Yesterday, I woke up feeling absolutely rubbish. It was 5:30am, and I had a stinking cold. I had to get up to catch a train to Blog On Win in Winchester, but I had a headache and was still awfully tired despite having had an early night. I toyed with the idea of just not going; I could still have my sister take care of S, and I could spend the day in bed recovering. But I really wanted to go to this event; I’d never been to a Blog On event before but I’d heard good things about them. And I knew there had been a waiting list for tickets so I felt like it would be a bit rubbish for me to have a ticket and then not use it, without giving someone else the opportunity to go in my place. So I got up, took a handful of cold remedy pills, and went on my way.
It was freezing cold and although my train journey was over an hour, it involved a change half way through – so I couldn’t even settle in for a nap on the train without fear of missing my stop. I was not best pleased! And then a family got on the train and sat at the other end of my carriage. The children were shouting; my head was throbbing. It was not a winning combination, and I posted this on Facebook:
I am on a train at 8 am. I have a cold and have not had coffee. There is a child shouting.
These facts do not work well together.
I think having S has made me less tolerant of children shouting in public. I tend to think, “my child doesn’t shout like that; make yours stop!”
Now, after what ensued afterwards, I feel I must qualify this statement with the following:
- Never in a month of Sundays would I have even dreamed of telling the parents to shut their child up.
- I could have moved to a different carriage, if it was bothering me that much – but I was too tired (and lazy) to move.
- Yes, the child may well have had additional or special needs. I am aware that you cannot tell purely by look or sound whether a child has additional or special needs. I am also aware that whether or not a child has additional or special needs does not make 8am shouting on a train any less jarring on the ears.
- I had chosen not to have coffee as I only had an hour or so with S yesterday morning, and didn’t want to spend that time saying “wait, mind the coffee, it’s hot.” I chose to cuddle with my child instead of drinking coffee. My mistake. Upon reflection however, I am not convinced coffee would have helped with my headache or the noise level on the train.
- My child doesn’t not shout because I am able to control her in any way; she’s just one of those children who doesn’t shout much. That said, if she was shouting in a confined space, I probably would try to distract her with shiny things for the sake of other passengers. I am not saying that the other child’s parents were not trying to do this.
- I am aware that my sniffing and nose blowing antics were probably just as irritating for those sitting around me as any shouting child.
- I was not judging the child, the parents, or anyone else. I was just stating that it was not much fun for me to be listening to this noise, when I felt awful.
- My comment “my child doesn’t shout like that; make yours stop!” may well have been controversial, but it was not meant to be; just honest. I have been blessed with a child who rarely cried as a baby, didn’t really have “terrible twos” and has probably had fewer than 10 tantrums in her three years. While I am aware that makes me extremely lucky, it means I don’t really have experience of children who do make a lot of noise. I only have experience of my own child, and sometimes it’s a bit of a culture shock to realise other children aren’t like this.
- The child was not having a tantrum. When I see or hear a child having a tantrum, I tend to feel bad for them having a hard time. The child was just shouting. It was just jarring to my ears when I already had a headache, was not feeling my best, and had been looking forward to a quiet train journey.
Thankfully, the people who normally interact with me on my Facebook page understood what I meant; they liked and commented on the post with their own thoughts.
What was strange though, was that people whose names I didn’t recognise – who are not regular commenters on my page, who don’t interact with me, started commenting. I am apparently judgemental, unfeeling, uncaring. I have no empathy, tolerance or consideration for parents of children with additional needs. I need all the help I can get; God help me. Judgey and selfish. I should get more bloody organised and have coffee before I leave the house. I shouldn’t put down a fellow mother who is having a worse time than me. I have a small mind. If I don’t want to be around children having tantrums, I should stay at home. The words “bigoted” and “small minded” were also thrown about – though to be fair to the commenter, I’m not sure if these were aimed at me, or someone who was attempting to defend my words. Either way, I don’t think it’s acceptable to call people names on Facebook when you don’t even know them.
I find it strange that people can be quiet lurkers online, happily scrolling past a picture or positive update, saving their words and energy for negativity.
When did we all become so determined to be outraged and offended?
Yes, on reflection my words may have been a bit grumpy or judgemental – but if you read them carefully I did not mention tantrums, additional or special needs, hating children or thinking myself better than other mothers. My status was actually liked by several parents who I know have children with additional or special needs; they weren’t offended by it, and didn’t feel the need to remind me that the child I complained about may have additional or special needs. I think it’s safe to say conclusions were leapt towards with vigour yesterday.
Social media seems to have become somewhere to take our own bad moods or shoulder chips out on each other. I am sure that if your child tends to shout on trains then you will feel overly sensitive to someone complaining about a child shouting on a train. Sometimes I see things in my newsfeed that push my buttons, and sometimes I toy with the idea of having a go.
Realistically though, it’s social media. If you disagree with someone that much, why wouldn’t you just delete them as a friend or “un-like” their page? Or at least disagree calmly and politely, making your point in a way that might persuade them to change their mind? Why the arguing and name calling?
I think perhaps sometimes, if someone is having a bad time with their partner, their child, their mother in law, their boss, next door’s dog barking at 3am, they go onto social media and take it out on a Twitter account or Facebook profile that can remain safely faceless – rather than deal with the issue – or person – at hand.
The twenty-first century version of kicking the cat after a bad day at work: we go online and look for something to justify that feeling in our stomachs; something to outrage and offend us, so that we can release that pent up bitterness and rage at someone else who we don’t know and are never likely to see in the street. I can’t shout at my child; I can’t start a fight with my mother in law and I daren’t argue with my boss, so I’ll transfer my outrage to someone else. Something else I don’t even see as human because we’re separated by a screen. Where I don’t have to worry about whether my argument makes sense or whether I’m being impolite or out of order or justified in feeling so outraged by three sentences posted in haste by someone who may well have been having just as bad a day as me, but chose not to take it out on the people around her either.