes out to that child. It also goes out to the woman (although not for her behavior with the child) because if she is on drugs I know she can't control her behavior and that she may have been a totally different person before the drugs. My brother is a recovering addict (almost five years clean) and I know first hand how OxyContin and other drugs can change a person who is good into someone who is a complete mess and a monster. I can only hope that family will step up and intervene on that child's behalf.

Deodand said...

You probably did the right thing. I am a big bitch and my mouth gets me into trouble, so I probably would've said "Really? Is THAT where you went with that??" etc. But I'd probably be at the police station some time after that.

MsLittlePea said...

That makes me sad. I would love nothing more than to have a baby crawl to me and go the wrong way....

How horrible is it that people who don't deserve children can just pop out a healthy baby and those of us who want one more than anything cannot?

Scientific Lutheran said...

I agree with Mslittlepea, there are so many families out there that desperately want a(nother) child to love, and it seems like too many parents are absolutely horrid to their kids and didn't seem to want them to begin with.

It would have appalled me too, but I wouldn't have been able to say anything, either.

Susan C said...

This made me so sad to read.

I was at the Women's Conference in Long Beach a couple weeks ago and Gloria Steinem related a similar experience (with an older child). She too didn't know how to handle it.

Marina Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund said that she has also wrestled with the same scenario. She said she now makes a point to give a positive message to the child because. This does several things. It distracts the parent and at least temporarily stops the abuse without confronting the parent. And it sends a message to the child that he/she has value.

I know there's not much you can do in the case of a baby, but I plan to follow Ms. Edelman's suggestion the next time I hear a parent verbally abusing a child in public. Unfortunately, it probably won't be very long.

g said...

thanks susan c. That's a really good message.

Hope we can all remember that the next time we observe something like this.

Although - i will say - most of the time when you observe something like this, you are so appalled/upset/intimidated that you don't do anything in the right timing - you walk away and worry about what you should have said.

That's what I would wish for. The strength to overcome the "oh, maybe I shouldn't" or "did i really heart that?" disbelief and time lag that we all experience.

Anonymous said...

This shit happens all the time. The good news is that kids are resiliant!

And now comes the part that requires I post anonymously.

I can be real sensitive about race. Did you mention the blue-eyed part so we would know she's white? Were you making sure that it didn't get misconstrued as a racial thing? Because I understand that and struggle with it myself, especially at work. I'm really light skinned and sometimes commenting on a client's behavior is twisted into being something about race - which it isn't. Thanks.

Kelly said...

Ouchy ouch. I recently heard a mom calling her baby a brat---the baby looked to be 4 weeks old at most.

These sorts of encounters make me want to have child protective services on speed dial.

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

This story breaks my heart. My mom had a gift in this area, being an elderly woman in a small town who was clearly in no condition to abduct anyone's child. She told me that a couple of times when she has witnessed something like this, she was able to say, "I see you're overwhelmed right now, honey, can I take your child over to the snack bar (they had one in their grocery store) and buy him/her a hot chocolate so you can have a few minutes to get your shopping done without distractions?" And it worked. But I've never found myself in a situation where I could do the same thing. As a matter of fact, when my daughter was just days old, I foolishly went grocery shopping with her, and she woke up and started screaming when half of my groceries were on the belt and the other half still in the cart. A very kind woman offered to hold her for me while I unloaded my groceries, but I was afraid and said no. Thankfully, another woman behind me offered to unload the rest of the groceries for me while I stuck my (dirty) finger in her (tiny) mouth until I could get through checkout. I'm still thankful to those two women, the one I accepted help from, and the one I didn't.

But sadly, there are so many times when no person in their right mind would let you take their child long enough that they could gather their wits about them. I don't know that there was anything you could do. Which doesn't help, does it? When I see people hit their children, I want to help, and I just don't know how.

Project Christopher said...

this breaks my heart. It's like seeing a dog being beaten or chained outside in the winter. You WANT to do something so bad... but what can you do without causing more harm.

I just pray Zander turns out to be strong enough that the only emotion he has to worry with in life is being embarrased of his mother.

Maybe he'll blog as therapy! :)

Mrs. Chicken said...

Way to make me cry.

I sit holding my three-month-old boy and my heart is breaking in half.

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