December 1, 2008

Standing Up

It was late afternoon and we had been on the road for about eight hours with another two hours to go. The drive had been surprisingly smooth on a Thanksgiving weekend but the family was beginning to feel weary.

I pulled into a McDonald’s near the highway to use the restroom and buy a cup of coffee for the remainder of the trip. As we pulled the kids out of the car and entered the restaurant, I noticed a pair of Highway Patrol officers doing paperwork on laptops as we headed for the restroom. Lovely wife took Swee’Pea into the woman’s restroom while I took TheMonk into the men’s room.

As we entered the room, we noticed a man with his son who looked about six and a daughter who looked to be about four or five. The son was using the urinal and as we entered the room the father was yelling at the boy, in an impatient and loud voice, to not touch the urinal. The anger in his voice made my son stop dead in his tracks. He looked up at me for reassurance and I squeezed his hand a bit tighter and smiled.

As the boy finished up at the urinal, the dad began yelling at his daughter to join him in the only stall so she could use the toilet as well. The girl, perhaps a bit scared, began crying loudly and kept telling her father that she didn’t want to go potty.

“GET IN HERE RIGHT NOW!” yelled the father as he grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her hard into the stall and shut the door.

TheMonk, still scared from the commotion, asked me why the girl was crying. “She’s just scared, Monkey.” I replied as I tried to be calm and reassuring. The urinal was now free and I asked TheMonk to join me. He shook his head so I told him I was going to use the urinal first as TheMonk stood near the door. I quickly finished and then motioned again for TheMonk to join me.

He came this time and while I was helping TheMonk go about his peeing, the father in the stall continued to yell at the crying girl. “GO TO THE BATHROOM NOW!!”

Then, I heard the unmistakable sound of the girl being slapped.

I quickly pulled up TheMonk’s pants while trying to decide what to do. During that brief time, the father slapped the girl again. Her cries continued even louder and he began yelling at her to “SHUT UP! STOP CRYING!” And then he slapped her once more.

I couldn’t take it any longer and I said rather loudly, “You know… hitting her isn’t going to get her to stop crying.”

Suddenly, the stall door opened and the man appeared to see who had the temerity to challenge him like that. I had been bent over TheMonk helping him with this pants when the man appeared so I stood fully upright, making sure TheMonk was behind me, and stared the man down. I could see the anger in his eyes and, perhaps, he could see the anger in mine. For a brief second I thought he might do something violent towards me but he quickly decided against it and retreated back into the stall.

I grabbed TheMonk’s hand and escorted him out of the restroom and approached the two Highway Patrol Officers seated a few feet from the door.

I explained that the man in the restroom had been slapping his little girl, I said something, and I was unsure if he was going to be angry with me when he exited the restroom. The two officers got up and approached the restroom just as the man was exiting with his two kids. They said something to him, which I could not hear, and he quickly gathered up his bewildered wife who had just come out of the woman’s restroom and quickly exited the restaurant, got in his car, and left.

The officers thanked me for saying something. Swee’Pea and Lovely Wife joined us shortly thereafter, I ordered my coffee and we were soon on the road towards home. My heart continued to beat loudly in my chest, fueled, I’m sure, more by adrenaline than the caffeine in the coffee.

And I couldn’t stop thinking about a little girl who was terrified of her father and wishing I could have done more.


  1. I am vacillating between “good for you” and “what the hell were you thinking”. You’re lucky that ended the way it did.

    The little girl, not so lucky.

    Comment by Rattling the Kettle — December 1, 2008 @ 4:26 pm

  2. I applaud you for saying something. Many people have been in similar situations and unsure of what to do or say. I would’ve been right there with you (although I probably would’ve punched the guy and asked him how it made him feel).

    Pretty ironic that the state troopers were there. As sorry as I feel for the young kids put in that situation, I do feel pretty confident that they were empowered a bit by your acknowledging the situation. Hopefully they heard what you said and can learn to stand up for themselves.

    I wish more people would reach out for help when they’re stressed instead of reaching out their hands and hurting others.

    Comment by HIp_M0M — December 1, 2008 @ 4:28 pm

  3. Oh, those poor kids. If their father treats them like that in public, can you imagine what happens at home? It just breaks my heart.

    Thank you for saying something. And for showing TheMonk that good people stand up for others when they are being mistreated.

