The one where Georgia got slapped through the face ….

I heard from someone todaywho I have not spoken to in years – it appears Reluctant Mom has a farther reach than I realised,who would have known?

Certainly not me.

Anyway, for some reason this post jumped into my head – it is not quite the trolley snatching incident of earlier, but I think it is a good example of how quickly things can happen, even when you are standing RIGHT THERE.

I originally published this post in May 2010, and I think there are some key similarities between this and what occurred to Margo. If you squint your eyes and sort of look at it for a while.


It’ll knock your socks off …

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 berserk 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.  {this is how it relates to what happened to Margo ….. alarming right?}

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  1. This is why families like mine are terrified of taking our mentally disabled kids out in public. I’m not even being sarcastic – I’m being serious. Travis could, for some mysterious reason only known to him, pinch some kid really hard. He does this. Then I would would have a (justified) angry parent to deal with, and I wouldn’t even know where to begin to make it right. Such a messy situation, made all the more complex by the burden of political correctness. Travis is mentally impaired to the extent where he will eventually live separate from society, with people more like himself. But there are other disorders, like autism, ADD, etc where those children can still ‘mainstream’, is what we call it. I don’t have any answers either, but I will say this: if the boy that slapped Georgia had been a regular kid, and you said: “Hey, your son just slapped my kid!”… what would you have expected that mom to do? And apology was extended. What else would you need to have been said/done to feel the situation had been addressed? Genuine question. Your answer will help me deal with an angry parent better if, God forbid, Travis should do this to some kid while we’re out shopping.

    • Shew, Stacey — you have given me so much to think about on this one.

      I did look at the situation purely from my point of view with my child – I did not factor in the other mother’s feelings, and as you said how challenging things may be for her when entering a public space with her child.

      I think (and I am having to think back, as this occurred a while back) – if the mom had stopped, and returned with her son, and apologised, and then asked her son to apologise directly to Georgia would have probably helped.

      The mom looked over her shoulder, and she sort of carried on walking away with her son, as if her son had bumped us by accident.

      I am not a wildly hysterical person when it comes to my kids – I try and remain as rational as I can, if I can. I think the thing that shocked me in this situation was (1) It happened so quickly (2) I was right there, and I still could not stop it (3) It was so random (4) The power of the smack (5) Not one person assisted, or stepped forward to assist.

      If it was another child, I probably would have caused a fuss and made an issue with the mom – but because I could see that the boy and I made an assumption about his behaviour connected to what I thought was “his diagnosis” I actually felt awkward to raise it with the mom, and to deal with it directly in any way.

      I am not sure if I am explaining that very well.

  2. A similar thing happened to me once. In Walmart. A little girl pinched my Em (pinching is not close to slapping but Em was only 9 months at the time!) and the mother did apologize for the pinching and said she was ADD and had trouble finding outlets. But all she said to the little girl was “darling you can’t do that” and then walked away.

    Who knows what to do in those situations.


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