ok here’s another rant which brings us to three:
we were at the park this morning on Clapham Common, off Grandison road. my son was playing on the big train when another boy, older and bigger, came barreling past, and threw him face-first into the wooden frame. my son is not quite two; i’m guessing this boy was six. i was horrified, my son was distraught, and my husband was outraged.
the boy’s father was standing just feet away. he did nothing. as my son screamed in pain, sobbed and clung to me, we all stared in anger at this man, who did nothing whatsoever. elicited no reaction at all. he never actually stopped smiling, as if he was having a brilliant day. we all began to talk at once, loudly and in anger. his response?
“what’s the big deal?” ...literally.
that was what tipped the balance. had he apologized, had he told his son, sternly, that sort of behavior was unacceptable, that would have been that - an accident. but under the circumstances, i read him the riot act. you don’t let your children act like that.
his only attempt at explanation - or defense - was that his son was autistic. as if that were carte blanche to go around pummeling other children. it wasn’t what he said so much as the way he said it: “he’s autistic,” a shrug.
it was as if, having observed his son’s condition, he were free to saunter away. as if he couldn’t possibly be expected to supervise him. or his effect on other children.
confronted with the statement that the boy was disabled, I could only counter with the accusation,
“that’s all the more reason to set a good example!” this elicited a blank stare. I insisted,
“that’s not the point! if your child hurts someone, you apologize.” he asked,
“what’s wrong with you?” to which I responded,
“no wonder he’s autistic. his father’s an idiot.”
i’m not proud of this. but it happened in the face of the worst grinning idiot I’ve met since George W. Bush. I met Bush. He gave a talk at my graduate school. this guy was just as oblivious. and in consequence, just that offensive.
for a point of contrast, though my son is not yet two, he is tender and kind with other children. if he kicks a ball and it goes astray, he shouts, “Sorry!” he came away with a scrape on the underside of his chin - thankfully, nothing worse.
I don’t blame the boy. i blame his father. it’s not normal to shove a smaller child into a door frame. it’s not normal to leave him hurt and crying. any other parent would have apologized. any other parent would have told his son that that was not acceptable.
as a parent, you are responsible if your child hurts someone. having a child with a disability does not absolve you. you are still responsible. if anything, even more so, because your child is not equipped to learn from the encounter or avoid it.
the real danger of this pattern is, his son still has no idea that you can’t go around hurting people for fun because it suits you. if your child poses a physical danger to others, and you’re unwilling or unable to take the situation in hand, you don’t belong at a public park.
there’ss a park on Bolingbroke Road designed specifically for disabled kids. it’s large, well-equipped, and staffed by professionals. i’ve passed it many times. that’s where this man should take his son. he belongs in a place that’s safe for him, and our children deserve a place that’s safe for them. they don’t belong together. someone else will get hurt.
i didn’t broach the topic this morning. I was so angry, there was no way it would have sounded like anything but an insult. I didn’t want the boy to hear someone talking about him this way in front of two dozen people. but I don’t feel comfortable with the notion that this could happen again.
what if he pushed someone off the top of a climbing frame? or off the top of a slide?
if i see this father and son again, how do I ask them to use the park for children who are disabled, instead of the park on the Common?
what do I do if they refuse?
is there anyone to talk to at the Council?
thoughts and suggestions are welcome, with many thanks.