I saw a very unsettling series of events occur several days ago.
A child did not want to go swimming anymore. His father, in an attempt to play with his son, began teasing him, pretending to come after the child and eventually picked the child up. The child was continually asserting, “I don’t want to go swimming”. I could not hear the father’s reply but the father threw the boy in the water.
The child came up and repeated, “I don’t want to go swimming”.
The father picked the child up again and threw him in the water.
The child repeated now with deep melancholy, “No, I don’t WANT to go SWIMMING”.
The father picked up the child and they both jumped in.
The boy swam away from his father. The boy’s face clearly showing a very hurt and discontented spirit. On reaching the beach, he would not look or speak to his father.
I watched this scene before me. Immediately when the father first disregarded his son’s feelings, I felt deeply uncomfortable. Something told me that this wasn't right. A deeply seeded part of my being was communicating with me. I could not understand why this father would and could so easily do that to his son. The boy has a choice, as do all children. They have a voice that should be heard, and in this case should be listened to.
I did not do anything to help the boy. I watched. I felt more and more that something was very wrong in the interaction between parent and child. Could this father not see how his son was reacting to his behaviors? Could the father not see the consternation on his son’s face? Or hear it in his voice? Does he choose not to see, simply ignoring the glaring signs? Does he truly not understand what he is doing to his son?
Either way I have been very distraught over this scene and having done nothing in at least attempting to protect the child who cannot protect himself. I realized – with the help of a very intelligent and observant wife – that this father was in fact, bullying his son. The victim of bullying myself, I can certainly relate to this poor child. Interestingly enough, I recognized that something was wrong with the father’s method of interacting with his son, however, I just didn’t associate the term with the behavior.
I was then even more distraught: I could not protect this child, as no one protected me. I need to protect me. I need to protect my children from this sort of behavior. More importantly, it is I that must not engage in that kind of awful behavior as well.
I am at the very very least glad that I was able to recognize an unhealthy behavior between parent and child and have the wherewithal to understand that this behavior is unacceptable. I have a part of me that wants to protect children and I believe that's an essential piece of me, especially when it comes to Transcending Indifference.