Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bikers, Strangers, Madeline's Mom, And Why You Don't Try To Reason With A Two Year Old...

I'm a parent. God knows I've been far from the perfect parent. I know I made mistakes. Yet my daughter, and I'm sure it's just to spite me, has turned out to be a wonderful woman.

I was in the grocery store today. So was a young lady named Madeline and her mother. Madeline was about two years old; an impossibly cute little girl. Given any other set of circumstances, I would never have learned her name. I would never know that she likes Teddy Grahams. I wouldn't have known anything about her, including how wretched of a mother she has.

As I'm standing in the checkout line, I hear the repeated pleas of "Madeline, don't do that". "Madeline, don't do that". The woman who turned out to be Madeline's mother must've said that a half dozen times. Then, she added to it. "Madeline", she said, "Don't do that. YOU'LL FALL". I instinctively turned to see this two foot tall human begin to careen over the mesh side of the shopping cart.

Madeline's mother apparently believed that the best course of action was to further admonish the child, as she did nothing to stop the inevitable. "You're going to hit your head on the tile!"

She said that.

And Madeline did.

Now, I don't know a lot about two year old kids, but I think it's safe to assume some things. I think it's safe to assume they have no concept of a hard tile floor awaiting them at the end of a fall from a shopping cart. They have no concept of what "a fall" from a shopping cart is. What they do have, or should have, is the innate feeling that the big humans who feed them and clothe them will also protect them.

Madeline's mother did not protect her. 

I don't remember exactly when I decided to move, but I moved as quickly as my 51 year old legs would permit. I was encouraged to see another man moving as well. He was a rough lookin' soul in a mildly tattered Harley-Davidson t-shirt covered by a sleeveless blue flannel shirt.

Unfortunately, Madeline's mother was far too interested in texting than she was in making sure her child didn't get hurt. 

Unfortunately, I didn't get there in time, nor did the biker. Had we turned sooner, maybe we would've made it.

I remember hearing the sound of Madeline's head hitting the hard tile floor. It was a dull thud that almost made me wretch. The child started to scream, though, which I knew was a good thing. Quickly, though, blood on the floor around this beautiful little girl. We assumed the blood was from the little girl's head. After all, that's what we saw hit first, and nothing bleeds quite like a head wound. We checked, though, and saw no gash on the little girl's head. The biker seemed to have some sort of medical background. He seemed to know exactly what he was doing. He was going to help this little girl.

This little girl's mother, though, could only stand there and scream at us to "Get away from my child!"

Had he not been so focused on helping Madeline, I'm rather certain that the biker would've beaten Madeline's Mom to within an inch of her life right there in aisle 5.

It was while the biker glared at Madeline's Mom that I saw something I would like to never see again. One of Madeline's forearm bones was sticking through the skin, and she was bleeding. This beautiful little girl had broken her arm. The biker removed his flannel shirt and pulled a box of plastic garbage bags from the cart of someone nearby. He opened the box and pulled out a bag, putting his flannel shirt inside. He told me to gently lift her arm. When I did, I felt like I was killing this child. The sounds which escaped her mouth are sounds I hope I never hear again. The biker set the plastic bag under Madeline's arm and gently wrapped it around her arm. As he held it, I secured it in place with another plastic bag. The biker put his hand on her chest to hold her still. He started talking to her softly.

Miraculously, after a few minutes, Madeline stopped screaming. She was still crying, but she seemed aware that these two big humans were trying to make her feel better. Someone laid a jacket over her to help keep her warm.

She pointed to a box of Teddy Grahams in Madeline's Mom's cart.

After a few minutes, paramedics showed up, as did a St. John's County Sheriff. The paramedics thanked the biker and me for tending to the child. They did their paramedic thing while the Sheriff talked to the mother, and then to me and the biker.

I gave the Sheriff my statement and my contact information, and he said I could go. 

I was shaking as I left the store. My mind was racing with thoughts. I decided that I wouldn't allow myself to blame myself for not getting to her faster. I know I did everything I could. No, I thought, primarily, about what I would say to Madeline's Mom should I ever have the chance.

Well, here's my chance:

Dear Madeline's Mom,

Your little girl could've died today. 

She could've died, and it was only because some form of dumb luck that she didn't, as it certainly wasn't due to anything you, as a mother, did this afternoon. You should've protected your child. In that regard, you are a pathetic failure as a parent. As your daughter began to flip out of the shopping cart, you half-heartily watched it happen while only trying to convince her not to fall.


And then you had the gall and the audacity to scream at the people who only wanted to help your daughter.

You have a beautiful child, Madeline's Mom. I'm not, however, remotely convinced you deserve her. You were wearing a wedding ring today. I wish I could be a fly on the wall when your husband reads the police report and the reads the statements that the biker and I made. If a case can be made against you for neglect or abuse, I hope the District Attorney does exactly that. It would be my great pleasure to testify against you.

You did nothing to protect your child. As she was climbing out of the shopping cart (which she probably couldn't have done if you'd put shoes on her), you seemed to believe that you could talk her out of it. Instead, when she's older, her friends will ask "Hey, where'd you get that wicked scar on your arm?" and her response will (or should) be: "Oh, that was from back in 2014 when my Mom was stupid".

You should be relieved, though, that your child needed the level of attention she did. Had she not, I'm relatively sure that the biker you screamed at would've gladly taken a few moments to kill you.

Madeline's Mom, I hope and pray that, one day, you realize what's important and precious in this world. I hope that, one day, you understand that the kindness of strangers helped your daughter today, because nothing you did came close to that.

Live with that...


One of the men who helped your daughter

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