A few days ago I was sitting in a waiting cubby in a doctor's complex that rather resembles the inside of a mall in that there is a large open area with individual doctor's offices opening off the wide walking areas. The first thing I observed about a particularly busy toddler (whose name is changed to protect the innocent) was her mother's outburst, "Susie, stop that!" followed by the mom's explanation to the man as he passed, "She hit you because she was mad at me." As he continued to walk away, he laughingly looked back over his shoulder and said, "I thought she was giving me a high-five." Before long, "Susie" was checking out much of the large area, including where I sat. She came pretty close and used her eyes to investigate my purse. I could see the wheels turning in that cute little head and for some reason she opted to have her hands leave it alone. I was glad she made that choice on her own because even with a gentle smile and a kind manner, an ogre looks like an ogre to a toddle when a momma is pretty far away and I didn't want to have to become an ogre in her eyes by having to be the strange woman who said, "No." Deciding to leave me for fields afar, "Susie" somehow ended up with a Styrofoam cup with water that, rather than to be used for the boredom of the obvious, proved too much of a temptation, so she dumped it on one of the waiting cubby chairs not all that far from where I was sitting. This time Momma was not far away and neither was the hand that swatted little "Susie" so swiftly on her little butt that a bee sting couldn't have come any faster. Momma said things like, "No, don’t do that!" and proceed to clean up the water spill , and when she was done, I asked if I could speak to her well aside from the hearing of anyone who had seen what went on. We went to an area where we could talk with no one else hearing and I expressed my concern to her that a lawyer had once told my daughter that spanking in public was a dangerous thing to do because people might get the wrong idea, that it should be done in private. She immediately became defensive and this is the gist of what she said, "I'll discipline my child as I see fit. I barely tapped her. She had on a thick diaper!" I quickly explained that I meant no reference to her disciplining action, that I meant sincerely protection to her right to do so, but my concern was to help her keep her child...in other words... not lose her to someone's misguided so-called good intentions. Because I was nervous, I wasn't explaining very well, but it seems the young mother saw through my sincerity and understood what I meant. She said, "Well, here in Texas, we are more liberal..." and we parted with what seemed a sincerely friendly understanding as we went back to our separate areas of the seating cubbies.
...however...the more I have thought about this, the more I have wondered:
1.) That little toddler hit at that man. Why? Is she used to being hit?
2.) Why did I feel so comfortable to recommend that this young mother protect her right to discipline her child without possible interference?
I think the answers to these questions are one and the same: I judged from my own life experiences and the woman I saw before me did not appear to be a child abuser. I hope for the sake of her child I am right because I would not want to send the mother into hiding with her abuse; on the other hand, I would not want to see a well-disciplined child sent into the foster care system because someone felt it their duty to complain because a child was tapped on the butt through the thickness of a diaper in a public place. I never did such a thing before in my life; would I do it again? I truly don't know. I guess I'll have to wait and see. At least I have time to pray about it.