November 10, 2008

It's not ok...

I can't really write about my fun day with Gerry because it ended on such a bad note and I'm still vibrating from it.

We were at The Moma looking at all the lovely art and I took a pee break. As I was walking into the bathroom I was followed by an angry looking mother who was carrying her fussy son. I watched them as they went into the stall beside me and as soon as the door shut I heard a horrible sound.

She was yelling and hitting her son over and over and over again.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing so I finished peeing as quickly as I could with the intention of knocking on her stall door and asking if everything was ok - but she walked out of the stall at the same time as me.

I stood at the sink and washed my hands watching her interacting with her son. They sat on a bench and she soothed her sobbing son. Stroking him. Saying soft things into his ear. I thought that perhaps what I heard was incorrect but the hairs on the back of my neck were still vibrating so I stood and primped in the mirror for a long time because I wanted to make sure this boy was ok.

She stood up and walked her son behind a partition wall in the bathroom and I could hear her hitting him again OVER and OVER and OVER!

I ran around the corner and yelled at her to stop. She looked at me surprised that I was there and said in broken English that it was ok. He was her son. I said "NO. It is NOT ok. Do not hit him. It is not ok."

Another woman joined me - she had also heard the beating and said "Did you hear the same thing I heard because what I heard was unbelievable and I want to make sure I heard the same thing." I said yes. She was hitting him.

The mother started yelling at us in French. Luckily this other woman beside me also spoke French and we had a back and forth with the mother. We told her it was NOT OK to hit her child no matter what. NO MATTER WHAT!

The woman continued to fight with us and I told my new Sister-Friend that I was going to call security. I ran out and asked one of the maintenance people to call security because a mother was beating her son in the bathroom. He did nothing but shrug.

The mother ran past me and down the hallway so I ran over to 2 other woman who worked at the museum and told them what I had witnessed and that I would like them to call security.

They told me to mind my own business.

I looked at my new sister-friend and said "They won't call security." Neither of us knew what to do next and with no security in sight we watched in vain as the mother slipped into the crowd and out of eyesight.

I wrestled with what to do next? Do I follow her? Do I call 911? My new sister-friend and I stood there and stared at each other. We both burst into tears and hugged each other because we knew that no matter what we did nothing appropriate would be done.

We stood and talked for a long time. It turns out that she and her daughter are from Vancouver (Yay Canada) and we parted ways hoping that our brief encounter with this mother was enough to perhaps make her think next time she goes to hit her son.

I went to the front desk at the Moma to complain about the volunteers who wouldn't call security for us. The counter girl was very helpful and I am going to write a letter to the Moma with the names of the volunteers (I got their names and told them they were assholes). The woman at the front desk assured me that their policy is that someone would get in touch with me in 14 days.

Now that I'm back at the condo I am overcome with sadness for this poor little boy. I wish I could have done more and in hindsight there are a thousand things I would have done differently. I am trying not to beat myself up too much ... we did the best we could in a weird situation.

Listen. I'm not a Mother but I've done plenty of mothering in my day and I know how frustrating it can be to have a toddler. I have MUCHO respect for parents and for how much work it is and how difficult children can be - but I will not tolerate someone hitting a child.

I don't care what your background is or what country you're from or what your family traditions are or if this is the way your parents dealt with you ... It's not ok.

15 comments:

leigh said...

Ugh, i can't believe that they didn't do anything! that is so typical though, people just don't want to get involved (i don't know if they are lazy or just want to avoid confrontation), but i think you did the right thing complaining. They could have at least said something to her! Hopefully the fact that you said something to the woman will make her think twice before hurting her son again!

Vegyogini said...

I imagine you're that little boy's hero for trying to stop his mother from beating him. It took a lot of guts to stand up to her and I'm sure you know that a lot of people wouldn't have bothered. Good for you for caring and for doing everything in your power to help secure that boy's safety. It's shocking that the MOMA people were apathetic and I, for one, applaud you for chastising them and reporting them. You did the right thing and have further solidified your status as an incredibly amazing person in my eyes.

Fallen said...

Don't feel so down. You did all that you could do. Most people would have just done nothing. You tried your best to help the little boy. I work with children and I know how frustrating it is to see a parent not treat them well. I know it's not easy thinking about all that you could have done, but don't let it eat at you.

The Zombie Spotlight said...

Wow, I'm sorry to hear that you witnessed that. Of course MOMA did nothing, that's why I hate being an art historian. The art world is filled with selfish pricks. If you would have stood within a foot of some lame painting MOMA would have called in the Swat team to have you arrested. Pour the wrong wine for a opening...arrested, confused Manet with Monet...arrested. You should have told them you spotted a woman hitting Cy Twombly and they would have come rushing to the bathroom. Sorry Sarah, at least you care.

Paulina said...

Wow, I am in shock. I can't believe the security guards didn't do anything to stop this. You did the right thing though.

erin32mc said...

Good for you for jumping in and trying to get the boy some help. How frustrating that the staff wouldn't help you.

Carol said...

I can't even think of an appropriate response to this...I'm just disgusted by her and the staff's behaviour.
You did good and writing the letter will hopefully alert MOMA that they need to smarten up their staff when it comes to emergency situations.
Unbelievable.

Marni said...

"I don't care what your background is or what country you're from or what your family traditions are or if this is the way your parents dealt with you ... It's not ok."

Word. Give us an update on this when/if you hear back from The Moma. And thanks for doing something. Too many of us do nothing.

Ivy said...

Sarah: Please email me. My BFF is the volunteer coordinator at MoMA. I can give you her direct email.

Ashley said...

I know it seems that no one really heard you but I can guarantee that that little boy knew exactly what you were saying. In a world where to him no one would have had the courage to stand up for him and he probably feels he deserved the beating, you two showed him that its not ok and someone will stand up for him and he does not deserve that and that will give him the courage to stand up for himself. You should be proud of yourself for saying something Im sure your courage has been passed on to that little boy.

Anonymous said...

That little boy will forever remember you and the French speaking woman for intervening. Hopefully the mother will realize, after she's calmed down and is able to reflect on the situation, that what she did was not okay and will change immediately.

I look forward to finding out what you hear from Moma. The fact that no one did anything to help makes me sick.

Monika

Beques said...

GO Sarah! You did the right things. You BUSTED this cruel, evil mom. Even if she does not remember the embarrassment, the kid will remember that there ARE people in the world who DO care and who ARE listening and watching out for him. You may not have changed the mother with what you did, but you changed the way that kid looks at the world. You let him know that he is not isolated. As a former beaten kid, lemme tell ya, you MADE A DIFFERENCE. SO CHEERS.

I'm sorry it ruined your day, but in a strange way BE GLAD it did. Your broken heart proves you are a good person. I hope you really let the MOMA have it both barrels. FUCK those volunteers.

mishka said...

Oh my goodness, Sarah. Your post was so horrifying that I got shivers. Thank you to you and your new sister-friend for trying to do something about it in a world where too many people would prefer to turn a blind eye.

I hope those MoMA employees get a serious talking-to about what "security" means. They certainly didn't keep that child safe and secure.

Hugs to you. You did your best to help the situation.

Joy said...

Thank you for trying to help. As someone who was physically abused under the guise of "discipline", I feel so badly for other kids who have to go through the same thing.

Thanks for standing up for him.

Happie Kamper said...

Oh Jesus, this is disgusting! I can't believe you had to deal with something like that! I got tears reading this.