A Chilly Night

I couldn’t fall asleep last night.

Just before Chris and I went up to bed, we heard a woman yelling in the courtyard behind our home. We live in a busy part of a big city, and occasionally people who don’t live in our development stroll through, picking through trashcans or perhaps taking a shortcut.  I am never bothered, though, as anyone has the right to pass through what is essentially our alleyway. But, the woman last night was really hollering so we took a look out the back window.

Quite a sight greeted us.

This stranger was peeing on our neighbor’s garage while screaming obscenities into her cell phone. “Hell no!…FUCK YOU!…Bitch, shut your fucking mouth…I ain’t gonna put up with this SHIT.

But, the piss and poor vocabulary weren’t the worst part.

She had three kids with her. A 9-year old boy was pushing the baby stroller while a 7-year old girl walked beside him.  They stopped while their mother pulled down her pants to urinate on someone’s home. They shivered in the 48 degree darkness.  They were quiet and obedient and probably tired.

My heart was broken.  It was 10:30 on a school night, and those young kids should have been in bed hours earlier.  I didn’t know what to do.  Call the police? Yell at the woman to pull up her pants and get out of my back yard? Run outside and offer those beautiful kids a mug of hot chocolate and a warm bed for the night??  What is a mother to do when she sees another mother being so…horrible?

I really believe that all kids deserve a fair chance at creating a wonderful life for themselves, but the precious little ones I saw last night have such an uphill battle. Their mother is either selfish or mentally ill, but for those little ones it really doesn’t matter what’s wrong with her; their mother had no regard for their comfort. As she woke up the neighborhood with her tirade, she likely never thought about the example she set for those three impressionable little miracles.

I know I am not a perfect mother, but as I struggled to fall asleep last night, I couldn’t help but think about those kids and wonder: who is their advocate and cheerleader and confidante?  And, how can I help them when I have three little ones of my own to care for??

Its enough to keep me up all night.

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5 Comments for this entry

  1. Kat says:

    Short answer….yes. We have called the police on our neighbors when they got into a obscenity-laced argument in front of their 3 young kids. I have also talked to the same neighbor about hearing her calling the kids names. If she doesn’t like it, tough. I don’t like hearing it or the thought of what I don’t see or hear over there. My next call will be to CPS. I felt weird about it at first, but now I don’t. Now they know we are watching out for the kids. Those kids deserve better. People need to get involved if possible.

  2. Laura says:

    That’s a hard question. Sometimes if I see a mama on the edge with a grumpy child I might say something encouraging to her.
    When someone is that “out there” saying something to them is a bad idea though. Abusive parents are looking for control, and if you take that from them by calling them out, there’s a very good chance their kids will pay for it.
    If there is obvious abuse or neglect, the police or child services could help, but there’s no way to know if the kids will be better off with their abusive parent or in the system.

    It breaks me to see that kind of thing.
    There’s not much you can do, other than put extra love and kindness out there, and hope they find some.
    We plan on being Foster Parents once my little ones are not so little, and we make donations to foster kids… but that won’t the little girl at the bus stop who was called a “whiny little shit,” two years ago, or the baby boy at the grocery store who was told to “shut the f*** up” when he was whimpering in the cart.
    So hard. T.T

  3. Laura says:

    Those children have no voice. Though it’s hard, I do think that mothers like us need to speak up when we see such things. Speak to the mother and to the authorities. Even if speaking to the mother only caused her to curse louder and harder and angered her more, the children would see someone ever-so-slightly in their corner…

  4. Sidney says:

    I’m a new reader since I just picked up on Maureen’s website via an article in the most recent issue of Notre Dame Magazine. Have been through many of the same quandaries and emotions above when witnessing really bad parenting. I agree with all three comments above, i.e. the pluses and the minuses of intervention. I’ve done both, intervened to the point the police and CPS became involved and also walked away broken hearted and disturbed. The system is generally not great so it’s a very tough call to decide what to do for the sake of the children but I agree we have to be the voice for the voiceless. We don’t “own” our children meaning we can treat them any way we choose. They are rather infinitely precious gifts which are entrusted to us for a short window of time. Perhaps we need an advertising campaign along those lines…….I can already see the billboards in my mind’s eye.

  5. Jade says:

    Just reading this as I take some time to myself today. This breaks my heart. I fear I have seen the exact family in my neighborhood. Her actions towards her children are tough to witness. The dilemma of what to do deepens when you realize that she was probably once in the exact place her children are now. Worse perhaps. A horrible cycle with no end in sight.

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