    Comment by debra — December 1, 2008 @ 4:33 pm

  4. First of all, know you did more than most would! I wish more people were confident enough to stand up and say something when a situation is out of control. You did exactly what was needed in that situation.

    If you find yourself in a similar situation in the future, It may be helpful to know every state has an 800 number for Child Protective Services and if you are ever in a situation like that again, you could copy the license plate number, note the time and date and phone in a report. All states will accept anonymous referrals.

    Many people are hesitant to report an abusive situation because of the fear a child will be “taken away.” Please know there are quite a few legal proceedings that must occur before a child is removed from a parents custody. One call to CPS most likely won’t be the reason. What more likely will happen is an investigation will occur and parenting classes will be required. Which, if you think about it, might be exactly what that parent really needs and will be most beneficial to keeping that kid safe in the future.

    To clarify, I’m not talking about calling CPS about spanking, what was described in this situation was abuse of a kid regardless of what the parent may have intended. Not all child abuse is intentional/premeditated. Some folks don’t even realize they are abusing their children, they are just doing what was done to them as a child and they know no other way. : (

    Comment by Devra Renner — December 1, 2008 @ 4:38 pm

  5. Well done. We should all have that courage. I’ve got to wonder why the girl wasn’t in the women’s room with the woman though…maybe it wasn’t the mother.

    Comment by Darren — December 1, 2008 @ 4:49 pm

  6. I’ve got tears in my eyes. People can be so stupid. He’s nothing but a bully and child abuser.

    Comment by UCM — December 1, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

  7. Oh man, that situation made me cry for those children.

    Good for you for saying what you did. It may have made the guy stop and think about what he was doing.

    I also wonder why the girl was with him in the men’s room if he had a woman with him.

    Comment by Julie — December 1, 2008 @ 5:09 pm

  8. My heart is pounding just hearing the story. I’m really glad you said something, both to the man and to the police. And while I’m sorry Monk had to be scared, I’m glad he saw his daddy do the right thing.

    Those poor kids. I mean, I know we all get frustrated as parents and do/say things we don’t want to. But clearly, that’s a whole ‘nother level right there.

    Comment by Liz — December 1, 2008 @ 5:25 pm

  9. Good for you… having done the same thing myself in the past, the anger you feel towards the father and the sorrow for the child are hard to forget.

    But in catching him, calling him on it and then having him get approached by cops might, just might, make him have second thoughts about doing it again.

    Comment by Kemp — December 1, 2008 @ 5:55 pm

  10. I’m so sorry Monk had to witness that scene.

    My heart breaks for those kids in the restroom. You are a good man and a good father for standing up to that bully!

    Comment by Mags — December 1, 2008 @ 6:20 pm

  11. I am soooo glad you said something and that you don’t need new bridge work.

    Everyone reading your blog should do exactly as Devra suggested.

    The lesson your son learned is to speak up, even if you are scared, when you see an injustice. What his children learned is that there are good men in the world, who care what happens to them and are willing to stand up to their abusive father.

    Where are those anti-Motrin moms when you need them?

    You should write about other incidents you and your bro have encountered.

    Comment by Grandmother — December 1, 2008 @ 6:48 pm

  12. As a child abuse survivor, I only wish you had been around to help protect me. While it was scary for you, it may have stopped him from doing something worse and that fear make make him think before he acts sometime. THANK YOU!

    Comment by Aunt Bean — December 1, 2008 @ 7:05 pm

  13. We need more people to stand up to child abusers like you did. Bravo!

    Comment by daphne — December 1, 2008 @ 7:51 pm

  14. Being a parent makes these things so much scarier. To think that some kid, my babies ages could be scared of their parents, that’s just sad. It makes me angry and sad all at once. But I’m glad that you said something, to him and the cop. Also, it may not seem like it, but saying something in front of the Monk is a good thing. Because one day, he’ll be a man and he’ll know that it’s okay to stand up to someone for the right reason. He’ll know that it’s good, whether he ever remembers how he knows it or not.

    You are a good man Matthew and a great role model. To me, you are a true hero.

    That feeling of adrenaline that come with doing something like that is weird. I’ve done it only twice and it scared me. But still, if it made a small difference, it is worth it.

    Comment by Issa — December 1, 2008 @ 9:55 pm

  15. I’m so sorry you and TheMonk had to witness something like that. But at least your son knows that you stand by the belief about doing what’s right.

