There I was in the supermarket on a busy Friday morning. As I got to the till, I heard a child screaming and out of the corner of my eye I could see this child throwing himself on the floor. With a quick, experienced eye, I judged him to be about four.
His mum (I assumed), then started to say, “That is it.. I’m fed up of you doing this… you will not have the treat!”
From where I was standing, I could see other shoppers nearby who were just looking. The child’s sister, who was standing next to him, asked her brother to get up from the floor. I saw that the mother was visibly shaking and still trying to talk to him.
I finished packing my shopping in the trolley and walked over to her and put my arm around her. “Parenting is tough!” I told her. “Trust me, all the parents in this shop have had something similar with their child. No ONE should be judging you!” She began to cry, as if this was like a release, and we talked further, privately and comforted her son.
The situation reminded me of Dame Donna Kinnair’s comments at my annual conference, “We all have a moral duty to protect and safeguard children and support their parents, without judgement.” Dame Donna also recounted a supermarket incident and how it was a security guard who used his good moral judgement to start a conversation with her child.
I reflected on my own son, (he was diagnosed much later, as being on the autistic spectrum and having sensory processing disorder linked to him being overwhelmed in social situations) who had a ‘meltdown’ when he was around three years old when we were on an outing with his playgroup. I remember the kindness of a member of staff, Mary, who did the same thing to me and I just broke down in tears.
I acted in the same way a few months ago (which made me late for a round table meeting at the Department for Education) and also, a few years ago, with a mother who regularly walked by my house.
I’m not saying that we should step in all the time – we must always assess the situation and keep ourselves safe. However, we are, in the end, all one community.