Walking in to Whaler’s Village yesterday I saw a 3 year old little boy lying face down on the sidewalk–sobbing. I immediately moved towards him and was ready to help but I stopped short when I saw the boy’s father standing about 4 feet away…just looking at him.
The boy’s face was pressed against the cement. He was wailing. Did he fall? Why wasn’t he being helped? Was he having a melt down?
I scanned the crowded scene. Other people had also stopped. We were all trying to figure out what the f*ck was going on. The mother was sitting in the adjacent restaurant looking down from her balcony…just watching.
No one interfered. I could barely hold myself back though. I couldn’t comprehend how any parent could think this was good for their child.
I’d recently watched NOVA’s Mind of a Rampage Killer where I was introduced to Karlen Lyons-Ruth’s work using the Strange Situation Procedure (SSP). Lyons-Ruth finds that children of parents who were apprehensive and unable to comfort their children during the SSP are more likley to have behavioral problems, including hostile and aggressive behavior, when they reach school age. Moreover, these children are twice as likley to be antisocial or suicidal as adults.
One disturbing video segment from Lyons-Ruth showed an infant comforting themselves with head on the rug while the parent’s natural reaction was detachment. Now it seemed like I was witnessing the same situation with that poor little boy on the sidewalk.
The incident was probably nothing in the grand scheme of things. Still, in the NOVA video Lyons-Ruth talks about the "pattern of emptiness" that emerges when parents fail to create attachments. Why would anyone want their child to feel that? Why not love and closeness? Why not spend the energy to actually parent?