Update: I have revised this post. I have no intention of hurting Mamas, anywhere, in any state in life. This is my observed perception of a family I thought was in need. It is a meant to be a general thought-provoking "What would you do?" post. I appreciate each and every one of you. Yes, you.
Recently I took the two babes over to a local bookstore to get out of the house and have some fun at the train table over there.
We frequent bookstores around the city, and this one is one of my favorites - with a train table and an awesome vibe for kids, I always feel so comfortable and excited to be there. The girls absolutely love it also, which makes things more fun.
Recently when we were there, a mom and a couple of daughters (it looked like they ranged from 10 year old to 1 year old) came in to the bookstore and near the train table/kids' area.
I noticed that the little 1 year old girl had an interesting look about her - almost like she had been a preemie when she was born. She was so cute though, and I always encourage my daughters to say hi to other kids, especially when they're young like that. I like when everyone's presence is acknowledged.
I looked up to give the mom a hello and kind of a "Welcome! We're in the same stage in life!" smile, but the mom wasn't having that. No eye contact or saying hello back to my girls. No biggie.
I then studied the mom some more as she followed her little 1 year old around like a hawk. Literally she wasn't but 7 inches away from the little girl at all times. If the little girl got near the stairs, she was right there - telling the little girl, "You can't do stairs, I have to help you." Following her everywhere, ignoring the other daughters to watch the little girl take eight years to walk from here to there. Hawk, I tell you.
I noticed that the mom was super skinny. I don't mean "Oh wow she's so skinny, I'm jealous, she must go to the gym or run marathons or eat only healthy salads and smoothies." I don't mean that kind of skinny, I mean SKINNY.
I tried to study her more, thinking it's probably just genetic. I know a lot of people who just have skinny families and damn they're lucky. No, it wasn't that either. She was SKINNY.
I then glanced at the other, older daughters. Super skinny. Crazy skinny. I could see the back bones of the 10 year old and the mom as they discussed a book the 10 year old wanted to get.
I then became concerned. Why is this family so skinny? Are they being fed at home? Does mom have an eating disorder that she is passing on to her beautiful daughters? Is her baby underweight and different looking because she is malnourished?
I have to admit, I'm a little crazy about food myself. I mean, I like my daughters to eat healthy food. I'm a bit neurotic about it. I feed them healthy foods and typically raw fruits and veggies as much as I can, and when they're with my parents or my husband's parents, I want them to feed the girls healthy foods as well. I get angry when they disrespect this desire of mine for my girls to have nutritional and beneficial foods.
I'm trying to explain to you, I'm neurotic about it and I'm really a normal person.
Imagine if I had an eating disorder, or struggled my whole life with being dissatisfied with what I looked like? How much more passionate would I be about what foods and how much food my children eat?
Imagine if I was an even more controlling mother or woman - that I would take my disappointment in people's disrespect of my wishes, and turn it into you may never see my children again because you feed them things differently than I want you to.
Imagine if I was just a little bit more neurotic? Maybe that's all this lady was, a health-obsessed woman, who wanted to pass health on to her kids.
But. I don't know.
There was a problem, and my instincts told me there was a problem.
So, there I was, I perceived abuse with my own eyes. No, I didn't see these children being physically or emotionally or verbally abused - no. But I saw the aftermath of their lack of nutrients. I saw their skin seep into their bones where bones shouldn't be seen. I perceived the repercussions of a possible disease-ridden mother who has just the same control over her children.
What do I do? That's all I could think to myself. What in the hell do I do?
I wondered if these kids were homeschooled, if they had no family around, if they didn't have play dates, if they didn't go to church on Sundays, if they didn't go to dance classes. If these children only frequent the bookstore once every so often so as to not be noticed.
So, really, what do you do? I felt so completely helpless. I can't call CPS, I can't pull the bookstore owner aside and point at this family, I can't ask the older girls privately in a corner, I can't do anything.
I'm helpless, in a bookstore, yearning for CPS in regards to a perceived eating disorder.
I can't do anything for these poor little girls who will possibly grow up to suffer so much because of how their mother taught them to look at food. Because of how their mother's mind and possible disease tricked her into this mess.
I can't do anything. I can't do anything.
Tell me I can do something. Tell me I can fix something. Tell me, what would you have done?
I really am wondering, what do you do if you perceive abuse in a public setting like that? What would push you to intervene? How would you do it?
In between tweeting, reading books to my daughters, and [not] burning mac n cheese, I am the Founder + Creative Director of Blessed is She women's ministry + community.