    Comment by grace — December 1, 2008 @ 11:26 pm

  16. You did what you could at that moment. Good on you for telling the patrol officers. Ditto on Julie’s question, though… there’s probably more going on there than we’ll ever know.

    I’m saying a prayer for the kids.

    Comment by Deanna — December 2, 2008 @ 12:10 am

  17. Wow… I’m impressed!!! That was very brave of you… especially as you had The Monk with you there.

    All I can think off is if he treats his kids like that in a public place with witnesses, I do not even want to think about what goes on ‘behind closed doors’…

    And it was a very good thing of you to tell those Troopers about it. I hope that scared the dude a bit… at least enough to THINK next time before acting.


    Comment by Eva — December 2, 2008 @ 4:06 am

  18. Holy Cow! Good for you.

    I got a bit of a sick feeling in my stomach reading that. Sometimes I wish I was a bit more of an intimidating presence so that I might could get away with saying something like that. As it is, the guy would have probably beaten me to a pulp.

    Comment by Ed (zoesdad) — December 2, 2008 @ 8:13 am

  19. good for you. i don’t know that i would have been able to be so ballsy. but, it breaks my heart that that poor child was getting hit, and that you had to witness it.

    Comment by ali — December 2, 2008 @ 8:58 am

  20. I’m glad you said something. Too many people stand by and try not to interfere when they see something that’s plainly wrong. It’s never okay to hit someone in anger and I think you demonstrated an incredible amount of “goodness” to your son.

    Comment by MissB — December 2, 2008 @ 9:10 am

  21. Ditto to everything everyone else said. Such a sad story.

    Comment by Kate — December 2, 2008 @ 10:03 am

  22. Wow, I’m very proud of you for taking a stand.
    And for doing it in front of theMonk.

    We need more men like you around. Your children are so blessed to have a conscientious and loving dad. Good on you!

    Comment by Allanna — December 2, 2008 @ 3:43 pm

  23. You were very brave to do such a thing. I definitely admire you for it. I’m still trying to figure out why the man had the daughter in the restroom if his wife was there…?

    Comment by Amy — December 2, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

  24. That was totally impressive of you to stand up to that guy. Most people are scared of interfering or siziing up a situation wrong, or being confronted in return. I take me hat off to you.

    Comment by Jane — December 2, 2008 @ 5:57 pm

  25. Too bad he probably took his additional anger out on the rest of his family. Not that I think you are wrong for saying anything.

    Comment by above average joe — December 2, 2008 @ 7:18 pm

  26. Wow, how sad and good for you for doing the right thing!

    Comment by Kami — December 2, 2008 @ 8:54 pm

  27. Thank you for doing that, for the little girl, for her brother, for Monk, for the rest of us.

    Comment by Aina — December 2, 2008 @ 9:41 pm

  28. WOW!! What a frightening situation to encounter, especially with TheMonk in tow. I’m with Jane, “hats off to you” for being so brave!

    Hugs & Blessings!

    Comment by MamaChanga — December 2, 2008 @ 11:37 pm

  29. Crazy. If I ever slapped one of the kids I would feel like the biggest piece of poop on the planet. I just can’t imagine doing that to someone so small.

    Good job standing up to him and especially for doing in from of TheMonk. Now he officially knows that kind of behavior is unacceptable which is something that he will probably at least subconsciously remember for quite a while.

    Comment by Mike — December 3, 2008 @ 10:51 am

  30. I’m so proud of you for saying something. How many of us would have been brave enough to stand up to a stranger. Good for you!!! Hopefully you were able to show the Monk how to be a real man and not a bad man like that other guy.

    Comment by Drama Queen — December 3, 2008 @ 12:52 pm

  31. Anyone knows that beating a kid just makes the pee stay inside.

    What a dick and good for you for standing up to him. i hate people like that.

    Comment by Hygiene Dad — December 3, 2008 @ 8:06 pm

  32. Wow. Good for you. Too many people would not have said anything, and those poor kids don’t have a voice. I know that not knowing what happened later must eat you up. Maybe more people will act as you did and those kids lives will get a little better.

    I cannot begin to understand how someone could do those kinds of things to their own kids.

    Comment by PA — December 4, 2008 @ 6:28 pm

  33. Wow. What a story. Agree with all the comments here. Thank you for doing the right thing, standing up for those children, and setting a good example for TheMonk and for all of the other parents and children out there…

    Comment by Copywritermom — December 9, 2008 @ 12:25 pm

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