A bloke in his thirties stood outside the playground's brick toilet block bellowing at someone inside the girls' toilets. I could hear the cry of a little girl echoing off the tiles. He kept screaming, calling her a little sh*t, berating her for being in there, telling her it wasn't that f**king hard.
He bounced on his toes in the doorway, like a boxer, fists clenched. As she whimpered away, he eventually pushed through the invisible 'girls only' barrier and stormed in, rage blazing. He screamed obscenities until he flew back out again, still without the little girl who was clearly having a hard time in there.
As he stepped back into the sun, his eyes met mine.
Now, I have a mood-ring face. I've never been able to hide what I think. My thoughts are all there, all the time. It often gets me into trouble.
As he looked at me and registered the shock and disgust radiating from me, his shoulders slumped, his fists unclenched, his whole body changed.
Whether he was embarrassed about being watched or ashamed for how he was acting, he turned and walked back into the bathroom. There was no more screaming. A few minutes later, he walked back out, holding the hand of a little girl about four years old. He sat her on a low wall and started speaking to her in words I couldn't hear but could tell were soothing and apologetic.
None of this made me think he was any less of a toad. They way he'd been screaming was gross, I was appalled he'd been treating such a little kid like that.
But, at the very least, he was ashamed enough that he reined in the arsehattery for just a moment and tried to repair some of the hurt he'd just inflicted on this little girl.
I know you're not supposed to judge parents. But sometimes I do. We all do. And sometimes I wonder if there's ever a time where we SHOULD judge another parent?
No, we shouldn't judge parents for what they dress their kids in or what they name them or the style they parent in. But there are some parents who are dead-set wankers and sometimes they need to know there are other people watching so maybe they'll be less wanky because, at the end of the day, there are innocent children being let down and if we only worry about never upsetting the parents, who's looking out for the kids?
There is, of course, a difference between protecting kids and being a douche to another parent. My friend was at the shops while her little boy looked at some toys. After a while she turned and said to him, "come on mate, are you ready to go?"
Another woman standing next to them laughed out loud and said, "you don't ask him like that! As if he's going to say 'yes Mum let's go!' You just tell him you're leaving!"
Without any knowledge of my friend or her child, this woman had judged. Strangely enough, she'd judged my friend for being TOO NICE to her son. Who, by the way, IS the kind of kid who'd say, "okay Mum, let's go" (maybe because his Mum speaks to him nicely most of the time).
That kind of sh*t needs to stop. That's none of anyone's business and there are no positives to picking on someone for the way she asks her child to leave a shop. Who wins? No one. Not even the woman who said it because she just made herself look like a doorknob.
But what if a parent is abusing their child or doing something dangerous like putting them in a car without a proper seat or belt? Surely it's our responsibility to say something then? Sure, the adult might be having a hard day and we don't know their full story, but is that more important than making sure a child is safe?
Judging is an instinctual human trait. We all do it. And when it comes to children, our instincts might still be stuck back in the village. We used to be responsible for all the children in the village and we had a say in how other people's children were raised.
That community has gone but we still care about the children. When we see a little one in a situation we see as dangerous, it goes against our nature to butt out and ignore it. So I think a little part of the judging comes from the village. And maybe that's a part we shouldn't say goodbye to just yet?