Daddy Dearest

Dear Readers,

I am overflowing with words and want to share with you something my husband and I witnessed this past Sunday.

We were leaving a bakery parking lot when he glanced out the window past me and had the most horrendous look on his face. I followed his gaze and saw a man shove and punch a teen girl in the back seat of a pickup. The mother came around and cautiously tried to persuade him to stop, but he shoved her and threw a couple more jabs to the arm of the girl until she finally managed to get out of the truck where he gave her a final shove.

So I pose a question to you today. What do you do as a witness to such events? Do you intervene and possibly become the victim of a greater assault? Do you call the police and ask them to take your word for it? Is whatever you do only going to make things worse for the family when the perpetrator gets them home alone? These and about fifty other questions flashed through my mind in the thirty seconds I tried to decide if what I saw was even real. Before I could come up with a good option, the man looked up. Our eyes met, and all I could do is what I do to my boys when I catch them acting up from across the pews at church. Mustering up the deadliest mad mom stare I could mange, I did the two finger point from my eyes to his, saying with crude sign language, “I see you.” The man turned and put his arm around his wife and daughter and painted on a big forced smile as he walked them into the restaurant.

My husband and I spent the next few minutes re-living the event and trying to decide what we could have done differently. Of course we would have intervened had he continued, but it was all over in an instant. The part that baffled me the most is how I, a total stranger, seemed to ache for those children more than their own mother. I am not pretending that such situations cannot be dangerous or deadly for all involved. But I hope, in her shoes, I would have the courage to protect my kids and get the heck out of Dodge. Which reminds me, it was a black Dodge pickup.

Anyhow, I spent the next few hours coming up with all kinds of vigilante scenarios worthy of any Clint Eastwood flick to help a man like that gain respect for his family. Ideas all promptly shut down by my law student sister that works for the District Attorneys office. So, dear reader, have you ever experienced such a scene before? Email ( or Facebook me ( and let me know how you handled it or how you would approach the situation if it happened to you in the future.

6 thoughts on “Daddy Dearest

  1. It’s a tough call. On the interstate once, I saw someone whaling on the person in the passenger seat. I was in an unfamiliar town. They took an exit. I now live in the town and use the exit they took. I often think of that scenario.

    I once asked my apartment office to warn my downstairs neighbor that if what we heard happened again, we’d call the cops. The message was delivered because he glared at us the rest of the time he lived there. Fortunately, we never saw the girl again.

    That scene will never leave you as far as I can tell.

  2. You’re right, Aimee. So easy to make a call that will only less than a minute, but the transgressor’s wrath will last longer, and he, or she, will not lay the blame at his or her own feet. A word from a witness could make the situation worse instead of better, or could make the witness a target. When an official complaint is made, the bad guy gets access to your name and your address. That’s a valid concern.
    Weigh that against your call being the difference the victim needed to turn life around, and the decision only becomes more heart-wrenching.
    My conscience, every moral fibre in my heart and mind says make the call. And yet I know that making the call is not that simple, and I know that as easy as it is to say ‘hell yeah’ in a comment, I, too, may balk in real life.

  3. I wish I could give you an answer. We are got in this endless cycle of do I get involved or do I just walk on. When it gets right down to it, you have to weigh the safety of you and yours versus that of a complete stranger. Its harsh and not very nice, but this is the way things have gotten.

  4. I once witnessed a mother/grandmother (not sure) beating the crud out of a little boy in a Walmart parking lot. He was screaming and crying in a vehicle. When I walked into the store I saw a manager immediately and they (several employees) rushed out to see what was going on. The employees called the police and took care of it from there. Had I been the only one around, honestly I would have called the police myself. But I can see where you would be afraid for your own safety and them once they got home.

  5. Heartbreaking! A few months ago, I ran into Walmart while my family was waiting patiently (sarcasm!) in the van. Trying to be quick, I was concentrating on what I needed to get but couldn’t ignore the yelling and cursing coming from a grandmother to a 10 year old child. I fully understand how kids can get on a parent’s last nerve. (Heck, adults can too!) I’ve also been known to yell at my children a time or two to pick up their shoes, do thier chorse or quit fighting. NEVER in public and never in a degrading way. This grandma (or it could have been an older mother, I don’t know) was doing both and more– degrading the 10 year old, name calling and cursing up a storm. This lasted for what seemed like eternity and the lady didn’t even care that she had a small audience. Finally, on my way to the front of the store to check out, I passed her and just calmly said, “That’s not necessary.” I wanted her to know that I didn’t approve but I didn’t want to cause a scene either. I just kept going but couldn’t quit thinking about the poor child. I just kept thinking that if she treated the child like that in public, what does she do behind closed doors. 😦 Regarding what you witnessed, that’s a hard call in a public parking lot. I think you did the right thing. I would have done the same thing with a “if looks could kill” glare while praying for protection for the daughter. These days, you never know if that irrate father was packing heat.

  6. This is such a difficult topic. I’m a social worker in Florida and we’re mandatory reporters – all the time. The thing to remember about situations like this is that you may be the only voice advocating for that child. It’s not always safe to personally intervene but in my opinion there should always be a call made to law enforcement or your state abuse registry. Think about this – if this is what happens in public in front of other people, imagine what they feel free to do in the privacy of their own homes! Please, if you ever see something like this, make a call. Even if this particular incident is over, it’s not the end. That child is at the mercy of that adult unless someone helps. Getting involved is hard and risky, but as Christians and decent people, we can never turn a blind eye to someone who is helpless.

    Thanks for starting a great conversation.

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