While I was walking home from the Childminder with Duckling yesterday, we passed a car stopped by the side of the road, outside the park. Just after we'd gone by, a Mum got out, removed a little boy of about four from his seat and set him on the pavement, then ordered his older brother out too. She was clearly furious, and the kids were visibly upset, though I couldn't tell what they'd done. She then got back in the car and shut the door. Duckling was fascinated and concerned in equal measure and tried to run back to see what all the fuss was about. I stopped him, not wanting to interfere in a family drama, but I too could not drag my eyes away. I felt for the Mum, clearly at the absolute end of her tether, but I was also worried about the kids. It was dark and cold and they were obviously distressed at the prospect of Mummy driving off. I couldnt be entirely sure she wouldn't either.
So we backed off, and watched from under the shadow of a tree for a bit. "Why they crying?" asked Duckling. I told him I didn't know but I suspected they were upset because their Mummy was very angry and she needed them to stand outside the car while she calmed down (and to teach them a lesson, I didn't add).
After a minute or so, the Mum made to drive off. The little one wailed, running after the car. I didn't know what to do. My motherly instincts made me want to run over, give them a hug and tell them it would be OK. Had she actually gone, there is no question I would have done - that prospect was why I was watching, just in case. But she stopped, clearly just wanting to scare them a bit. Then she drove another metre up the road. The kids looked terrified, and the little one sobbed some more, but they continued to stand where they had been put. "What's going on? Surely Mummy wouldn't leave us?", their body language said. "Is their Mummy going to go away?" Duckling asked. "I really hope not," I replied, "but we're waiting here just in case she does."
Thankfully she didn't. Eventually, after a good four or five minutes, she got out, put the kids back in the car with some stern words of remonstration (I couldn't hear what) and drove off. I breathed a sigh of relief and carried on home.
I don't know what the kids had done and I don't know how many times she'd asked them to stop doing it. I don't know what else was going on in their lives, if this was a one off incident, or a demonstration of a frequently used disciplinary technique. I do know there have been times when Duckling has driven me to that point of irrational rage where you just want to Teach Them a Lesson. Would I have done the same? Possibly. I am not a big fan of fear as a disciplinary technique, so I'd have to have been pushed pretty damn far, but I can't say it would never happen. I understood.
Yet I also felt their terror acutely. I would have been distraught if my Mum had ever done that to me as a kid. Duckling often gets upset if I go upstairs without him - he would be totally beside himself if I dumped him on the pavement and threatened to drive off.
Perhaps I should have judged her more harshly or intervened directly therefore, but the fact was, she didn't leave. She stayed because she was their Mum. Parenting is incredibly hard sometimes, but one thing I've come to realise in my first three years of motherhood is, come what may, my elastic band of love always pulls me back from the brink. That's why I didnt intervene. I couldn't truly believe, even though I didn't know her, that a Mum could snap that band and leave her kids behind. Thankfully my faith was right on this occasion. I hope it always will be.