On Saturday afternoon I went off to Pick ‘n Pay to do some grocery shopping – we had friends coming over to watch the game and then stay for dinner, so I needed to get quite a lot of things and it was easier if I went without the entire family.
I left Isabelle and Connor home with Kennith, and Georgia came along with me to the shop.
We moved around the store and got what we needed. While standing in the queue at the check out, I stepped away from my trolley to look at the soup display and was trying to decide whether we could include a soup course.
Retails often do displays right at the front of the stores, so you tend to impulse shop – appeals to the kind of shopper I am.
I was standing there with a liter of Minestrone in a bag, wondering could I eat a liter of Minestrone in a bag? Would my friends eat a liter of Minestrone in a bag?
I was using my six-sets-of-eyes-that-mother’s-have to watch the trolley, Georgia who was standing next to me, and also to glance at people walking past. I kept my one hand on her to ensure she was not wandering off as the store was really busy.
This woman walked past – long dark hair, maybe late thirties, and her son trailed behind her – about a metre gap between them. He had on a dark tracksuit pants, takkies and a t-shirt – quite a solid built guy, I estimate about 11 – 14 years, but can’t be sure, as I do not know many kids that age.
It’s strange that I saw him, as I did not really notice him as my eyes were moving from trolley, to Minestrone, to the contents of the Minestrone, to Georgia, to generally public and back again … all while wondering if I would use croutons and cheese with the soup and what bowls I would use, and whether I had enough.
But I did see him.
Then I saw him unfurl his hand, which I noted was quite a large hand. Then in that moment I saw him open his hand. He pulled his hand back while he was moving past her, and slapped Georgia through the face. So hard that she lifted off the ground and flew into the vegetable/soup display.
It took me a few moments to register what the hell had happened. It was beyond surreal.
I was trying to pick Georgia up at the same time emit some sound out of my mouth that possibly showed my indignation and horror at what had just occurred, as the boy and his mother continued walking like nothing had occurred.
I picked Georgia up who was now crying hysterically – as you would be when slapped senseless while perusing soup at the local Pick ‘n Pay. I managed to shriek loud enough for the mom of the boy to turn around and look at me – and I said “your son just slapped my daughter through the face!”
Her face looked like I had slapped it. She stared at her son and quickly started saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry….” to me.
I glared at her son who was turned away from me. I was now ready to go over and beat the crap out of this little tosser right there in the veggie aisle of Pick ‘n Pay.
He turned to face me – while walking away from me – and I realized with sinking horror that he had Down Syndrome features. That is where it got awkward, and my anger turned to shame and embarrassment. I really did not know what to do.
Georgia was screaming and crying – I have her up on my hip, and I am staring at this situation and every part of me just wishes we all were not here right now.
So what happened?
The mother said sorry – I mouthed it was fine. She kept moving away from me, and did not actually stop and walk back to me and apologise. Her son carried on walking behind her not changing pace.
Georgia was hysterical, I had to tell her “it’s okay, it’s okay, it was an accident…” – yes, I realise it was not an accident, but what was I going to say?
I could have gone with …
“That boy has a chromosomal disorder caused by the presence of all or part of an extra 21st chromosome, and for reasons I can’t explain decided to give you a flattie in the middle of Pick ‘n Pay – and me your protecting mother, stood there like a total freak and did nothing to protect you or to stop it happening.
I also felt embarrassed that I was about to rant at a child that clearly had a disability, and felt totally powerless that this had happened and I did nothing to prevent it or to remedy the situation. ”
Instead I comforted her, paid for my groceries and packed her in the car.
I felt that we had been assaulted in full view of a store full of people, and no one (not one) stepped forward to assist me or my daughter. I realized that the boy could have pulled out a knife and slashed her, and I would have been equally powerless to prevent it.
I really felt traumatized and a bit violated that some stranger had walked up and assaulted my child while I was standing there and I did nothing, and afterwards it was me who felt bad for what had happened.
Georgia was upset afterwards for a few hours, but seemed most upset that the boy did not come and say sorry to her himself (clearly they teach the power of sorry at her school).
I really do not have a conclusion on what happened.
I really felt totally powerless and immensely angry. I wish I had reacted differently to the mother, but what would I have said? What could I have done to make it better for me and Georgia, without going totally beserk in the veggie aisle?
It also made me realise how totally vulnerable we and our kids are when we take them out into public. That some stupid or misguided person could do anything to our child in the blink of an eye, and even with us standing there, we would not be able to foresee it or stop it.